Yesterday I kicked off 2016 with my first 10K, the NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K. It also happened to be my first race in NYC. I PR-ed (by default) with a time of 50:42, which is an average pace of 8:03 min/mile. There were 5,222 total participants, 2433 of them women. I ended up coming in 23rd in my age group (out of 127), which was pretty cool. It was a great race with a few big hills, several rolling hills, and a great group of staff/volunteers.
I woke up around 5:30 am, got dressed, ate a bowl of cereal, and was out the door by 6 to get to Central Park by 7. The subway ride over was interesting—as soon as I got to Union Square to switch to the 4/5 train, I saw groups of people in running shoes, leggings, head warmers, etc. that immediately gave them away as fellow runners. We all knew we were going to the same place, but we didn’t acknowledge each other. I thought about striking up a conversation with the guy standing next to me, similarly decked out in running gear, but he had his headphones in so I decided against it. It was strange, being surrounded by a community of fellow runners yet having zero interaction with each other.
Anyway, once I got to Central Park I met up with my coworker who was also running it. We got our bags checked and waited for the 8 a.m. start time. One of the first things I noticed was the sheer amount of participants. I was shocked; I didn’t realize how big a race this was. I thought there would only be a few hundred racers since it was just a 10K, nothing special. However, there were thousands of people. It seemed like we could envelope the entire loop around Central Park. I was amazed at how organized the event was, despite the amount of people to manage. The registration/baggage check/porta-potty lines went smoothly; the system seemed to be pretty seamless. They also had volunteers with clearly marked signs to answer any questions, as well as volunteers to hand out plastic bags for the bag check. There was also plenty of space to warm up, stretch out, etc.
The weather was surprisingly pleasant at around 40 degrees, an ideal running temperature. However, after standing around for half an hour, I was pretty cold by the time I got to the start line. The worst part of any race is before it begins, when everyone is anxious, cold, and waiting to get going. So by the time the gun finally went off, I was happy to get my blood flowing and gain some feeling in my toes.
It was so crowded for the first mile/mile and a half that I pretty much had to follow the pace of those in front of me. I would try to speed up and maneuver around people, but it really didn’t make much of a difference. However, the congestion proved to have its merits since I barely noticed the huge hill we were climbing during that first mile at the north end of the park (if you’ve run in Central Park you know what hill I’m talking about) because I couldn’t really see much of anything ahead.
As soon as the group began to disperse a little, I sped up and started to find my pace. The first half of the race flew by. The hardest part was mile 4, when the hills were continuous and I was really pushing myself because I knew I only had a couple miles to go. I remember thinking to myself, You only have to endure this pain for less than 2 miles. Less than 1.5 miles. Less than 1 mile. I repeated this until I got to a downhill and I could recover.
I went as fast as I could for the last mile. Once I got to the six mile marker and realized the finish line wasn’t for another few hundred yards, I got a little annoyed since I was already dying inside and didn’t know if I had it in me to keep sprinting to the finish. I regrouped and continued to run as fast as possible, and as I crossed the finish line I was exhausted but I also felt amazing. I knew I had used all the energy I had to finish strong, and I felt really good about how I ran the race.
I heard my friend Carolyn, who came to cheer me on, call out my name and I was so happy to see her. It was awesome having her support and someone to share this memory with.
Volunteers were lined up past the finish line to hand out water, pretzels, bagels, and apples, which was a very nice site to see since I was pretty hungry. Then I snapped a couple pics, grabbed my stuff, and went to grab some breakfast with Carolyn.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to run more races. It re-ignited the competitive spirit in me that I almost forgot about. I loved the feeling of pushing myself past my comfort level, even though it was painful. I’d rather feel uncomfortable and drained than feel like I didn’t give it my all. I was even a little sore today, and I never get sore from running!
Here’s to a 2016 full of new races, PRs, and memories.