Race Report: NYRR Mini 10K

This was my second Mini 10K, the last one having been 2008. I missed last year’s because I was too busy crying into my microbrews in Oregon after dropping out of the Newport Marathon at mile 18.

It was warm and humid this year, but not nearly as bad as it was in 2008. I’d say it was around 70F and the dewpoint was maybe in the low 60s. Not ideal, especially for a bad hot weather runner like me. But not disastrous either. It was also overcast for most of the race. This is about as good as you’re going to get in New York in June, so I was not complaining (for once).

This year was special for me because I got to meet so many of the elite runners yesterday, giving an extra dimension to my fandom today. Jonathan dropped me off at 72nd St around 8:00, an hour pre-race. I had no trouble getting my bib and I was able to do a leisurely warmup: .8 miles very easy followed by 5 100m strides at just below race pace. Along the way I spotted Benita Willis doing some easy running alone, Emily Chebet jogging along with her coach and another runner who I didn’t recognize, but she was a skinny Kenyan and obviously A Somebody. After the speedy bits, I adjusted my laces, did some dynamic stretches, downed a gel and some water, and I was ready to rock.

I had a blue bib for this race, first corral, a number in the 600s (they number the various corral bibs by last name). Getting up to it from Central Park South, where I did my warmup, was a challenge, but I plowed through the crowd and managed to arrive about 8 minutes before start. Corral 1 was crowded, but people were in good spirits. I saw a contingent of New York Harriers ahead of me but didn’t feel like expending a lot of energy by introducing myself and being social (how unlike me). So I hung back anonymously and waited for the festivities to begin.

The elites were introduced, with three brought up to the stage: Goucher (who decided not to run, although blew the horn to get us going and was at the finish holding one end of the tape, with Kathrine Switzer holding the other), Radcliffe and Kiplagat. Goucher and Radcliffe’s pre-race comments weren’t memorable. But Kiplagat’s were dry enough to be a Bond martini. She deadpanned (and I’m paraphrasing): “Everybody have a good time today. Don’t run the first miles too fast. Whether you’re first or last, you’re a winner.”

A few photos follow (thank you, Ellen).

Photo courtesy Ellen Jovin

Winners, all. This photo reminds me of a Manet painting for some reason. Is life imitating art?

Or is art imitating life?

My pacing plan was as follows: 7:10, 7:10, 6:50, 7:30, and the last 2+ miles were whatever my legs could manage. I have yet to have nailed either the 10K as a distance or on this course in particular. I have a history of running too hard in the first three miles. Then mile four, which is slow for everyone because of the Harlem Hills, does me in and the last two miles are a slog. I did not want to repeat that pattern today, so I paced the early miles so the first two felt easy. No going out at 6:30 was allowed.

As it turns out, I still haven’t nailed this course, but I’m getting closer. My splits were: 7:08, 7:04, 6:58, 7:37, 6:52, 7:09, last .39 (ran long) at 6:41 pace.

Mile 1 felt way too easy. I kept telling myself that it was supposed to feel easy and to just be patient for once. 7:08 was close enough. I spotted Jonathan somewhere into Mile 2, after we’d turned into the park at 90th St. I had plenty of energy at this point, more than enough to wave and say hello.

Mile 2 still felt way too easy, so I pushed things a little, but not too much. Maybe that was a mistake. 7:04. Whatever. What’s 6 seconds?

Mile 3 has a big, gradual downhill followed by the first big Harlem hill. I was flying at 6:30 for the first part of the mile and I felt fine, so I went with it. I knew the humidity was going to slow me down later in the race, not to mention the big hill that was rapidly filling my field of vision, so I ran by feel and didn’t worry about pace. 6:58.

Mile 4 is the bastard on this course. A huge, long hill follows the 5K mark. You wind up around it, past the Lasker pool/rink and Harlem Meer, and you’re still running up and up and up as you approach the 102nd St. transverse. Then you have a flat bit that if you’re smart you use to recover since you’ll be heading back uphill very soon. It’s draining as hell, and if you’ve spent too much energy in the first 5K, this mile will destroy your speed for the remainder of the race. It is what always happens to me. 7:37. Slower than I wanted, but not a meltdown.

Mile 5 was exactly what I wanted it to be. I wanted to be passing lots of people during this mile. And I was. I felt really good during this mile and that good feeling led to some extravagance that I paid for later on. 6:52. Jonathan told me that news of the elite race was being relayed to the finish and Linet Masai also had an extravagant mile 5, dipping well under a 5:00 pace. She was on course record time then. But, alas, her legs couldn’t hold that effort and speed any more than I mine could (relatively speaking — very relatively). As I crested Cat Hill, which I flew down, I passed two guys holding a Swedish flag, looking intently for (presumably) a Swedish lady friend runner. “Go, Sweden!” I yelled and they replied, fists up, “Yay!” First laugh of the race.

Heading into Mile 6 I passed Tavia, who shrieked (she’s very outgoing), “Julie!” [pause] “It’s Tavia!” For some reason, I found her comedic timing to be both brilliant and hilarious. This gave me laugh #2. Well, of course it’s Tavia! Her voice and enthusiasm are unmistakable!

At the 5.5 mile mark I was surprised to spot Benita Willis again, spectating right there on the course. There seemed to be a momentary flash of recognition, although I think I probably looked considerably more relaxed and attractive yesterday when I was sipping water and asking dumb questions than I did as I struggled past her toward the “800m to go” marker. So I was probably imagining things. I was verging on oxygen debt and developing a side stitch, so didn’t dare run faster. 7:09. Ouch. I knew I wasn’t hitting sub-7:00 that mile, but the readout hurt to see.

The last bit I managed at a 6:41 pace. Perhaps I’d been too conservative earlier on, but based on mile 6 I don’t think so. Nevertheless, I was happy that I could run that fast at the end. But I know I have homework to do as far as figuring out that last mile on this course.

Official time: 45:18. That’s 36 seconds faster than 2008 time. This was also my first club points race. As I’d hoped, I managed to contribute points to the Harriers 40+ women’s team, placing 2nd after the club’s masters rock star, Stephanie Hodge, (big gap in time there) and helping to put us into seventh place for this race.

Photo courtesy Ellen Jovin

Masai wins! I picked the wrong Kenyan for the win (Chebet), but at least I picked the correct runner's African country of origin (out of two).

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