Salute Your Shorts: YMCA 5K in Memory of Marcie Mazzola Race Recap

The YMCA 5K Run/Walk in Memory of Marcie Mazzola took place on Sunday in Huntington on a lovely, sunny, brisk morning. Not only was it a fun, well-organized, snack-plentiful race, I am proud to announce that I PR’d (aka personal record’d) with a time of 24:14!

This is almost a minute faster than the last road 5K I ran six months ago, which is very cool progress. Here are my four road 5K finishing times in the past 8 months (not counting trail 5Ks, which are different beasts):

  • 8/12/17: 26:39 (8:34 pace)
  • 10/1/17: 25:26 (8:12 pace)
  • 10/21/17: 25:06 (8:05 pace)
  • 4/22/18: 24:14 (7:48 pace)

Note that the 5Ks I ran in my 20s were slower than any of these. Which, I think, is not too shabby a trajectory for an old broad like me.

The temps were going to be in the 40s, which always seem like the trickiest range to dress for. 30s, probably one long sleeved layer and leggings. 50s, a tank top and shorts. 40s is this weird middle ground where I have to take a bunch of other things into consideration: Is the sun out? How early is it? How long is the race? Have I shaved my legs?

I decided to wear long sleeves and leggings there and bring a tank and shorts. That way I had options. I’m glad I did this. But let me back up a bit.

The race was scheduled to start at 8:30 am. Huntington is only a 15 minute drive away. Still, I like to play it safe so I woke up at 5. I decided to just have coffee for the first hour I was awake while I did some foam rolling and light movement which I like to call Lunges & Crap. Just like last week, I needed to ~“go”~ and thankfully the coffee did the trick. I’m still not sure if it’s the caffeine or just the effect of hot liquid on an empty stomach but either way… thank you, coffee.

I’d had a vivid anxiety dream right before I woke up where I was late for a race (wow, wonder why) so I spent a little time writing that down. I almost made it into a blog post for that morning but couldn’t get it all done. I still might post it later.

Let’s talk fuel! At 6 am, I ate:

  • 1 serving oat bran* (40 g)
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter (crunchy, salted)
  • 1 tbsp. raisins
  • 1 banana (110 g)
  • dash of cinnamon

*hot cereal similar to oatmeal but more finely ground. It fills you up and is very good!

That was 388 calories. For a 5K that started two and a half hours later, this was enough fuel to power me through but not so much that I felt full. It was just enough. I’m finally getting good at figuring out what to eat. Good job, me!

I also had 4 Clif Bloks before the race, spaced out in intervals. Maybe overkill for a 5K, but I do notice a surge in energy when I have one on a run. I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Race central was at the Huntington YMCA. Everything was set up outside, but for the bathrooms we had to walk past an indoor swimming pool. The smell of chlorine brought back memories of the elementary school I attended in Port Jeff; our school had an indoor pool and was part of Gym. I was never a great swimmer – forever in the “low end” group as opposed to the middle and deep enders (aka Rich Kids with Pools) – so sometimes the smell of chlorine causes me to feel nervous and inadequate. I’m mostly over it.

I did 12 minutes of light jogging to warm up. I’d overheard murmurings of a hill in the race’s first mile, so I decided to jog up a nearby hilly street a couple of times. I was wearing my light and breathable Ted Corbitt 15K long sleeved shirt and leggings, but my legs started to feel too warm and claustrophobic. So a few minutes into the warmup I headed back to my car and changed into shorts. Ahh, my legs felt like they could breathe, and I didn’t have that weirdly low webbed piece of material sitting between my legs. And you know what? My legs weren’t even cold. I think bare legs are never as cold as you think they might be. Maybe the shaving helped.

After some walking around and more Lunges & Crap, I made my way down to the start.


There were a few hundred people, and as usual, I started a little ways back. Not all the way, but 10 or 15 rows from the front line. I instinctively do this. I’m too intimidated to start at the very front – not to mention unqualified and undeserving, given my paces – but even at a free-for-all start like this, I prefer to be towards the front but “safely sandwiched.” Maybe at my next non-corraled race I’ll see if I can nudge my way up a bit. Just to see what it feels like.

They say that running is mostly mental, and I think this is what they’re talking about.

At this point, I almost wished I’d just put on the tank top too. It’s always warmer in the sun. But it was still brisk and cool enough that my Ted Corbitt shirt was actually fine. I just rolled up the sleeves a little.

And we were off! Immediately I veered to the left to pass a couple dozen people and cursed myself for not starting more toward the front.

It soon became clear that the rumors were true: there was a hill. An uphill. A fairly long one. Maybe half a mile? Three quarters? It felt longer. This was not a devastatingly steep hill. It was no James Street. It wasn’t an Eaton Neck’s Road or even a Central Park’s Harlem Hill. But it was also not not a hill. It was a hill. And did I mention it felt long? This was definitely one of the more abrupt ways I’ve begun a race. But I guess everyone else was in the same boat.

