The first NYRR race I ran, in May of last year, was the Wall st. AMHA 5k. It started near Wall st., snaked through cobblestone streets, and ended along the esplanade at Battery park. It was so much fun to run through this neighborhood, I said afterward, where’s the next race? The answer-Central Park. As it was for the next one, the next one after that, and so on. I would say about 90% of NYRR races are held in CP. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the “home field advantage” that comes from running all your races, and doing most of your training, on the same course. I know the 6 mile park road like the back of my hand: every hill, every dip, every rise, even prevailing winds at different times of the day.
However, as much help as this is when aiming for a PR, or when mentally prepping for the race, it can become a little monotonous. Which was why I did not run the NYRR Haiti race on Sat. (I had already personally donated to Haiti) and joined the Prospect Park Cherry Tree relay run this Sunday instead. This was exciting for multiple reasons: it was a completely new route that I’d never run before; it was a relay race which engenders a strong sense of team spirit and is definitely novel; and it was only 900 people. Being solidly middle of the pack leaves me clipping ankles (and being clipped) for most of the NYRR races, this time my route was refreshingly clear.
The absolute highlight of the run was the baton/slappy bracelet hand off. I ran middle, and was the last of my running team to head out for that leg, and so watched several of my team mates do their hand offs. We would cheer enthusiastically for the runner finishing their leg, then, as the next runner caught the bracelet and headed out, cheer for them. I thought this might be a bit silly, they were just starting, how much encouragement did they need? Not so, as I grabbed the bracelet, and started out into what turned out to be a sprint (6.30mm for the first .1miles!) hearing my name was truly inspiring. I felt like a serious runner, like the Olympians on TV doing relays. This, combined with the downhill start, had me doing a 7.30mm for the first half mile.
This didn’t last, of course, the new route was tough- and all the more so because I didn’t know when the hills would begin and end. The entire 3.3 mile loop felt like one giant hill: I was either going up, or going down, but it never seemed to be flat (miraculously my knee held up beautifully.) I finished in 8.35 (again) and unlike the 4 miler two weeks ago, I was quite pleased with this: it was a tough course, I didn’t know how to pace myself on it, and my knee has been slowing me down lately and reducing my training mileage.
All in all a fantastic morning and probably the race I’ve run with my team (the Dashing Whippets) that had the best sense of team spirit. Likely because the thinner crowds and very staggered running times allowed us lots of opportunities to cheer each other on. Above is a photo of a team mate, with a super-strong finish, after finishing the full 10 miler.
(3.3 miles, about 8.35 pace- at least that’s what my Garmin said)