The Short Distance Race Paradox: Al Gordon 4M Race Recap

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Another NYRR race is in the books! This weekend I ran the Al Gordon 4 Mile Classic in Prospect Park, which is a big park about a mile and half away from my apartment in Brooklyn. No PR, but I learned something important about myself, the weather was beautiful, and I got an awesome scarf so all in all it was a productive morning.

Who is Al Gordon, you ask? I didn’t know either. He’s a man who lived to be 107 (!!!) and started running marathons when he was in his 80s. Pretty crazy and inspiring.

Now on to the day: I woke up at 5:20 to eat breakfast, do a short meditation, get dressed, and be out the door by 6 for my pre-race run across the Manhattan Bridge and then down to the park. I usually run a little longer on Saturdays or Sundays, so I wanted to tack on a few miles to make this a long one too. My plan was to do 11 miles– 7 miles pre-race and then 4 miles for the race– which is typical long run mileage for me.

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My 7 mile run was really nice. I love my bridge sunrise runs, which have become a sort of trademark in my life now. I get to watch the sun break beautifully across the horizon, and I love experiencing the stark contrast of the uniquely serene NYC to its usual chaos; it’s literally night and day.

I got to the park, retrieved my bib, and then met up with my coworker and her boyfriend who were also running the race. I was warm when I got to the race area, sweating even, but as soon as I stopped moving my fingers immediately froze and I started getting cold again. In order to stay warm, and to kill the half hour we still had before the start, my coworker and I decided to jog along the surrounding paths. I had never deviated away from the main road before, so it was cool getting to see some of the other paths tucked away within the center of the park.

al gordon 4Around 7:50 we got corralled into our respective groups. After a short message from the president of NYRR, we were off. The first mile is always the slowest since it’s so crowded and it’s pretty difficult to pass anyone with people on all sides of you. This mile included the infamous (at least in the NY running community) Brooklyn Hill. It’s a relatively steep hill that measures around .3 miles (yes, I’ve measured the distance), and is just an all-around unpleasant experience for all who have encountered it. I was happy to get it over with in the beginning, while my energy was still high. My pace for mile 1 was 8:54, which for me is a slow race pace, so I tried to push myself for the remaining miles.

Although the course was pretty flat (excluding the hill right before the finish line), I felt uncomfortable for the majority of the time as I pushed past my comfort zone. My chest hurt, my legs were really working, and the last hill was really difficult. I remember thinking, “I may die on this hill” …which is a pretty dramatic and unproductive thought, but it really did feel like death. I was out of breath by the time I crossed the finish.

My times for the last 3 miles were 8:19, 7:42 and 7:51, for a total time of 33:07. I think my Garmin watch was a bit off though because the official NYRR results and my results don’t quite match up.

This 4 miler made me realize I’m better at racing longer distances. I ran faster at last month’s 10K, even though it was 2 miles longer than this one. It’s counterintuitive– you would think I would be faster on the shorter courses, since I don’t have to work as longer, but it doesn’t seem to work that way for me. And it’s not just this race– all the 5Ks I’ve done have been tougher than the longer distances I’ve ran. I’m not used to crossing over from my comfortable race pace (a 8:30-8:45 minute mile) to a more uncomfortable pace (anything faster than 8:00) for an extended period of time. It’s genuinely painful, and I’m better at slowly cutting my pace throughout the course of the race rather than going super fast through the entirety of it.

al gordon 1However, the only way to get better at short distance races is to keep doing them, so I’m going to continue to sign up for them. I’m aiming to complete the 9+1 program, which is a program for those attempting to get guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon, so there are plenty more chances for me to improve. How the program works: you become a member of NYRR, then run 9 NYRR races (which must be 9+1 program approved), volunteer for one race, and then you’re guaranteed entry for the marathon of the following year. So if I complete the program this year, I will run in the 2017 marathon. The chances of getting in via lottery are pretty slim, so it’s a good way to get guaranteed entry. The only other way to get in is to raise thousands of dollars or be fast enough to qualify for it.

My upcoming races: Japan Run (May 8), Airbnb Brooklyn Half (May 21), and Mini 10K (June 11). I may sign up for another short one in April, but I haven’t decided yet. Half marathon training begins February 29, so I have a little more than a week of freedom left… woohoo.

Do you all have any races you’d recommend?

What distance do you prefer to race– short, mid, long?

Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “The Short Distance Race Paradox: Al Gordon 4M Race Recap

  1. Glad you enjoyed Prospect Park. We have wonderful trails away from the main road. Come back on a warmer spring day to enjoy them and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden too.

    I love racing 5ks and half marathons, but the 5-milers appears to be my best distance as I always outperform what McMillan would predict based on the other distances.

    Like

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