Craig and I live nonsensically close to Central Park, so getting back and forth from a race there is no problem. But, this race was in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It ended up taking us three different trains to get to the park (by 8:00am!) and over an hour and a half in travel time. After finally getting onto a train that would get us within walking distance of the park, I was able to relax a little bit. (Seeing other people with tags on their shoes was a relief!) My nose was running, but I was feeling pretty good for being sick all week. Once we got off the train, we walked a block or two over to the park and what is the first thing to greet us? The Mile 1 marker. The start of the race was an entire mile into the park! So, we were speed-walking/running just to get to the starting line, dropped the bag off quickly and slipped in with the crowd to start the race. The corrals were a mess and there were people standing all over the place since so many of us showed up with barely time to spare.
*VA not pictured. VA in the "very far back group.
The race was extremely congested in the beginning, and because corrals were so mixed, there were slower runners in front of people who were faster, and even people that were walking at the very beginning. I was feeling pretty good about myself, running past a lot of people at the start (it's not very often that I pass people!)
The first mile was a long hill, gradual, but still steep, and I didn't have much of a problem with it, despite my history suffering through hills. I knew since I had walked down the hill getting to the race that the 1 mile mark was just ahead and when I passed the clock, I noticed that I had run my first mile in just over 11 minutes. Woo hoo! Right after the first mile, exhaustion set in. Some coughing, nose running, side stitches, you name it! I slowed to a walk and vowed to only walk 100 steps. Counting them off, 97, 98, 99, 100 - and I set off running again. I popped a cough drop in my mouth and the menthol actually helped open up my airways a bit.
Deep down, I knew I wasn't having a good run. I had pains in my legs, a cramp in my hip and in my toes. The stitch in my side and the pain in my shoulder would only subside for a few seconds at a time. So I started doing the "walk 100 steps" every time the pain got bad. For some reason, being able to count out the steps kept me going for a while. At the 3 mile point, I stepped off the road and tried to stretch out my hip flexor because it was really starting to cramp up badly. That worked for the next 10 minutes or so, and pushed me toward the finish line. In my heart, I knew I had done so poorly that I had literally given up on making any sort of "time" and just wanted to get across the finish line. Going up the final hill was a series of "run a bit, give up, walk further. Push self into running again, give up, walk further." At one point, a woman said "you and I keep run/walking past each other - do you want to run together to the end?" I agreed and the two of us pushed past the finish line. I lost her in the crowd just after I was able to breathe out a "thank you". Honestly, without that woman, I would not have run to the finish line. I'm absolutely sure of it.
Craig was there, with outstretched arms and greeted me over the rail at the finish. With tears in my eyes, I told him I was in pain and he walked with me to grab a bagel and led me over to stretch in the grass. After resting a minute, we walked out of the park together, straight back up that first hill, while we talked about our run. Craig did extremely well (under 9 minute miles!!) I was disappointed in myself but not in a "I want to quit" sort of way, which, I suppose is a good thing.
Back at home, I threw my shoes off, propped my legs up and went in search of the race results. Imagine my shock when this appeared:
A full 21 seconds off my pace? Are you kidding me??? I seriously thought that I would have been posting 13+ minute miles. Imagine what my times would be if I actually ran decently the entire time!
There is still A LOT of work to do. In fact, my next scheduled race is the New York Colon Cancer Challenge on April 1st, which I will be running in honor of my grandmother, a colon cancer survivor. It's a 15K (9.32 miles) race and right now, I'm shakin' in my runnin' shoes, because hot damn, that's a long way to run!
*Photo courtesy of New York Road Runners