On Tuesday, I made the last-minute decision to race Sunday’s NYC Half because heck, I’d be in the city anyway visiting friends, and I figured it would be a perfect pre-Boston training run. Plus, throughout this marathon build-up, my impatience for the big Beantown weekend has made me desperate to put my singlet and a bib on. (Side note: I’m seriously loving the fact that I’m beginning to want to race now. I used to dread race days because of the anxiety they would cause, but now all I want to do is cross every finish line I can get my feet on.)
After getting maybe three hours of sleep on Saturday night–thank you St. Patrick’s day for that brilliant decision!–I pulled myself out of bed, nibbled on a Picky Bar and tried to rehydrate a bit. My friends (who by the way are SO sweet because they got up early to take me to the start) and I hopped on the subway at 6:30 a.m. and arrived at the Central Park starting line just in time for the 7:30 gun. (I literally shed my layers, ran to my corral, hit up a porta-potty, and started the race, all within maybe ten minutes. Definitely NOT my usual pre-race routine, that’s for sure!)
The game plan for this race was to feel out the first few miles and go from there–if I felt good, I’d try to race it; if not, I’d settle in and enjoy the ride. Deep down I wanted to shoot for a PR. My fastest half is my first one I ran in Philadelphia in 2011. It was just after my cross country season ended, and my fitness from that got me a 1:35:01 finish time. I remember running a few sub-7:00 miles, and I wasn’t sure if I was at that level now. Regardless, nabbing a PR was on my radar. Why not go for it if the opportunity presented itself, right?
Sure enough, I actually felt pretty good. Despite having to weave through crowds for the first three miles, I easily hit 7:10ish pace, running through the 5K in 21:59. Central Park was absolutely stunning that early in the morning, which kept me happy and distracted. At this point, I decided to see if I could hold that pace for as long as I could.
Once we finished a full six-mile loop through the park, we turned onto 7th Avenue. And holy wow was it breathtaking. The entire road was closed off for almost a mile, and I got chills taking in the view while I ran in the middle of the street between the towering buildings toward Times Square. For me, Times Square means insane chaos in the form of distracted masses of tourists and speeding taxi cabs. But this morning, the road was ours and the usual blaring NYC soundtrack was replaced with screaming spectators. I even got an unexpected shout-out from a friend on the sidelines! Needless to say, my pace picked up a bit, and I ran the fastest mile of the race.
The course then turned toward the Hudson River for a miles-worth of freezing headwinds before we started miles eight through 13 on the Westside Highway. This was my least favorite part of the course, but I was excited to still be (somewhat comfortably) hitting around 7:10 pace. The PR was becoming more and more of a possibility, so I turned my focus toward maintaining my pace for as long as I could. Around mile nine, I gave myself a recovery mile and eased up a bit because that speedy 7th Avenue mile was coming back to bite me in the a**. Thankfully, the slower mile paid off, and I was able to drop it back down to the low 7s at mile 10. Along the way, I caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty in the distance–how cool?!?–and we ran right beside the new Trade Center, which was a humbling experience to say the least.
When we reached mile 11, I did the math and figured out that I would be right at my PR if I ran 8-minute pace for the final 2.1 miles. I was still miraculously cruising along at 7:10 pace. A PR was definitely within reach. Talk about an awesome feeling.
I pushed the pace a much as I could for the final meters of the race and crossed the line in 1:33:31. I PR’d by exactly a minute and a half.
After the race, I spoke with my mom, and she pointed out that I was still able to have a great race despite not doing my usual, super-OCD pre-race routine. She reminded me of how in high school and college I used to get so anxious literally days before a race. I’d waste far too much energy on my nerves, and I’d freak out if I didn’t get in the proper warmup or eat the right thing. But today, all of that went out the window. I went into it with a “just get out, have fun and race if it feels right” attitude. I ended up snagging my first PR in over a year.
Though I certainly don’t intend to repeat what I did yesterday, it’s nice to know that I can still race well even if some curveball gets thrown my way. Once again, I learned that having the right atitude about a race–especially in the final few days beforehand–plays SUCH a big role in its outcome. (This should be obvious, but as we all know, it’s an incredibly frustrating and hard lesson to learn.) Once the race starts, just focus on running. Go with how you feel at that moment, not how you think you should feel. (So what if I only got three hours of sleep? I actually felt smooth and fast!) Don’t sweat the small hiccups that you’ll inevitably experience because they’ll just weigh you down.
Overall, I’m SO happy I decided to run. The NYC Half is definitely in my top three road races I’ve ever done, and I’d highly recommend running it someday. Yesterday I realized that I’m in as good as, if not better, shape than I was in college. Now I’m even more pumped for Boston! Just 27 more days people! 27 DAYS!
QUOTE OF THE POST: “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.” – Paulo Coelho