Only last Sunday I pulled out a new personal best during the Join The Voices 5M race in Central Park. Unfortunately, through some oddity in the New York Road Runners results database, my total time of 39:56 was recorded as an average pace of 8:00 per mile (rather than the more accurate 7:59:20). Even applying proper rounding rules, the time should have been 7:59 per mile. I have no idea why they rounded up, but that really irked me. Strange how such a simple thing could take the sheen off an otherwise excellent run. I was clearly at my peak following all that marathon training and it was showing in my training and race times. Aside from the scoring anomaly, that was a great run and with one race left on the 2012 calendar I was even more determined than ever to go out again and run a race under 8:00 per mile before the years end. Mentally and physically I was in the best condition I had ever been, and I was sure as shit not going to waste the opportunity to score a new personal best at the my favorite race on the NYRR calendar.
The Jingle Bell Jog is a pretty significant race for me, it was the first NYRR race I competed in – only one year ago. In the lead up to the race I was reflecting on how far I had come over the last twelve months. Having made a commitment to run, I can honestly say that I have achieved far more in the last year than I ever would have expected. Last year I ran the modified course in a fast time of 8:17 per mile and that was with very little training under my belt. With all my training, I knew I had a good time in me – it was just a matter how much the previous race had taken out of me and whether I could get myself in the right mental state to go out and record a new personal best.
Although the morning was cold and wet, the rain held off and I was in good form as I made my way to the park for the early morning start. After picking up my race bib and going through my pre-race stretches, I took my place in the start corral and was set to go. All around me, people were getting into the spirit – some dressed in Santa suits while one or two braved the zero temperatures to run in nothing more than shorts or a speedo.
The race started and the first half mile was relatively fast as the lead pack made it’s way east on the narrow Center Drive. We turned north and took in the only major hill approaching Grand Army Plaza. The first mile marker appeared at the top of the hill and my time was just under 8 minutes. Over the next two miles, I kept up the high pace on very familiar roads and by the third mile marker I my time was just over 23 minutes.
I started to feel the effects of the high pace on the last mile, especially around the tops of my legs. But I was determined to keep going and record a good time, so I fought the urge to slow down or walk and pushed on up the long drag towards the left run on Center Drive. As I took the bend I glanced at my watch and knew I was on course for something remarkable. The last quarter mile was uphill and probably would have hurt more if it wasn’t for the adrenaline coursing through my body. With the finish line in sight, I managed a slight kick and cross the line in a time of 31:12.
It took a minute or two to catch my breathe, grab some water and food, and make my way out of the finish area. I must have had the biggest smile on my face as I made the quick calculations and realized I had shattered my previous best for a 4M race and a per mile average. Not just shattered, but completely demolished! It was a fantastic way to finish up the race calendar for the year and the perfect gift to myself going into the holiday season.