As we were standing in the race corrals early Sunday morning, I remarked to my friends, “You know, I have a good feeling about this race.”
And why not? I’d accomplished all my training goals (which I’ve painstakingly laid out for you in this blog, whether you liked it or not) over the past ten weeks. The weather was a wonderful 70 degrees F and only 60% humidity — making it the only day with decent running weather in NYC for the past month. And, the excitement of 10,000 runners all in one place was palpable and infectious.
And guess what? My instincts were right! I set a personal record by beating my fastest half marathon time (set in April 2004) by four seconds, with a 2:13:06 finish time and an average pace of 10:09 per mile (hey, I never claimed to be speedy).
We arrived at Central Park a little after 5:30am, just as the sun was beginning to rise, and already there were thousands of runners milling around. We checked our bags, stretched, ate our final energy bars and stood in line for the toilets as we awaited the 7:00am start time. (As a side note: I enjoy the time before the race, seeing how many different pre-race rituals people have, especially for those longer distances where runners are likely to have invested a lot more time and energy in their preparation.)
The first seven miles of the course were in Central Park (you can see a complete map of the course here), which was comforting in its familiarity — there isn’t a hill or incline in that loop that every New York runner hasn’t conquered a hundred times before. And so we pushed through those miles and dodged the crowds (Mile 1=10:03, Mile 2=11:06; Mile 3=9:36; Mile 4=10:02; Mile 5=10:26; Mile 6=10:15; Mile 7=9:50), so the real fun could begin.
After the “gently sloping hills” of the park, I felt my adrenalin surge as we turned the corner and ran straight down 7th Avenue towards Times Square. Any New Yorker can tell you that on any other day, it is nearly impossible to even walk in Times Square for all the gawking tourists standing about. The thrill of actually running through it with reckless abandon defies description and was well worth the ten weeks of training for the privilege. And so Miles 8 and 9 felt like I was running on clouds (Mile 8=10:29, Mile 9=10:09).
I was still coasting on that high when we hit the West Side Highway (or maybe it was just the energy surge from the packet of Gu I ingested at Mile 8) for the final straight and flat miles of the course down towards Battery Park (Mile 10=10:08; Mile 11=10:11).
Somewhere around Mile 11, the race began to take its toll — my energy was lagging, and I felt soreness in my knees, along with a deep desire to be finished. Luckily, instead of slowing me down, it motivated me to push harder. Those last two miles were run on sheer force of will, which I’m happy to report, enabled me to speed by many of my fellow runners as I put my head down and just ran for the finish line (Mile 12=10:03; Mile 13=9:44).
I had two goals as I trained for this race: (1) beat my personal record for the distance; and (2) feel good while doing it. After last week’s miserable 11 mile run in 80% humidity, I altered my goals a bit and decided that I could be satisfied with achieving just goal 2, if it came down to it. As I write this, I’m elated that I was able to accomplish both goals, and deeply satisfied that I had trained well enough to push through even when I had nothing left. If I do say so myself, “Yay me!”
The rest of yesterday was spent lounging, going out for brunch, talking to mein Schatz, having a massage, and enjoying a post-race dinner with friends. I collapsed into bed around 9pm and slept soundly until 7am this morning.
This post wouldn’t be complete without giving thanks to you all for all your support and encouragement. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you (and the weekly accountability). And special thanks to Suzanne and Cari, who pulled me along and deserve lots of congratulations on a race well run!