I set out yesterday morning at 5:15AM in the dark and in a steady downpour to run in the NYRR 50th Anniversary Run - a 5 mile race in Central Park. I've been remarkably blessed this year in that I've not had to run in the rain or cancel workouts due to weather, but that certainly wasn't the case yesterday.
As a result of the weather a race that would otherwise have had 5,000 runners had fewer than 2,000, but still a large number given the time and the conditions.
I jogged down to the start of the race in front of Tavern on The Green, timing things so I'd end up at the start line with as little time as possible before the race got under way. After spending about 5 minutes huddled under some tall trees with fellow runners, I moved over to my starting corral for the pre-race announcements. The rain tapered down to light sprinkles as we got underway, which was obviously a big relief. There was a bit - and I emphasize a bit, not a lot - of a festive air given that the run was to commemorate an anniversary and that people were a little giddy to be out running a race at 5:30 in the morning.
I set out hoping to improve on the time of my last 5 mile race, the Fred Lebow classic, which was my first NYRR race of the year - way back in January. I finished the Lebow in 41:51 (8:22 per mile) and figured with all the mileage I've put in of late that improving would not be a big problem. I ultimately finished in 38:16, good for a 7:39 pace - just slightly slower than the 7:32 per mile pace for a recent 3 mile race.
Here's how I'd sum up the race:
Mile 1: ran it in 7:15 (the benefit of being cold and wet). Imagined I would not be able to maintain that pace for the duration.
Mile 2: Cat Hill on the east side of the park (see previous post on My Nemesis for further details). Slowed down to 7:42, what with the big hill and all.
Mile 3: shoes started to make squishing noises. Finished in 7:32.
Mile 4: crossing the park on the 102nd street transverse from east to west. Got some water at the 'Fluid Station' and walked while I drank. Slowest mile at 8:17. Spent time wondering thinking about my goal for the Chicago Marathon in October: to finish or to achieve a specific time. Most of the books say first-time marathoners should just aim to finish. Don't know about that. One of the guides says you can project your marathon time by taking 2x a half-marathon and adding something like 10 or 20 minutes; that would put me in the neighborhood of 4 hours, which would be a cool goal.
Mile 5: Spent most of this mile wondering why I put myself through all of this and trying to get a good breath. Felt like I was in home territory being on the west side of the park. The end came sooner than I expected and I was pleasantly surprised to finish mile 5 in 7:27.
I felt like junk (physically) when I finished but was pleased with the result and felt great to have finished a hard race before 6:15 in the morning. I did the typical post-race routine - got the ChampionChip clipped and grabbed water, a banana, and some wet(ish) bagels to take home.
On reviewing the results posted to the NYRR website, I saw that in spite of the pretty decent pace, my showing overall wasn't so great. I finished 463rd out of 1,789 runners overall; 385th out of 1,001 males; and 65th out of 168 males over 40. My thinking is that given the weather, many of the less serious runners did not show up and therefore the overall level of competition was higher than it would otherwise have been. I did manage to improve my age-graded performance percentage to 59.4%, which is the best result yet of all 7 races I've done this year. The age-graded performance percentage is an indicator of how your time in the specific distance compares to an age and gender-specific world record performance. 70% is considered regional class, 80% national class, and 90% world class. My previous best was 59.2%. Since 70% for a 41 year-old male is about 6:30 per mile, I probably don't have to worry about that any time soon!
All in all, a great way to start a day.
P.S. Here's another runner/blogger's take on the race: Pigtails Flying.