When I heard Paula and Kara would be running the NYRR New York Mini 10k, there was no way I was going to miss it. The plan was to see them at the start, then mosey to the finish, leaving enough time to hang around and maybe shake their hands and get a picture with them. I was also hoping to bump into Kathryn Switzer (who I have been saving a hug of thanks for ever since I read her autobiography Marathon Woman), and to watch the awards ceremony. Of course, life loves to squeeze me like a vise and so I was stuck getting up at 5 AM for my 10-miler to fit it in before the Mini, and then jetting from the race as soon as possible to come out to Long Island to take care of my Nana (to give Mom a break). As luck would have it (since I don’t believe in luck, I always get the bad kind), there were all sorts of public transportation issues this morning so Iarrived at the 50th Street and Eighth Avenue station 5 minutes before the starting horn. I ended up jogging the 10 blocks north to the start of the race, in front of Trump Towers at Columbus Circle and Central Park West (smart thing I wore my sports bra and running shoes).
I arrived there just in time to snap some photos of the fillies all lined up at the starting line, and to hear Paula Radcliffe give her remarks to the crowd. I was flustered because I’d been rushing so my camera was on the wrong setting, thus my photo of the first strides came out blurry rather than clear.
After the start of the race, my intention was to walk to the finish line and observe from there. I am nothing if not a soul with good intentions, which is a gentle way of saying I nevertheless usually screw things up; as a result I am either a clod or erroneous. This morning, I was erroneous as I walked over towards where the finish line would be for the Fifth Avenue Mile. Who knows why I had it in my head to go east–I even had a print-out of the course map in my backpack but neglected to check it, that’s how sure I was that I knew what I was doing. The finish line (which I will never forget now) is the same as the New York City Marathon, in front of the soon-to-perish Tavern on the Green. By the time I reoriented myself, I was too far from the finish line to beat the elites there, so I camped out instead along the southeastern curve of Park Drive, somewhere around 5.75 miles, and decided to cheer from there.
No matter how many times I spectate in Central Park, I will always be amazed at how fast the elites zoom by. I stood right on the edge of the road, and was able to see the strain in their faces, see the rise and fall of their chests as they breathed heavily, and hear their pants and footfalls. I even caught a bit of their tailwind. It was visceral and after a while I gave up on taking pictures.
Mary Wittenberg was running on my side of the street, and her form is so distinctive (lots of arm work and frowning), so I spotted her before I saw Paula. But then I copped on quick enough to offer a casual, “Hey Paula, how’s it going?” And she actually half-turned around, gave a tiny wave and said, “Hi!” That’s exactly what any normal person who runs past a friend would do! Cool. Paula is preggers so she was just running this Mini for fun, and Kara sat it out altogether.
Soon the fast locals started pounding by, which is when I saw Julie. A quick masters runner, a blogger, and a Green Mountain Relay teammate, I was thrilled to spot her. She’s had a few chances lately to interview a bunch of elites; if you’re interested, you should visit her blog and read about the men, the comeback, and the women. It’s good reading, and good vicarious living.
I stood there for about another 20 minutes or so, waiting for other runners I know to trot by, but I failed to pick them out. I was a little disheartened as I was really hoping to give them a boost. Instead I stood there and did my best to cheer on the ladies, shouting things like, “Race it strong” and “Your hair looks fabulous.” You know, the important things.
Now that I know the course, maybe I’ll even race the Mini one year.