I ran a 10K this past weekend along with 8,372 other women! In Central Park! New York City! And I PR’d! This is my recap!
The NYRR New York Mini 10K was only my third ever 10K race, the other two being 1999’s Cow Harbor 10K (59:06 finish) and 2017’s Cow Harbor 10K (54:39 finish). I’ve run a lot of 6.2 mile training runs, but very few 6.2 mile races. So I was both confident and nervous, which is pretty much how I’ve gone through life.
I only signed up for it a couple of weeks ago. This coming Saturday’s Queens 10K, which I registered for two months ago, was going to be my “big” 10K race for the spring. But after moving back to NYC last month, I decided to sign up for some more NYRR races. And when I heard about the Mini, I thought, “Why can’t I run two 10Ks two weekends in a row? I can do that!” So I did that.
The “Mini” 10K is not a small 10K; it was named for the miniskirt. The race was founded in 1972 by running luminaries Kathrine Switzer and Nina Kuscsik. It is the oldest all-women race in the country. Runners who have competed in 15 or more Minis are nicknamed “Crazylegs” and I hope to be one of them someday.
The bib/shirt pickup was exciting in that I discovered I would be starting in Corral D for the first time. NYRR bib letters correspond to your starting corral: the closer to A, the faster you will most likely finish based on your fastest race. Trying to work my way down the alphabet. Getting there.
I have to hand it to NYRR, their shirts are always stellar. They seriously make the best race shirts I’ve ever worn. Well-crafted, well-packaged, perfect fit. I’m a women’s medium, by the way. I might fit into a small? But I prefer the slightly looser fit.
I don’t really wear race shirts for the race itself (I haven’t been wearing shirts to races at all lately) but they’re nice to have and a good enough quality to wear on training runs, which I guess is the point.
I used to not run the day before a race. I’d had some slight soreness all week from increased mileage and hadn’t run more than 4 miles at a time since Sunday (although I ran twice on Tuesday and Wednesday).
But I wanted to run the day before. The course for the race would be going clockwise around the inner loop of Central Park, and most people who run the inner loop, myself included, run it counterclockwise. I had never before run the entire loop clockwise. And I wanted to.
So I did. I ran the whole 6+ mile loop clockwise at an easy 9:16 pace – not my “long run” easy pace, but more of a general easy pace for me lately. I got a good sense of where the hills were; those hills I normally go down I now went up, and vice versa. I noted the biggest uphill at the park’s north end was actually not as steep as I thought it might be, and there seemed like there were more hills on the east side than west, although the west had one long one heading up to the northwest corner. So I kept that all in my back pocket and felt more ready for the course afterward.
RACE MORNING! I woke up at 5am, which is my standard time to wake up, no matter which day of the week it is, including weekends. I find it’s much easier to stay on schedule this way. If I’m always up at 5 and have no other wake up times to compare it to, it never feels early. It just is. I recommend this method, unless you like to party, which I do not, because I am boring.
I ate my standard breakfast of oat bran, a hot cereal I discovered because my mom bought huge bags of it while I lived with her. I always add stuff to it. It’s great. Like a more wholesome-feeling oatmeal. On weekdays, I eat this after I run. On race days, I eat this a few hours before I run.
Race morning breakfast:
- 1 serving oat bran (40 g)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 sliced banana
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
A nice 440 calories to fuel me for the next few hours.
Even though the famous advice is “nothing new on race day,” I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done before a race. I read an article recently with advice from running goddess Shalane Flanagan, who said she does this as part of her pre-race routine, so I decided to follow suit.
This, my friends, was a game changer. I felt SO GOOD after I showered and dressed. I was SO CLEAN and my legs were SO SHAVED and I smelled SO NICE. It made me feel great. Ready. Prepared. I am never not showering before a race ever again.
I decided to wear a crop top, as I wore one for the Brooklyn Half and liked it. I really like wearing less clothing for races. I honest to god think it helps me run faster. Because I wasn’t checking a bag, this meant I had to take the subway in a crop top, something I have never done before and was a bit apprehensive about. Luckily, it was a non-issue. And I only had to go a few stops.
It also helps to look tough.
I got out at 72nd Street and walked to the park, where I jogged for 10 minutes as a warm up.
I decided to use the porta-potties as a precaution. The line was long but moved quickly. A lot of women were wearing the turquoise race tanks.
It was cool to be in a women-only race. Not that I have any problem running with men. It’s hard to explain. The atmosphere was very relaxed, inclusive, and warm. I was walking around by myself at the time, yet didn’t feel alone.
With about 20 minutes to the start, I made my way to Corral D where we were led through a series of easy warm up exercises.
The view behind me…
…and in front. So close to the elites… yet so far.
I couldn’t see them, but it was exciting to hear introduced the elite women running the race: Desiree Linden, Mary Keitany, Molly Huddle, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Krista DuChene, Sarah Sellers… and many more. It was fun to feel like I was “competing” with them, even though, obviously, I was not.
Also, we were right next to this cruddy hotel. I hear it’s bad. Very tacky.
Finally, we were off, running straight up Central Park West. It was actually really cool to see it closed off for us.
I have much more experience running 5Ks than 10Ks. I’ve pretty much gotten into my body exactly how fast to run in a 5K. I get it. I know what to do. But I kept having to remind myself this was not a 5K. I knew I couldn’t keep up my normal 5K pace for double the distance. I found it helped to repeat to myself: This is a 6-mile tempo run. This is a 6-mile tempo run. This is a 6-mile tempo run. I said this to myself over and over. I thought that calling it a tempo run would force me to hold back just enough, whereas thinking of it as a race may have made me go out too fast. Like a tempo run, I held steady at a “comfortably hard” pace for the first mile.
