Yesterday I ran one of my favorite NYRR races – the NYRR 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park. It’s three full 6-mile loops of the park and geared towards runners with fall marathons.
Although it’s supposed to be specifically timed for the NYC Marathon, because of my “beginner” training schedule it was 4 miles more than I was scheduled to run. My trainer said it would be ok if I ran it, and that I could lower my mileage earlier that week and/or just bail after 14 miles and not finish the race if I didn’t feel like it. “You’re the boss!” she wrote.
I tried to keep that in mind as my nerves got the best of me in the week before this race. I’ve been having some left calf cramping issues (that’s the leg I broke last year which withered away) and I still can’t quite mentally believe I can run long distances after being a gimp for so long. So my mantra heading into this race was “go slow, don’t step in a pothole, and you can always stop.” Not very catchy but it was effective.
I stuffed my running belt and bra with Gu, gummies, and a last minute addition of candy corn pumpkins (which turned out to be really great since they were a tasty way to get sugar that didn’t stick in my teeth like the gummies always do!) and hopped in a cab to the upper east side. I wasn’t going to exert any more energy than necessary that morning!
I lined up in the last corral so I wouldn’t feel pushed to run too fast at the start. That strategy didn’t work as well as I had hoped, as many late, fast runners blew past me during the first mile or so. But it wasn’t just the super fast runners blowing past me – for some reason my stupid calf decided to seize up right at the start of the race. Maybe it was because the first thing we had to run was down the Harlem hills – not an ideal way to start any race. Whatever it was, I had to walk and even stop and stretch my calf several times, being careful not to overstretch it and send it into a real spasm. Eventually I felt like I could run a few steps on it, and a few steps evolved into a few more, and after about 1.5 miles it finally started to loosen up and feel almost normal. By mile 4, I finally felt pretty good and was even cautiously optimistic about my chances of finishing the whole race.
It was a hot, humid day with a “real feel” of 86 degrees by the time I finished running. It was so humid you couldn’t even see the skyline in midtown from the park! At least it was overcast, and one could even argue the heat and humidity helped keep me honest and slow. I would argue my out-of-shape body helped keep me slow, but whatever. I plodded along mile after mile, sometimes hurting, sometimes feeling ok, but mostly thrilled that I was out there actually doing what seemed impossible only a few months ago.
A couple of random things I saw/heard on the course:
- A man in a business suit on a Segway with giant tires, speeding up Cat Hill, with spectators laughing at him behind his back.
- A runner so sweaty that his legs had soap bubbles all over them – maybe from the detergent still on his shorts? It was unclear and I didn’t stop to ask.
- At the start of my second loop, the announcer saying “That’s a big smile! That is a… big smile…”
And just like that, I was finished. Haha, no, just kidding, it was endless and took me almost four hours. But yes, eventually I finished with a big smile still on my face and a bagel in my mouth.
Along the 6-mile looped course, they had water stops at every mile (aka 6 times), Gatorade twice, and PowerGel once (so you passed the Gel station three times during the race). At the finish, however, they only offered cups of water and Gatorade, cut up bananas, and plain bagels. Luckily I had a ton of food waiting for me at home (ground beef burrito for the win!), along with a massage and a lot of Netflix to catch up on. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.
In other news, the tech shirt for this race was quite a bit larger than the tech shirts earlier this year. Maybe they got the memo that a woman’s extra large shouldn’t be skin tight on a size 10? There’s no medal besides your aching legs.
Today I have done a lot of nothing except realize that I have three NYRR races in three weeks – this one, the Bronx 10 Miler next Sunday, and Grete’s Great Gallop the Sunday after that. Hope to see you out there!
Have your legs ever gotten soapy while running? What’s your favorite thing to eat after a long run? Have you ever tried the Trader Joe’s Pita Chips with Cinnamon & Sugar? Share in the comments!