Nike Human Race 10K

August 31, 2008

Nike Human Race 10K
Randall’s Island, New York, NY
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Official time
Not Available*

Mile marker: lap/split
Mile 1: 8:26/8:25
Mile 2: 7:59/16:23
Mile 3: 7:56/24:23
Mile 4: 7:16/31:38
Mile 5: 7:49/39:28
Mile 6: 9:09/48:36
Mile 6.2: 1:29/50:06

The Nike Human Race was an adventure!  I’ve decided to all but abandon racing as I increase my mileage in preparation for the marathon, especially since I need just one more NYRR qualifying race this year to reach the 9 required for guaranteed NYC Marathon entry.  However, I liked the idea of the Nike Human Race and signed up four days prior to the event.  The Nike website FAQ said the registration would be limited at 10,000 participants, while a Nike employee at the race expo said they closed registration at 10,300.  It did sell out.

I had been having trouble with my hip for a good few weeks during the summer but the NYC Half Marathon on July 31 finished it off.  I can’t even assess the injury because it was a complete dismantling of my left hip: everything was strained or pulled on the inside, outside through and through.  I took three weeks to recover (zero running) and just started getting back into training a week or so ago.  The short runs have been fine but the longer runs reveal I’ve lost some fitness.

In taking advantage of the beautiful Labor Day weekend weather, Saturday morning I went to a 1-hour spinning class, in the evening I ran 8 miles, Sunday morning I ran 14 miles, and in the evening was the 6.2M Human Race.  I knowingly signed up for the Human Race for the experience, not as a serious time trial.  The idea was not to get re-injured.

On the M106 bus over to the east side I thought about what my target pace ought to be.  At first I thought 9 minutes but decided an 8 minute pace would be safe enough.  After crossing the footbridge to Wards Island and walking north to Randall’s Island, I browsed the sponsor tents next to Icahn Stadium, the track & field center where at the Olympic Trials this year Tyson Gay set a 100m world record time that was nullified for excessive wind at his back.  After sampling PowerBar gels, Poland Spring water, and Starbucks Vivanno, I stretched until it was time to line up for the race.

The running field was strikingly young — anyone not in their 20s stuck out.  It’s very likely that for many this was their first race.  The pace signs started at 12:00/mile and stretched toward the starting line.  The path was just a standard width bike path that was sometimes paved, sometimes gravel, and sometimes a strange mix of both (add stray pipes and divets).  I lined up at the 8:00/mile sign.  The race start was delayed 30 minutes to to allow for a ferry to bring over the last group of runners.

The start felt like the running of the bulls.  There was some leeway on the bike bath to pass others on the grass, but then the path narrowed to a small corridor between, and then it was split.   The course was two loops around the island; the organizers attempted to half an already narrow pathway to designate the first and second laps.  It was crowded, VERY crowded.  Several times I’d accidentally bump into someone on my right, apologize, take a half step to my left and bump someone else.  The tape and cones designating the boundaries of the course were no match for so many runners.  On the first lap the cones were there, on the second they’d be on the ground or missing.

Here’s another take on it from the official Human Race NYC blog:

As the crowd’s overwhelming applause rose to a deafening level, the horn sounded and the race began! The two-loop route around Randall’s Island made for a challenging, yet honest course that made sure that the runners did not go out too fast and forced them to sustain a steady pace…

An eight-minute mile for a 10K is not a difficult pace for me; I tried to show some self-control and stick with the pacers.  Now that was difficult!  I ran ahead of the gaggle of runners to find some breathing space but kept a look out over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t cheating too far ahead.  I inched to about a 50-yard lead and then backed off around mile 5 to rejoin the pacers and hopefully finish on target.

However, just before the stadium there was a pileup at the nature walk bridge.  At this point, the runners met the walkers.  Everyone stopped.  And waited.  Single file, we walked across.  Walkers on the left, “runners” on the right.

Icahn Stadium was my favorite part of the race.  Just like at the end of the marathon in the Beijing Olympics, we took a half lap around the track in front of huge stands of cheering spectators.  After the walk across the bridge I darted past everyone to make up time lost on the bridge only to nearly stop 10 yards short of the finish line and realize I had no idea what my time was nor the time I was trying to make.  I decided it was no use idling there and crossed the finish line.  Hopefully this won’t make the Nike highlight reel.

After the finish we were treated to PowerBars, water, Gatorade, and granola, and received a baton (just like the Americans drop) with a bracelet souvenir inside.  I didn’t want to wait for the All-American Rejects concert to begin, so I walked back across the footbridge to Manhattan and took the bus back home to the Upper West Side.

Despite the challenges, I enjoyed the race and hope Nike sponsors another Human Race in New York next year.  Randall’s Island is difficult to get to (as opposed to Central Park) but very scenically placed between Manhattan, Queens, and The Bronx.  If the race remains on the island, I hope they extend the course around the entire island.  Even with narrow pathways, a course without loops would help alleviate the most serious congestion.

* For whatever reason, my official results for this race are unavailable despite wearing the D-tag on my shoe.  When I search for myself on the Nike site I get “Sorry, we’re unable to find this name.”