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.