I signed up for the NYRR Retro 4-Miler a few weeks ago, thinking it would be a fun addition to my 2018 race lineup. It was only 4 miles. The start was close to home. And anything with the word “retro” in it would probably be fun.
There is a race shirt for this race: a very nice cotton tee. But there was no way in hell I was going to run a race in a cotton shirt. I’ll wear it around town instead.
Apparently, runners usually dressed in old-school running gear for this race. From previous years’ pics, it looked like most people who opted to run in costume (it was not mandatory) bought some high socks and sweat headbands and called it a day. Boring!
My go-to “retro” costume is almost always something 80s related, because that is the decade in which I spent my childhood, and therefore, the best decade. I thought if I were to dress as any decade for this race, it would be that one.
A super trivial pet peeve of mine is when people dress up as “80s” and wear those shirts that say I LOVE THE 80s. The reason being that NOBODY IN THE 80s WORE SHIRTS THAT SAID THEY LOVE THE 80s. I prefer authenticity in my absurdity, damn it.
My first idea was to get my hands on a version of Madonna’s famous HEALTHY crop top.
I searched the internet, and the closest one I found was on Amazon UK but they couldn’t guarantee arrival before the race. So that was out. (Although I MIGHT still order it… just to have.)
I considered making my own HEALTHY shirt. But that seemed like more work than I was willing to do. It’s a very specific font.
So I thought, why not just dress as Madonna? Forget the HEALTHY shirt. And not even the clothes she would have worn while running. Just like, Madonna. Lucky Star Madonna. That is what I would wear for this 4 mile race in which I would run alone, eat a free bagel, then go home.
I already had a black mesh top, purchased in a vintage shop when I lived in LA. I think I’ve worn it twice, so, really gotten my money’s worth so far. I had a black sports bra. I had some jewelry but could buy more because 80s Madonna is ALL about the accessories. Although not too many, as I didn’t want to be weighed down. Maybe I’d get a black skirt. But not a tutu. That’s more Cyndi Lauper, a whole different animal. And Cyndi wouldn’t wear black. Some people make the mistake of thinking 80s Madonna is brightly colored clothing, but that is wrong. It’s black. Or white, if you’re emulating her 1984 VMAs performance.
It has occurred to me that 90% of this “race recap” will be about my outfit.
The day before the race, after a 2-mile hot-as-hell run home from work through Central Park, covering some of the same course the race would, I stopped by Unique Boutique, a secondhand store not far from home. It’s kind of a nicer Goodwill, with clothing arranged neatly by category and a good array of accessories. I found a black skirt, studded belt, some hard bracelets (unfortunately I couldn’t figure out where to buy jelly bracelets) and, to my delight, a small metallic cross that would make the perfect centerpiece.
A few blocks later, I stopped by Party City and found some black fishnet fingerless gloves. Perfect. I resisted buying any candy while there. Party City has a surprisingly large assortment of candy.
Race morning, I woke up at 5am, my standard time to wake up. I had a bowl of oat bran with a banana and cup of black coffee, my standard breakfast. I gave the dogs a walk, took a shower, and put on the basics of my outfit, leaving the accessories in a plastic bag that I would carry until the last minute. I had quite a few metallic bracelets and didn’t want to be clanking around town before I needed to.
At first, the cross was a concern, as the hole was too small for any of my necklace chains. So I used black thread to tie it around my neck. Genius, I thought, as I wondered why I had never pursued a career in fashion design or mechanical engineering.
I thought the mesh top looked perfect. The skirt suddenly seemed too awkward to run in, so at the last minute I opted to just wear black shorts. In all the fuss about my clothes, I almost forgot my bib. I decided to attach it to my shorts to leave my Madonna-esque midriff exposed.
I wasn’t really going to nail the hair but oh well.
I decided to cab it down to 72nd Street, as I don’t trust early morning weekend subway schedules. Once in the park, I warmed up for a mile, going faster than I normally do for warmups, which are usually a 9:45–10:15 pace. This warmup pace was 8:16. I felt good, though, and thought maybe better to amp it up early. This was only going to be 4 miles.
I made it to the corrals and assembled all of my accessories on a lawn while doing some basic stretching. Not too many people were dressed up; those who were either had the requisite long socks & headband, and I saw a fake Afro or two. Mostly a 60s and 70s vibe, although later pics did reveal a few 80s stalwarts.
There is this feeling of absurdity in dressing up in costume for an event while attending it alone. I know it’s weird and most people might think it’s weird. Or that I’m weird. I get it. I think most people would not want to do it. Maybe that’s why most people weren’t dressed up. But I’ve made this decision to commit myself to doing things I want to do, whether someone joins me or not. I will never be one of those people who doesn’t participate in something because I don’t have a partner. Those people are exhausting. I’m fine by myself and with myself. Life is short. I might as well keep myself entertained.
