On Saturday, my mom participated and completed her first New York Road Runners race! As you can see from our faces, the morning was a great success.
I’ll be the first to admit, when my mom asked if she could do the NYRR Jingle Jog 4 mile race with me, I was worried. While I’ve completed more than 50 different New York Road Runner events over the years, I’ve always run or jogged. I wasn’t sure what the experience would be like for someone who wanted to “wog” or walk/jog the event.
We headed to Prospect Park around 8:30 since we needed to pick up our bibs and didn’t know how long the lines for bib pick up or the bathrooms would be since this race also included a children’s portion.
As soon as we arrived, my mom was excited and amazed by all the costumes and the swarms of people. There were over 5,000 runners in Prospect Park, all donned in their holiday best or, at least, red or green attire. I was thankful that we decided to color coordinate with red tops and black bottoms, adding to our festive mood.
Our line for bibs was only 5-10 minutes that seemed far shorter than most races. I think it moved quicker than normal since they rolled out their new bib system that features letters and numbers that are printed for you while you wait. Even though it seems counterintuitive to be faster, I swear it saved time since they weren’t flipping through all the bibs searching for my bib like a needle in a hay stack. The volunteer just scanned my QR code that NYRR sent the week before then within seconds there was a printed bib. We arrived at the right time, though, as the line was more than 200 people deep when we finished! It seems like we weren’t the only Brooklyn residents who didn’t want to head uptown during the holiday season to pick up bibs.
We spent the next thirty minutes, before the race started, stretching and watching the children’s races, affectionately known as the Reindeer Run. I loved the smiles on the children as they ran, walked and skipped towards the finish line. One girl yelled, “I’m tired” but then started sprinting once we cheered loudly for her.
After using the restroom, we made our way towards the back of the corrals. Our goal was to hug the left side of the course, so we weren’t in the way of runners and then, once the course thinned out, walk alongside each other. My goal was to have mom jog for 15-30 seconds every five minutes. But, the ultimate goal was to have her finish her first NYRR race and enjoy it.
Exactly at 9:35, just five minutes after the race started, we crossed the starting line. As I’d expected, the first few minutes were complete madness as we did our best not to get run over. I kept mom smiling by pointing out the crazy costumes and promising her that it would get better. She was so motivated by the runners that her first jog interval was more like a sprint.
By the time we hit the first-mile marker, we knew that mom’s initial goal of keeping a 15-minute mile pace was a bit aggressive due to the crowds and hills, but both agreed that the best goal was just to enjoy ourselves. For the final three miles, we were able to walk together, mixing intervals of power walking and jogging, while enjoying the sights of Prospect Park. Due to the unseasonably warm weather, the park is still in Fall mode and on Saturday, in the morning light, it was illuminated in red, yellow and orange.
The volunteers were fabulous during the race, always giving mom motivation and reinforcing to her that she could do this. She never felt like she was the “back of the pack” or holding anyone up which was wonderful, based on my initial fears.
She jogged across the finish line, crossing in 1:04:07, smiling and happy to finish with the hills of Prospect Park. Considering that my mom does all her walking in “flat as a pancake” Savannah, Georgia I was pleased with the energy and attitude she used going into each hill. She followed my coaching of powering up the hill with her arms and remembering that what comes up must come down.
So, if you’re a walker who has been worried about entering your first race, I hope this post motivates you to sign up. Most races, unless they have a strict cut-off time, support runners and walkers of all paces as they are happy to have people motivated to be active. If you’re worried, email or call the race organizers in advance and ask the following questions:
- Does the course have a time limit?
- Is it open to walkers and runners?
- Will there be support (water, volunteers, and medical staff) on the course the entire time?
- Is it a race that is suggested for people of all abilities?
Thank you to the volunteers, NYRR employees and spectators for making my mom’s first experience a great one! We’ve already brainstormed a few Spring NYRR races to enjoy together!