Rarely do NYC runners have the opportunity to run a race through Central Park in the evening. Often crowded with tourists and other events, most NYRR races are limited to Saturday or Sunday mornings, bright and early. Many people took advantage of last night’s NYRR R-U-N 5k, a new socially oriented 5k race. In fact many of my favorite NYC running friends came out for the evening including Meg, Russel, Anne, Beth, Kristin, Jess and 10 Race Pace Runners! I hoped that the smaller race would mean we’d all meet before the start; but, with over 5,000 runners I barely saw anyone I knew before, during or after the race.
While the 5k was an official NYRR race it was definitely a different atmosphere than their normal races. There was music, photo booths and games entertaining runners before the 7pm start. In fact they even served sparkling cider as a fun bubbly stop next to the water on the course!
The week of the race Anne and I decided to run together, aiming to break our previous PRs which were each around an 8:45 pace. Even though I am very much a morning runner and dread hot, sticky evening runs after a day of food, I hoped that I could pull out a PR. I ran 2.5 warm-up miles up to the park, meeting her right at the entrance to the fanfare and race craziness. The race was organized differently than normal; featuring a fun run section and typical corrals. We started as far in the front of our corral as possible, in hopes that weaving would be limited.
Right at 7pm they announced that the race path was clear and signaled the start of the race, reminding everyone to have fun and enjoy the evening. Anne nor I had a perfect method for tracking our pace as my phone died unexpectedly and her Garmin couldn’t pick up a signal even after 15 minutes of attempts. We decided that we’d use her Garmin timer and just try to run the race as strong as possible.
The first mile went by quickly due to our rapid pace. We both thought it felt fast but we were racing a 5k afterall. Most of this mile was flat other than a gradual downhill, but due to our pace talking more than a word or two here or there was difficult. We pointed out fun running outfits and remarked at how turned around we were. The course was very different than the routes either of us typically run. As we approached the mile marker I said that I felt like we were keeping a sub-8 pace. Ding Ding! Her clock told us that we crossed mile 1 in 7:55.
The second mile was far hillier than the first including and is where the pain started to hit. My legs felt heavy and the humidity and 80+ degree temps didn’t help. I grabbed a water at the water station hoping that something cool would help. Instead it forced me to spring to catch up to Anne and loose my groove. I kept within a few steps of her until we made it halfway up Cat Hill. Those few steps turned into about a block’s distance but I just told myself that I can do anything for another 15 minutes, the amount of time I estimated I had left. As I crossed the Mile 2 marker I tried to do math and figured that mile was around an 8:15.
Now Mile 3 is the one that had us each talking all night after the race. It seemed very long and not just because we were in pain by this point. It also seemed to deviate from the original race map shared by NYRR. I think the only time I smiled during this mile was when I saw Ali cheering near Engineers’ Gate and when I finally saw the finish line. This was the mile where I internally yelled at myself for not having my Garmin or a charged phone and for leaving my headphones at home. I needed some Taylor Swift pump up music and instead the only thing I heard was heavy breathing and fellow runners cursing the never-ending mile. Based on my final results, this mile must have been somewhere around an 8:30 which means I earned an A in positive splits and failed at negative splits.
I sprinted across the finish at exactly 26:00 (8:22 avg pace), earning a shiny new 5k PR! Huge thanks to Anne for pushing me through those first few miles and to Jess for helping me become a faster, stronger runner!
Overall I really enjoyed this race. The fun atmosphere was a welcome change from the typical NYRR event and any race that has popsicles at the end is a win in my book! After grabbing water and a popsicle I headed back to the finish line to watch for Meg, Russell and cheer each of the runners through the finish line.
The only thing I’d change in the future is a more festive finish line, possibly including a beer sponsor. While they did there best to negotiate discounts for runners at NYC bars, most of them were nowhere near Central Park. The mix of paces and crowds made it hard to find my other friends who ran the race, especially Beth, Meghan and Kristin whom I hoped to cheer for and high five at the finish line.
Luckily a group of us, including Zoe who enjoyed her first NYRR race after moving to NYC this week, enjoyed beers at a nearby bar together.