But it was… doable. As I’ve said before, I credit all the running I’ve done in Northport over the past 17 months as having helped me conquer hills in a way I’ve never been able to before. I’m thinking back to two years ago when I was running on the sidewalks of Los Feliz – some of those hills I ran up were hard, yet I realize now they were not steep at all. My legs have gotten stronger here. I can feel it.

That said, I was hella relieved when I saw the road flatten out in front of me. It took me a couple of minutes, but I caught my breath. And then it was on.

At this point, it became a matter of trying to catch runners faster than me or stay with them. In the second mile, which was wonderfully flat and slightly downhill, I tried to make up whatever time I lost in the first. I only glanced at my watch once, when I was feeling particularly fast, and my pace was 7:05. Obviously, I couldn’t keep that up for long. But I did, for a bit.


Gettin’ it done

At one sharp turn, several firefighters were cheering on the runners. I guess I was feeling inspired/playful/patriotic, so I saluted them. They clapped even harder at that, and I kid you not I think that physically propelled me. I felt a burst of energy. I guess it was just the rush of adrenaline from having firefighters notice you. My running advice: if you want a little pick-me-up during a race, salute a firefighter.

By mile 3, I found myself running in a group of 4-5 runners, men and women. Some would speed up, then fall back again; others would join us for a bit and then press on or fall behind. I tried not to get too “settled” in the group, reminding myself that I could and should surge ahead. But I couldn’t break free. We were all probably trying to do the same thing.

The end of the third mile had us going up a short yet steep hill to get back to the YMCA, and I think that did it for me. I couldn’t regain any significant speed after that. I didn’t completely lose steam, but sometimes at the end of races I can dig in and run my fastest pace of the race. It happened at the end of the 15K my shirt was named for. But I couldn’t do it here.

To make it even harder, the last hundred feet or so before the finish was entirely uphill.

Slightly ahead of me for what seemed like the entire race was a woman in a pink shirt with the word ALUMNI on the back. I couldn’t catch her, and she wound up beating me by two seconds. She was also in my age group. Which she placed first in. Which put me in second. I lost my age group by two seconds. TWO SECOOOONNDDSS. [shakes fist at sky]


The elusive lady in pink

But I wasn’t really disappointed. After nearly 44 years on the planet, I ran my fastest road 5K ever. With a hill. That’s something.

According to my Garmin, here’s my pace breakdown:

MILE 1: 8:19
MILE 2: 7:17
MILE 3: 7:33
MILE 0.1: 7:25

Garmin has my average pace at 7:42, distance at 3.14 miles, and duration at 24:11; just a little off from the official times. It’s so cool to see my mile splits sitting snugly in the 7s now. Clearly, if it had been a flat course, that first mile would have been faster – I’d like to think between 7:10 and 7:35.

Okay, I have to get to the finish line pics. You know how when you cross the finish line, aware that there’s probably someone taking pictures, and you do your best to not make any faces you’ll regret? Yeah, I didn’t really do that.


These are so funny to me. I just did not care. Also, I should point out: that last face was not one of agony – it was one of immense relief. Because now, I could eat.

There were a lot of great post-race snacks. It was very exciting. I had one of everything, except for the sugar cookies. I had two of those. This is my favorite part of running!


I mean, who wouldn’t want to run when this is waiting for you at the end?


After stuffing my face with way more food than I probably needed, they began the awards ceremony. But first, we were reminded of the person the race was named for: Marcie Mazzola, a young woman who died in a car accident in 2002 as a result of not wearing her seat belt. The speaker urged us to wear our seat belts, which I think is always a good reminder. I feel like it’s one of those things we’ve heard so many times in our lives, it almost seems boring or like “old news” – but it’s still so important. I make it a habit myself, even in short cab rides. It was a sobering moment, and the race, now in its 12th year, is a lovely way to remember Marcie.

I took second place in my age group, which was a nice cherry on the top. Here I am with third place age group winner Josefina (first place ALUMNI woman must have skedaddled).


My favorite awards winner, though, was this 91-year-old man who apparently runs every day. Ninety-one years old. Here he is on the far right on his way to accept his award for first (and uncontested) place in his age group.


I hope I look as cool as he does when I’m 91.


I also met a lovely woman named Maddy who came up to me and said “nice sneakers.” We were wearing the same model and color (purple Saucony Kinvara 8s). She’s running next month’s Brooklyn Half on May 19th, so maybe I’ll see her there. Although, that race is supposed to be just a tiny bit larger than this one.



My only regret of the day was that I didn’t see my former 6th grade teacher after the race. I saw him before and said a quick hello, but he must have taken off before the awards. I hope to see him at another race, or somewhere else in the future.

My official results:

  • Chip time: 24:14
  • Pace: 7:48/m
  • Age Group: 2/22
  • Women: 19/183
  • Overall: 92/339

That afternoon, my family went out to Relish, a top notch diner in Kings Park. I had a BLT and sweet potato tots and didn’t regret one bite. Then we went to Lics in downtown Northport and I had an honest-to-god ice cream cone. It was really good. Then I finally stopped eating for a few hours.


This was such a fun morning. I’m so glad I could be there. Thank you to the Marcie Mazzola Foundation, all the volunteers, Elite Feats and Long Island Running Photos!

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