In the two years or so I’ve been running, I’ve always looked at myself as more of a stamina runner. Most of my races have been slow and steady, churning out the miles at an even pace somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00. I don’t really have a great burst of speed in me – being six foot tall and two hundred pounds will have that kind of effect on a person. But this year, as I look to complete my qualifying events for next years marathon, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the Fifth Ave Mile. Sure, part of the attraction was because I need the race credit but I was also attracted to the race because it was something new. It’s the only race of it’s kind on the NYRR calendar – a straight sprint down Central Park East, 5280 feet from 80th St to 60th St.
I had done some good times for Yasso 800’s and a couple of spins around the Red Hook track, but never ran an official mile race. Despite that, I didn’t do any specific training for this event, other than a few speed sessions on the treadmill at my local gym.
The morning of the race I got off the subway at 63rd and Lex and walked the course from the finish all the way back to the start. Knowing the course, where the inclines and declines were would help me pace myself during the crucial first half. After studying the course, I dropped of my gear bag and warmed up with a solid 3M around the Central Park. I made my way back to the start area and watched the beginning of the previous heat. The start was a bit crowded and there definitely looked to be a lot of jockeying for position over the first couple of hundred yards. As the announcers called us forward to take our places in the starting corral, I hung towards the back. I figured it best to let the pack go and leave a bit of daylight between myself and the pack, so I didn’t have to deal with the typical crowd issues.
A few minutes later the horn sounded and we were off. The first quarter mile was slightly downhill, but with the second quarter promising a slight incline, I paced myself to a solid 1:50 start. Around this time I also started to pass some of the slower members of the bunch which provided some additional motivation. The second quarter was not as bad as expected, perhaps because I had controlled my opening 400m. I crested the hill at the half way point in a time of 3:35. At this point I was looking good for close to 7 minutes, which I have to admit, I would have been delighted with.
The second half of the race consisted of a downhill quarter and a relatively flat final quarter. From somewhere deep inside, I found an extra kick on the downhill stretch and passed a bunch of runners who were motoring along at a decent clip. Over the third quarter I gain time and going into the last 400m the clock read 5:05. It was at this point that I started to feel the strain, but the pull of the finish line and the noise from the crowd pushed me along even as my legs and lungs started to fade. I crossed the finish line in a time of 6:47 – well below my original target of seven minutes.
The whole thing was over so fast, but I walked away from the run extremely happy. I felt I had given a good account of myself and could be proud of my first official mile personal record.