It was overcast when I awoke, so it was only fitting I channeled Eeyore. Leave it to a runner to feel disappointment over poor results in a race she hadn’t yet run. Because of recent outings in the half-marathon and 10k that had been educational but nowhere near PRs, I was expecting the same kind of experience in the Continental Fifth Avenue Mile today: no PR, and more proof that my fitness wasn’t where I’d hoped it would be.
The Fifth Avenue Mile is one of a kind here in the city. It’s one of the few NYRR races I adore. Really, it’s the best of both worlds: a novelty course that I can’t run on any other day of the year, plus the chance to watch the elites tear up the exact same course behind me (usually, us serfs are racing well behind the lords and never get to see a thing). Also, I get to cheer for my friends and hang out with them between heats.
The pain of the mile cannot be overstated, especially if you are an endurance runner who is used to racing with ease or bearable discomfort until the final quarter or so, when yo begin to push it and are ready for the pain. No, for me, the mile hurts from the first quarter mile. It hurts so bad that I nearly immediately start to question why in fact I wanted to race the mile, and wishing I was anywhere else except on that particular stretch of Fifth Avenue, running as hard as I could as my lungs burned and legs rebelled against my slave-driver will.
Since I was not expecting to perform well in this race, I did not prepare beyond dressing appropriately, setting the splits on Little G to quarter-miles, and making an effort to keep myself hydrated. After the fact, I realized that was a mistake because if I’d taken two minutes to stop and read my report from last year, it probably would have helped me race a finer event. Even though I’m used to coming up with racing strategies for races thirteen times as long as yesterday’s, I could have come up with one for the mile, too.
I saw some friends before, during and after the races — MP, AC, MJ, LL, JG and JT and her man. The community of runners that has grown around me is truly a blessing, it’s been a positive constant in my life through the fast few years.
So, my race. Not much to say except that I somehow managed to PR by 5 seconds (huh? what?) yet I didn’t reach my goal which was to break 6:30. I ran 6:31 like this:
- I spent the first several seconds of the first quarter darting around big-bottomed women and forgetting I was running downhill. Before Little G chimed the first-quarter mile, I was already starting to feel the pain. Split: 1:26.
- The second quarter? All I remember is Owe owe Ugh ugh Why is this hill so fucking looooong? Split: 1:43
- I tried to pick it up for the third quarter. I told my legs to move faster. I told my shoulders and arms to stop clenching. I told my mind to shut the fuck up that there was no way I was going to stop running hard. Split: 1:39.
- Finally the finish line was in sight, but it was teeny weeny, like a finish line for mice. Never before had I heard my breath so ragged and desperate. My only thought was, This really sucks. Despite my muscles wanting to seize, I tried to put on a finishing kick. I felt like I was working harder, but yet I slowed down. Split: 1:43.
My finishing time of 6:31 was a 5-second improvement over my PR which I set in 2008, in the middle of training for the New York City Marathon. Over the past few months, my coach tried to give me speedwork to bridge the needs of both the half-marathon and the mile, but I definitely learned that strategy just isn’t possible. One day I might decide to focus on the mile race and tailor my training for that. But in the meantime, I’m happy to have a new PR, and am ready to turn my focus to the Houston Half-Marathon, and the intermediary goal of the LIRRC’s Turkey Trot 8k.
Here are some photos I took of the elite race, from where I was standing with my friends on the west side of Fifth Avenue at 71st Street.