Today I raced the inaugural Flushing Meadows 5K race in Corona Park, Queens. The park was the site of two world’s fairs (1939 and 1964), and it contains very large, and very visually striking, vestiges of at least one of them. I’m too lazy to research more than that. This is a blog, people.
The race was hosted by the Sri Chinmoy organization which is, as far as I can tell, a benign religious cult. Whatever they are, they put on a well-organized race. The race started on time, it was well-marked, well-staffed (there was a volunteer at every turn — and there were lots of turns), and they gave out huge honking trophies to winners, plus age group winners’ medals. The awards were so…well, big…that I couldn’t bring myself to skip the awards ceremony.
As for the course, this is not a race in which to attempt a PR. The course starts south of the Long Island Expressway and, unfortunately, in order to cross the LIE one needs to run up and over a short but very steep hill, both at the start and finish. Strike one against speed. Strike two against speed is the fact that the route winds all around Corona Park and there is a 90 degree (or worse) turn about every 200m or so. As usual, I did not look at my watch while racing but I did set it up to autolap on the kilometers. The only fast kilometer I ran was the second one (4:03) and that was only because it was almost all straightaway save for one 45 degree turn to the left.
We started at 10:00 am sharp and I was immediately the first woman. I doubted this would last, and I was right. A young woman with a lovely blonde ponytail passed me at about the half mile mark and within another few hundred meters I knew I’d never catch her. She would finish around 50 seconds ahead of me. After that, no women passed me and only one man did. I passed two teenage boys who went out too fast and died in the second kilometer. And that was the end of any passing action.
It was a tough race. For one thing, all of us in front were running alone. There were no packs. There was just a string of runners separated by around 15-20 feet each. The turns were frustrating and mentally draining. At some point in the middle of the race I settled for second place women’s and then things kind of went south from there from a mental standpoint. I knew the nature of the course was going to prevent me from running as well as I could have normally, so I found myself taking an, “Eh, why bother?” attitude. I was totally drifting off in the fourth kilometer (my slowest at 4:25) and then rallied for the last one and got back down to 4:12 territory despite the sharp turns and insane hill. But it was kind of depressing to see 21:15 on the clock when I came through. My PR is 21:12. I couldn’t find four seconds in there? I could have if I’d tried harder. I also wonder if I ran too far and too fast on Thursday (7 miles at 8:26 avg). In the past I’ve taken the day off two days before the race. I will do that before the 5 miler I have scheduled for a week from tomorrow.
This is one of three 5K races I have scheduled leading up to Houston. The primary purpose of these races is just to get some practice racing the 5K. I am very shaky in terms of knowing how it’s supposed to feel. But these races are also good gauges of where I am fitness-wise. Despite a disappointing clock time, I’m happy with the effort today and I do think I’ve gained some speed endurance in the past six or so weeks of training. I have seven more weeks to work at it.
Splits: 4:16, 4:03, 4:16, 4:25, 4:14
My watch read 3.12 miles, so I did a stellar job of hitting the tangents today. Either that or the course was short!
Sri Chinmoy may be familiar to some of you runners out there, but more as a creator of ultra running events than as a religious leader. (That Wikipedia page is worth a look; you will learn, among other “facts,” that he painted 200,000 paintings and lifted celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Sting over his head.) His organization is best known for their “self-transcendence” series of races in Queens. These races are, frankly, insane. They hold races that go on for 6 and 10 days, respectively — in Corona Park — running as much as possible, on as little sleep as possible, to accumulate as many miles as possible. But the crowning achievement in insanity is their 3,100 mile race, which takes place over many weeks in summer and is run around a single block in Queens. The block is circled 5,649 times, to be exact.
Yes. Runners are crazy.