MILE 1: 7:53 pace
We stayed on Central Park West for the first mile and a half, then made a right turn into the park to join the inner loop’s clockwise route. I knew there was a long and steady hill before we’d hit the north corner, so I kept my pace on the conservative side. I’m not great on uphills. They’re my biggest weakness in running, and I was reminded of that this morning. But I used the old secret weapon to get me up that hill: my arms. I deliberately pumped them up and down to propel me up. I think it helped.
After the uphill, the second mile went downhill: the steepest downhill we’d encounter, which I knew because going the other direction, it’s the steepest uphill on the course. I didn’t fly down it – I don’t like to do that because I honestly think it’s dangerous – but it was a lovely relief to be going down instead of up.
MILE 2: 7:51 pace
Mile 3 started at the very top of the park, and was the start of another uphill (the one that, the day before, I realized wasn’t as bad as I thought). I decided to go for it a bit here. Four miles left, four miles left, I thought. I run four miles home all the time. I can knock this out.
And in going up that hill, one of my favorite running songs popped up on my playlist: Britney Spears’s “Work Bitch” (aka “Work B**ch). Now, I am not what you might call a Britney Spears “fan” in the sense that I have never paid for a Britney Spears album or purchased a Britney Spears concert ticket or worn a Britney Spears article of clothing. Like, her music is fun but I know little about her.
But there’s something about this song that I love. The upbeat, driving, elegant bassline, yes. But the lyrics. The lyrics are what got me up that hill. I mouthed along with her as I pumped my arms and drove up that hill:
You better work, bitch. You better work, bitch. You better work, bitch. You better work, bitch. Now get to work, bitch.
And bitch, I did.
MILE 3: 7:45 pace
Unfortunately, all that work actually tuckered me out. There were some more slight hills in the next mile. Nothing crazy. Still, I slowed down a bit to catch my breath. Now firmly on the east side of the park, the sun was beating down on our backs. It was hot. I was very glad I’d worn a crop top, at that point pitying any woman in leggings or even a t-shirt. Sweat was dripping down my face. I wiped my eyes. Good thing I don’t wear eye makeup in races. I honestly don’t understand how some women do. I mean, look, do what you want. But the sweat? How does that work?
MILE 4: 8:05 pace
Mile 5 was mostly a blur. I knew I only had two miles to go. Two miles is nothing, I thought. I can do that standing on my head.
My plan had been to keep it steady until I was down Cat Hill on the east side, which would come at the end of mile 5. Then I was going to “let it rip” (aka go slightly faster if at all possible). For some reason, Cat Hill seemed to take a long time to get to. I kept thinking we were on it, and we weren’t. I had caught my breath from the “Work Bitch” hill and was ready to finish this thing. Two miles, 1.75 miles, 1.5 miles. I was passing people. Not everyone, but enough. I felt good that I’d kept it relatively conservative at the start. I think I’m pretty good at this. If anything, I tend to be more conservative, pace-wise, than risky. I’m forever trying to find that balance.
I ran my fastest mile of the race thus far.
MILE 5: 7:41 pace
Mile 6, the last full mile of the race, started on the end of the eastern path and wound around the southern part of the park. This was the home stretch. The big hills were over. Now it was just a matter of driving it. The crowds here were great. Very encouraging. I realized that the elite runners must have finished a while ago. I was hoping to break 50 minutes. I had a good feeling I would.
At some point, I wondered who I was competing against. Why was I trying so hard? I certainly wasn’t going to win a top 3 age group award. In a Long Island race where there were 20, 25 women in my age group? Sure, I’d probably crack the top 3. But here? No way.
Was I competing against myself? Always. But I knew I would PR. I was positive. I ran my last 10K, last September, at an 8:48 pace. I was 100% certain I would beat that. All my mile paces but one had been in the 7s. So I had the PR in the bag.
So why was I trying so hard? The best answer I could come up with was that I wanted to beat my PR by a lot. If I came in under 54 minutes, I’d beat it. But I wanted more. I wanted to come in under 50.
I ran the last mile as hard as I could.
MILE 6: 7:33 pace
The last 0.2 miles took forever. I actually slowed a bit. But I did it. I finished in 49:21. Average pace: 7:57.
I beat my 2017 Cow Harbor 10K time by 5 minutes and 18 seconds.
And I beat my 1999 Cow Harbor 10K time by 9 minutes and 45 seconds.
I’m used to only receiving medals for age group awards, so it was nice to realize I was getting one just for finishing! Here’s the very nice volunteer who handed it to me.
A sweaty selfie was in order.
They were handing out pink bagels! PINK BAGELS! But they didn’t taste “pink.” I think they were cinnamon raisin.
They were also the same color as my face.
They also handed each woman a pink carnation, a very sweet touch.
They needed a lot of them.
I admired my lovely medal and watched the other finishers make their way down the path a few blocks north of the finish line. I should have stretched but I just sat there, feeling good, eating my bagel and apple. Happy and proud with what I’d just done.
I met up with my friend Kiki, who just started running only six months ago. She’s already got two half marathons under her belt, a bunch of other races, and she’s running the NYC marathon this fall. It took me literally years to be able to run just 10 miles. I really admire her.
By the time I made it back home, I was ready to eat some more. I didn’t have much in my fridge, so I made one of those “don’t have much in my fridge” concoctions: black beans, mushrooms, eggs, and buffalo sauce. I have to say… it was really good.
I’m looking forward to this Saturday, where I will run another 10K race, and do this all over again in a different borough.
- Time: 49:21
- Pace: 7:57/m
- Age Group: 57/1132
- Women & Overall: 531/8373