Spectator Report: NYRR Emerald Nuts Midnight Run

I spent New Year’s Eve and day playing host and driver to another coachee of Kevin’s, Kim Duclos. Unlike me, Kim is young and fast. She just ran a 2:38 at Huntsville in mid-December and is gearing up for an even faster run at the L.A. Marathon in the spring.

Kim had been invited by NYRR to to run in the elite field of their four mile Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. She drove down from Worcester, MA for the race yesterday, hanging out at our place for a few hours before we drove in. Jonathan has a bad cold, so he skipped the festivities.

Despite the fact that I felt like I was a combination interloper/running groupie, accompanying her to the race and hanging out in the elite tent was a huge treat, as well as a glimpse into how the other half races.

NYRR required that Kim pick up her number by 11PM for the midnight race. Since I didn’t want to be responsible for missing that deadline, we left ridiculously early — 9PM for what’s usually a half hour drive to the Upper West Side. I’m glad we left early since not only did I space out and miss the Boat Basin exit, but no one knew where the elite tent was (we’d walked right by it, unlabeled). Half an hour later, we found a volunteer who knew where it was and settled in.

The conditions in Central Park were awful. A snowfall of around 1-2 inches earlier in the day had turned to icy slush. NYRR had salted the course, but it was still treacherous just walking around. We claimed a couple of chairs in the heated tent and surveyed the table of cookies, water and tee shirts. I spotted a few others who were not there to run, so didn’t feel too self-conscious in there, although I did eventually give up my chair when it started to fill up.

The highlight was when the star of the evening, Erin Donohue, appeared about 40 minutes before race start. At two feet away, this was about as close as I was ever going to get to an Olympian (unless, of course, Kim continues to get faster over the next couple of years, heh heh) and I tried not to stare. But, people, that girl is built: 5’7″ (she looks shorter in person) and around 145 pounds. Solid muscle. She’s got legs like cherry tree logs and you can see every muscle in her shoulders. She was friendly, but I sure wouldn’t want to piss her off.

Runners got the call to get ready to get their asses outside in 10 minutes. Then Mary Wittenberg wended her way through the tent for the pre-race meet and greet. I hid behind Derek Scott, who was conveniently tall, serving as a potted plant proxy. I’d told Kim that I planned to introduce myself as her “handler” if anyone asked, a term that she said had come up for her in a few interactions with race directors. I love how it makes the runner sound like a circus animal.

The race started at midnight sharp, as did an impressive show of fireworks. I watched from the start/finish in a prime spot, thanks to my elevated hanger-on status. Despite the crap weather, people were clearly having a blast. It took close to 12 minutes for the entire race field to pass the start line, and lots of the back-of-the-packers were jolly already. Good costumes, many fist pumps, and some unsteady legs!

As for the elite race, which was the only one being timed (at least for the top five in each gender field), it was pretty competitive, considering the conditions. The first man, Patrick Smyth, came in less than half a minute off the course record, and Donohue won the women’s race in a little over 21 minutes. Kim came in shortly thereafter, perhaps a minute slower than would be expected under normal racing conditions. But she was smiling as much at the finish as she was at the start, so she had a good time, which was her goal. Not falling on her ass was a bonus.

After her cooldown we wandered around, hitting the dance party and pretending we didn’t speak English when some guy started babbling to us about portapotties. But the ground was an ice slick and it was getting cold, so we headed home for some wine and other treats. Got to bed around 3:30AM, which is probably a personal record for me for New Year’s.

All in all, a great start to 2010.