Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Race Report: Run for Central Park

The days preceeding this trip I deliberately avoided looking at the weather forecast for New York. I had a feeling it might be H-O-T and didn't want to get psyched out. There's not a lot a person can do to acclimatize a week before an event, so there wasn't any point in freaking out about it.

SO many port-a-potties, so little time

I awoke at 6am in my frigidly air-conditioned room at the Times Square Hilton and got myself together for the race. I quickly chugged two big glasses of water and headed downstairs to the breakfast buffet.

There was a really nice spread laid out of sausages, bacon, three varieties of scrambled eggs, fruit, juices, etc....but common sense and experience told me to stick to a toasted bagel with a little bit of egg on the side.  I also had my customary one cup of coffee, even though my tiredness quotient called for at least three.

Once I felt adequately fueled I headed outside into the warmness and hailed a taxi. There was almost no traffic, so within a few minutes I jumped out of the cab and made my way into the park.

By now there were lots of other chumps like me (over 5,000 as it turns out) shlepping their way along the winding paths of Central Park. Some wore their newly acquired race T-shirts. Many carried backpacks and water bottles. As usual, the runnners represented many different ages, sizes, colours, and persuasions.

As I got closer to the starting area, which was near the Bandshell, the crowds became thicker and I started to overhear snippets of familiar banter. Talk of PR's, hydration, run-walk strategy, and IT band syndrome faded in and out in the background as I weaved through the crowds taking pictures along the way.

About 45 minutes after I arrived, it was time to find my corral (based on my supposed 8:08/mile expected pace, HAHA). I tried to stand in the shade for as long as possible, but I finally had to bite the bullet and go stand under the sun's relentless gaze. Within a couple of minutes I noticed beads of sweat forming on the bald heads of middle aged men around me.

The anthem was sung way off in the distance at the start line, a gun was fired, and we were off. I started my Garmin and decided not to look at it again until the end of the race. After all, there was a heat advisory in effect and the temperature at 9am was already 28C (82F) I was not intent on breaking any records. I just wanted to run as much as I could and make it to the finish without puking or passing out.

The first couple of miles I was buoyed by the energy around me and still relatively cool, and ran at about 9:00/mile pace without killing myself too much.  After a while I started to get really warm and decided to take lots of walk breaks during the third mile. Throughout the race at every water stop I would drink a cup of water and pour another cup on my head. The cooling effect was great and it lasted for about a half a mile each time.

After taking a pretty relaxed 12:00 to run/walk mile three, I decided to pick up the pace for mile four. I started to tire with about 300m to go, but the crowds were much heavier by then and I didn't want to humiliate myself by slowing or stopping in front of all those people, so I dug in. There was an uphill climb, lots and lots of cheering, and then a corner. After the corner things flattened out and I sprinted to the finish.

My final time was 39:42, which is probably a PR because I have only run one other 4 mile race and it was before I was really a runner and I am sure it was slower.

The Run for Central Park supports the Central Park Conservancy. All awards for the race are eco-friendly, and flowers are planted throughout the park for all race winners, which is a really nice touch.  The race is super well organized, the crowd support is fantastic, and the location is varied and scenic. The hot weather was compensated for a bit by the shade of the park's big trees and the frequent water stops and spray stations. I highly recommmend this event and would be happy to do it again. 
Here are the bullet points included in the memo, entitled Tips for Running a Race in Warm Conditions, handed out by the New York Road Runners at the package pickup:

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