This past weekend was Grete’s Great Gallop: a half marathon held by NYRR in Central Park. The race was basically two loops of Central Park plus an extra mile to stretch it to the full 13.1 miles. I wasn’t originally planning on running it, but when when I realized – a) I would have to run 20 miles when the rest of my group in CT would start tapering for their goal race and b) the race didn’t start until 9 am – so plenty of time to add on miles beforehand c) I would be able to finish up my 9 qualifying races with the marathon if I did this one – it was a no-brainer. The race consisted of two clockwise loops of Central Park – starting from about East 72nd Street, and ending at the marathon finish line by Tavern on the Green by Central Park South.
|Course map – three cheers for running circles in the park!|
At the beginning of the week the weather looked very promising – high in the 60s and sunny. But as the weekend went on, it changed from cloudy, to 30% chance of rain, to 60% chance of rain. The idea of being out in cold rain for 3+ hours was mildly intimating, and I spent the night before
a little concerned basically freaking out about the weather.
Luckily, the weather gods were on my side, and the rain stopped about 20 minutes before I had to head out in the morning. I got dressed, ate my usual half bagel and banana, and was about to strap on my Garmin…when I realized the screen was dead! I had a minor panic attack – but luckily my friend Dahlia, who I was staying with, graciously insisted that I take hers.
I headed over to the park around 7:40 or so, and started my 7 mile pre-race “warm up.” My route was pretty unoriginal – a loop of the park, plus a little extra. I wanted to keep the pace conservative since I knew I had a long way to go, but I had to make a conscious effort to tell myself to sllowww it down. So many runners were out doing the same thing as I was, and there was just a happy-marathon-training buzz in the air…it’s tough to not get excited!
I made it back to the corrals about 10-15 minutes before the race started, and met back up with Dahlia and our friend Wallis. Dahlia was using the race as a training run for her goal half marathon coming up later in the month, and Wallis had added on 5 miles beforehand and was also using it as a training run for the marathon as well. Both seemed to agree that we should all stick together – but I was a little nervous about slowing everyone down. My trusty McMillan pace calculator calls for my long runs to be in the 10:30-11:30 min/mile range (based off of my half marathon PR) and I didn’t want to be much far out of that range. After all, even if it was a race setting…this was only a training run for me.
Soon the gun went off, and off we went. The first few miles passed easily enough – I was feeling pretty good and enjoyed having some company to chat with after the first 7 solo miles. Every so often when I would look down at the Garmin and saw were going a bit too fast I would ask to slow it down a bit. At first I felt a bit guilty – but then as I would drift into a faster pace myself, Wallis would remind us to slow as well – so it seemed we were all on the same page. About 2 miles in, we saw Dahlia’s parents cheering us on, and it was a nice mental boost as we headed to hit Harlem Hill for my second time of the morning.
|Dahlia’s parents acted as photographers, too!|
Harlem Hill passed relatively easily enough, and around mile 4 I started to get a bit excited – wahooo, almost done with the first loop! I was dreading the second loop a bit, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. At some point we had also got passed by the lead runners. It’s not very often that I have the chance to see such speedsters (the winner finished the course in 1:10) and I fed off their energy a bit.
Unfortunately, when we passed mile 6, and then the would-be finish line around mile 7, I started to lose steam a bit. It was mentally draining to past the finish line for 13.1 – knowing I already had 13.1 miles on my legs – but still having to finish another loop of the park. As we made our way up the west side hills, Wallis called out to me “Just think – every hill you pass – it’s the last time you have to do that this morning!” I tried to keep that philosophy in mind to propel me up the hills – and I savored the downhills before the dreaded Harlem Hill. Again.
“I realize I run way bigger hills in CT….but that doesn’t mean I won’t whine about doing this one for the third time!” I called out on the way up. At this point we had about 3.5 miles to go…and my legs were starting to really feel every little incline. But we made it the first half the hill, and I sighed a breath of relief as we hit the downhill. Too bad there was still a second half – but I dragged myself up it, and eventually made it to the top.
|Thank goodness for these suckers…def helped me get through the last tough miles|
As we passed the reservoir I called out “anyone up for a reservoir loop?!” for some laughs. And then a few more blocks later another mile marker…thank goodness, only two more miles to go – and, they are mostly downhill, to boot!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic. “Hey Dahlia, want a slot to the marathon this year?” I joked with about 1.5 miles to go. But I kept plugging along – one foot in front another, I kept telling myself – and before long, I saw the final mile marker. One to go!
I told Dahlia to go ahead and sprint to the finish if she wanted – but she said she would stick with me until we got to Central Park South. I really appreciated her encouragement, but at the same time, it was her run, too, and didn’t want to hold her back. She insisted she was fine, and we kept plugging away. I tried not to think about the minutes, and just kept going. I saw the finish line in the distance (deceptively close – it was really .70 miles away), and then the Hearst Tower (whenever I see it, I know that I’m getting there), and then finally…we were alongside Central Park South. Just a little while longer until we hit the finish. Wallis sprinted ahead, and I told Dahlia to go on ahead if she wanted to, as well. “I’m a one-speed-runner, now” I quipped. But as my Garmin beeped off the final mile – I realized I did speed up a bit, and clocked my fastest mile of the run. And then finally….
The Finish Line!
Dahlia had waited for me right after she crossed in the chute, but we sadly lost Wallis. We grabbed post-race bagels and water, and on our way back to the finish line festival, we ran into one of Dahlia’s co-workers, and then one of my friends as well. We chatted for a bit and checked out the post-race festival and raffle (sadly, no one won) and then said our goodbyes and headed home to shower, rest and refuel.
My final time for the half marathon was 2:17, and then entire run clocked in at 3:30, with an average pace of 10:26 per mile. And if you take a final look at the mile-by-mile breakdown, I didn’t really crash as much as I felt like I was in the later miles – it was more mental than anything else…
I’m definitely relived to have my second 20 miler out of the way, and to be only two weeks away from tapering. I’m also feeling a bit uncertain/nervous about nailing down an exact goal time for the marathon – I want to be realistic, but I don’t want to sell myself short, either. But regardless…here’s hoping I’m on my way to smashing last year’s time!