So with that feeling of assuredness, I bravely stepped into Corral D in full Madonna regalia. There was only one problem: my bracelets were super clanky. And I was about to run 4 miles while wearing them.
It turns out I didn’t, as only seconds into the race, which began heading north on the east side of Central Park’s inner loop, I took off several bracelets on my right wrist and held them in my sweaty hand. I alternated hands throughout and figured I’d put them on again before I crossed the finish line.
The rest of my bracelets were still clonking away. I knew they’d be, but since I hadn’t practiced running in them, I wasn’t fully prepared. I hoped they weren’t too annoying to the runners around me. Look at it this way, I thought, the next time I run a 4 mile race NOT wearing a ton of bracelets, it’ll feel SUPER easy.
My goal for this race – other than to spend an inordinate amount of time on my accessories – was to run slightly faster than my last two 10Ks, which were 7:57 and 7:53 paces. I would’ve been happy somewhere in the 7:40 range. I wasn’t confident I could pull off a 7:30. Not yet.
The first mile was up Cat Hill, probably the second hardest hill of the whole inner loop. It’s not crazy steep, but it’s about a quarter of a mile long. It’s a solid effort to run up fast. Lots of heavy breathing happened in mile 1.
Two mantras kept running through my head: open up your stride and lead with your hips. These are things I’ve read or heard again and again from experienced runners, and I’ve found that repeating them helps me run faster. Especially the hips one. I don’t even know why, but something about telling myself to lead with my hips makes me stand taller and move my legs more efficiently. I think it legitimately works.
MILE 1: 7:45 pace
Right on track.
Mile 2 was great. Once you reach the top of Cat Hill, there’s a nice flat section for a while, then just a few dips and inclines, but nothing crazy. Luckily we were not going up the inner loop’s hardest hill, but instead crossing the 102nd Street transverse. This was a good mile. I felt strong.
MILE 2: 7:28 pace
Wow. I think my fastest race mile ever?
Mile 3 was divided into two parts: a continuation of the easy flat section and a not-as-easy uphill section. After crossing 102nd and picking up the course on the west side, there was a steady uphill from around mile 2.4 to about 2.8. All uphill. I’ve run this loop many times, and I almost never even notice this hill. But I don’t normally run this fast. So I noticed it. I did the best I could, bracelets still clanking away.
MILE 3: 8:04 pace
Well, that pace made up for the fast second mile, so it looked like I was still on track for an overall pace around 7:45. Right where I expected.
A funny thing happened in the beginning of mile 4: I thought it was mile 3. I think I was losing my mind, or just distracted by my clonking bracelets. I kept thinking, a mile and three quarters left, and then realized: wait, it’s just three quarters! So I picked up the pace. At least, I tried. I really, really wanted to run faster. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in the race, as 4 miles seems a ridiculously short distance to need food or water. But I had lost some steam. I wanted so badly to run another 7:28, but couldn’t hack it. But I did okay. Not horrible. I finished as strong as I could.
MILE 4: 7:43 pace
Keep in mind, these paces are courtesy of my Garmin, which said I ran a total of 4.04 miles at an average 7:44 pace. The official results will be slightly different. Speaking of which…
According to NYRR’s app, my “unofficial results” said my overall pace was 7:49. Makes sense. It’s close to what my watch said, but slightly slower to account for the fact that I ran 4 miles, not 4.04.
Here’s my Garmin breakdown:
However, I was shocked when the official results came in a few hours later.
Because they were wrong.
Look at this: my official time is the gun time? Not possible, unless I crossed the start WITH THE GUN, which I would NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO, since there was a STAGGERED START and I started in CORRAL D.
That 8:37 pace was the first thing to catch my eye. No fucking way.
Don’t worry, I requested a correction immediately. It’s probably dumb how anxious I got over this. But also, like, I’ve worked my ass off to have paces in the 7s. I’ve worked SO HARD. And I want it reflected! Especially since this is my first race as an official Harrier – I didn’t want any of them to see this and think I’m not up to snuff. Basic new kid anxiety.
It’s also weird that my “unofficial results” were CORRECT. Clearly it wasn’t an issue with my bib. So I’m not sure what happened. I just want it fixed.
Anyway, here is a sweaty post-race pic featuring one arm of jangly bracelets, some of which were actually necklaces.
The full body shot:
After eating my free cinnamon raisin bagel (really the only reason I do any of these races), I headed back home. One of my dogs isn’t feeling so well and I was anxious to get back. I was curious to see who would win at the costume contest, but like, not that curious. And it’s another reason why I didn’t take many post-race pictures.
Here’s hoping my official results are fixed soon and that I find another opportunity to wear any of these accessories ever again. But probably not in a race.