adidas Run for the Parks 4M (Q)
Central Park, New York, NY
Sunday, April 20, 2008

Official time
25:16 (6:19 pace)

Mile marker: lap/split
Mile 1: 6:23/6:23
Mile 2: 6:10/12:34
Mile 3: 6:34/19:09
Mile 4: 6:07/25:16

Following a beautiful and warm Saturday, the morning was a chilly 51 degrees according to my Google Widget.  The morning prep was standard: half-croissant, half-banana, and half-Gatorade.

This race was the first implementation of seeded corrals which separated runners by their best proven race pace.  Previously, runners self-selected their starting positions under the appropriate pace marker, but so many slower runners were starting too far to the front and creating unnecessary traffic.  Corrals were enforced with runners separated by bib color.

All I knew was my red bib meant that I was in the red corral.  However, on the subway ride to the race start a couple pointed out that my 14XX bib number meant I was in the second corral and I must be oh so fast, as they unzipped their jackets to reveal bib numbers in the 8000s.

Runners in the first corral (blue) had bib numbers 1-999, the second corral had number 1000-1999, and so on (not all the numbers were filled; NYRR aimed for 500-700 runners per corral).  Ten corrals total.  Generally, bibs are used only to identify runners in professional pictures since race times are recorded by chips threaded through runners’ shoe laces.  But now it was different – bibs with low numbers were worn like medals.

I decided then that my goal was to get into that first blue corral.

I started in the middle of my red corral which seemed very close to starting line, I thought maybe too close.  Did I really belong here?  Not only could I see the starting banner, but I could also see the the podium from where they make those awkward pre-race sponsor announcements.

“Uhh, we’re behind you runners, as always.  You do great things for the park.  Have a nice race.”

Minutes to the start, I looked around: nothing but guys ahead, to the side, and immediately behind me.  Hardly a girl anywhere – and having worked in technology, this was an all too familiar sight.  Stretching far behind me down East Drive was a river of runners in evenly spaced colored corrals, 5863 runners in all.

The race was off!  Within a few hundred yards the runners quickly sorted.  Runners surrounding me were even until we hit Cat Hill which again reshuffled the order; many couldn’t maintain speed through the long uphill.  I didn’t know what my pace should be for this race, so when my first mile split was 6:23 I was a bit concerned that I came out too fast.  I can’t remember the last time I ran even a single sub-6:30 mile, yet here I still had 3 more miles to go.

I tried not to think too hard and kept running.  My next mile was an even faster 6:10 which brought us to the top of the 102nd St. transverse.  This third mile along the west side is what always seems to give me trouble – it’s a long stretch of quick up-and-down hills.  I would pass a series of runners on the uphill, they would pass me on the way down, I’d again pass them on the way up, and so on.  Clearly running downhill is an area where I need to improve.  Things were solid until my forth mile when my running form crumbled.  It was all leg power to the end.   I can only imagine the professional pictures will show my head weighted back, my elbows sticking out, and me looking like I’m booking from the police (I already have a few pics like this).

There were three water stations, but I drank nothing.  I’m still trying to determine the right amount of hydration for each race distance.  Last week I ran 15 miles without a sip of water (not that this was a good idea), so I was certainly not going to waste time drinking water during a 4-mile race on a cool day.

I clicked the lap button on my watch for my third mile and the final fouth mile, but I didn’t look at my finish time – not until I sat down to write this post this evening.  After the race I grabbed a glass of water and some food, took a few minutes rest, and finished the morning with a comfortable 6-mile loop of Central Park, bagel in hand.

I’m of course happy with my 6:19 pace, but it does make me wonder how much longer I can keep cutting my time.  Back to the gym tomorrow.