This was my second time running the Joe Kleinerman 10K. Unlike last year
, when the race started and finished near the 102nd St. Transverse, this edition of the race had the start and finish located in the area of the 72nd St. Transverse. It’s all much the same to me, although the biggest difference with the new course is that the big hills come towards the end. I have to admit that I do like getting the Harlem Hill over with early on when running in Central Park.
I really hadn’t done a whole of running or training over the holidays. I used our trip to Europe as an excuse to take a break from everything running, especially after the intensity of the prior couple of months both leading up to and immediately after the Philadelphia Marathon. Being the first post-holidays race, I figured my fitness and stamina levels would be down from their peaks and I might struggle to put up a good time.
The morning was relatively nice for January, with temperatures a little above freezing and no breeze to speak of. My morning routine had gone off without a hitch, and I felt really good as the race wound it’s way around the southern end of the park and up toward Cat Hill. My legs were turning over nicely and as I powered up the hill, I felt no pain in my knee. By the third mile marker I was clocking a faster than expected pace of 8:00 per mile, with most of the major hills remaining.
Funnily enough, Harlem Hill and the three sisters on the West side failed to significantly slow me down, and I completed the second half of the race with a slightly slower pace, to hit the finish in a time of 50:19 (8:07 per mile) – a new personal best for the distance.
In the immediate aftermath of the race I felt a little guilty, mainly because I thought I hadn’t worked hard enough to earn the personal best distinction. It was the first time I had ever felt that way after a race and took some time to rationalize. In the ensuing days however, I read a lot of articles about training styles and the effects of long-term stamina training. As it turns out, even though I took a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays, the rate of decline was incredibly slow because of the intensity of my marathon training. Running experts and publications alike all spoke about the benefits of rest and allowing the body to recover following high intensity training. It’s an area I didn’t pay a lot of attention to up to that point, but something that I plan on incorporating into future training plans to create a more balanced regimen going forward.
On Saturday I ran my second 10K and first warm-up for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon on May 19th. In my previous 10K race, the Joe Kleinerman 10K in Central Park, I completed the course in a time of 54:45 while averaging 8:46 per mile. To be fair, I had not trained all that much for this race as I had spent about two weeks following the NYC half-marathon recovering and easing back into running. In the weeks leading up to Scotland Run I got in a few 4 mile runs but was not feeling exceptionally fast. As a result, I did not have a particular target time for this race and was simply aiming for an improvement over my previous 10K best.
The Joe Kleinerman 10K started and finished on the east side around 102nd street and circumvented the park in a counter-clockwise direction. The Scotland Run was slightly different in that in started on the west side around 68th street and traveled clockwise around the park. Interestingly, I had never run the park in that direction so although all the sites were familiar, it felt somewhat strange to be running up sections I was used to traveling downhill and vice versa.
The weather on the day was perfect and I lined up in the 5000 corral. The early stages of the race felt slow and there was definitely some dodgy moments as I picked my way through a heavy crowd. Imagine my surprise then when my watch showed 8:30 at the first mile marker. With that as motivation I pushed on and knocked out the next two or three miles at an average pace of 8:10 – including the triple threat on the west side and the Harlem Hill. The east side provided some respite and allowed me recuperate slightly and hold back some reserves for the final push.
I kept the pressure on over the final couple of miles, and cresting the last hill, felt a wave of emotion come across me as the sights and sounds of the crowd at the finish line hit me. Although I suspected I was going to post a good time, when I glanced at my watch and saw I was on course to beat my previous time by three minutes I felt elated. The grin on my face as I crossed the line defied the pain I felt inside, but was just a reflection of how proud I felt about my accomplishment.
This race was always going to be a challenge when you consider that it was the longest run I have ever embarked on, in terms of both time and distance. As a relative newcomer to the ranks, I have built my stamina and endurance over the last year from almost nothing to where I can now run four or five miles at a comfortable pace and recover within a few minutes. Hardly surprising then that I was looking forward to seeing how I would manage with pushing myself an extra mile. This was also the first time for me to complete a full loop of the Central Park circuit, including the dreaded Harlem Hills. In the past I had taken in the reservoir and lower loops, but never had the courage to extend myself to complete the entire thing.
My preparations were not ideal. My sister was visiting from out of town that week, and we had been out with Jess and some friends the night before in Brooklyn. I only got home around 12:30AM and had to work with six hours sleep. Thankfully, I had no hangover when I woke up and was able to get to the start at East 102 St. with plenty of time to spare. In the week leading up to the race, I mapped the course so I knew what to expect in terms of hills. I picked a bad spot to start and got caught up in the crowd, which meant my first mile took around ten minutes. By the time we got to the top of the Harlem Hill the field had thinned out somewhat and I was able to step up the pace to just under nine minutes a mile. All the way down the west side of the park I maintained a healthy pace and as we swung across Central Park South I was feeling very strong.
I picked up the pace, intent on clawing back the time I had lost during that first mile, and even the slight inclines on the way up the east side did not deter my spirit. As I took the bend at 86 St. and reached the plateau that would take me all the way to the finish, I found an extra gear and challenged myself to really push it. Crossing the line in just under fifty five minutes, I was delighted by the result and still felt very strong. I could definitely have done another mile or two.