Last year’s Ted Corbitt 15K was not my first NYRR race, but it was my first NYRR race in 18 years. I still have trouble believing that, but it’s true. The last NYRR race I had done was a 5K on Halloween 1999 called “Not Quite the NYC Marathon.” I finished in 27:21. Not bad, but a few minutes slower than what I’d be capable of in my 40s. But of course I didn’t know that yet.
Ted Corbitt 2017 was also my first race longer than a 10K, and I had no idea what to expect or how to even race that distance. I figured I’d go at about a 9:15 pace because that was slightly faster than my easy pace. I wound up surprising myself and running an 8:45 pace, finishing in 1:21:28. It snowed during the race, which I loved. I was living on Long Island at the time about an hour’s drive away. I remember it snowing even harder on the way home. I didn’t care. I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe I had just run a 9.32 mile race, and had done a decent job.
Before I get to the 2018 Ted Corbitt 15K, a little about Ted Corbitt the human being.
Nicknamed “The Father of Long Distance Running,” Theodore “Ted” Corbitt was co-founder and first president of the New York Road Runners. In 1952, he was the first African-American to compete in the Olympic marathon. He ran and won many races – including ultramarathons, still in their infancy at the time. He developed race course measuring standards to ensure distances were accurate. He pushed for age group competition so that runners of similar ages could compete against each other (for which my small age group award collection thanks him very much). He spent 44 years working as a highly regarded physical therapist. At 82, he walked 303 miles in six days. Read more about this fascinating man on NYRR’s site and even more on Corbitt’s website.
I love that NYRR names some of its races after running pioneers. This race could easily have been called “The December 15K.” It’s nice that it isn’t.
So, about the race!
I had planned on wearing a tank and arm sleeves on race day – I’d tried out the combination a few days before the race in 38 degree weather and felt great. There’s something so nice about letting my armpits breathe during a run while keeping my arms warm.
But as race day grew closer, it looked more and more like temps were going to take a dip. The night before the race, it said mid 20s for the morning. I was on the fence about going with the tank and sleeves, and ultimately decided against it. It would be the right call. Instead, I wore my Harriers tank over the exact same outfit I wore for the Thanksgiving Day race – a slightly heavier long sleeved shirt and leggings. I usually wouldn’t wear two layers for a race, but the running club tank doesn’t really count as a full layer. As it turns out, it was what a lot of other runners did for the race.
I also bought a new black hat the day before but it was thicker than what I had been looking for. I think I would have been fine with only a headband or ear covering, given the winds aren’t all that strong in Central Park.
This year, I live just a few-minute run from northern Central Park – luckily for me, where the start of the Ted Corbitt 15K is. Races in Central Park start in various locations inside the park, depending on the distance. Corbitt starts on the east side a bit south of the 102nd Street transverse. It took me just under 10 minutes to jog to the bag check area, and then I walked down to the starting corrals. It was cold. But the warm-up helped. I was actually a little sweaty by the time I got to the corrals.
Once again, I went right to the front of corral D behind the red tape. One of these days (I’m hoping sometime in 2019) I’d love to move up to corral C. Corral placement is determined by how fast you run races, so I just have to, you know, do that. Consider it a new year’s resolution. Or rather, new year’s hope.
According to NYRR’s site, it was 29 degrees at start time. It felt colder. I kept hopping around to stay warm. Unlike other NYRR race starts, this one wasn’t staggered where each corral starts a minute off from each other. After the corrals collapsed, we just all took off at once.
I get that they don’t want the front runners lapping the back of the pack too soon, as the course repeats on itself – but coupled with the fact that the first stretch includes the narrow-ish 102nd Street transverse, this arrangement makes for a very slow start. I remember this happening in last year’s race too when, as with this year, my slowest mile was mile 1. It’s annoying, and I’d much rather start on the main drive as opposed to immediately before the transverse, but I guess it’s on me to run faster races so I can start with faster people so I can go faster in the beginning so I don’t have to bitch about this anymore.
I just checked my Garmin paces from last year’s race, and my first mile was in 10:17. This year, it was in 8:37. So that’s a pretty nice improvement, at least. Granted, I think last year I was in corral F so I had more runners ahead of me.
Honestly, I didn’t really have a specific goal for this race other than “do better than last year.” With last year’s 8:45 pace, this was comfortably doable. I was happy not to put a ton of pressure on myself. This vague and easy goal also resulted in me not giving the race what I would consider a 10/10 effort.
But this is okay.
Something important I realized on this morning is that I physically cannot race every single race at full effort. It’s impossible. Not if I want to train for and run two marathons a year and like, stay alive to write this blog. The 2018 Ted Corbitt 15K is the 16th race I ran in 2018 (and yes, I’m counting the two long NYRR timed training runs I did for the marathon because I wore a bib, damn it). Maybe some runners are capable of giving 100% to 16 races a year in distances ranging from 1 to 26.2 miles, but I am not one of them. This dawned on me during this race, and it was eye-opening. And it was a relief.
I’d had a loose plan to mentally divide the race up into three 5Ks, running each of them slightly faster, but that quickly fell apart. After the first wonky mile, I just ran a steady pace for miles 2-7, ranging from 7:56 to 8:18 paces. Thankfully, this course avoided Harlem Hill, making the two times up Cat Hill the steepest part of the race. Mile 8 (up Cat Hill for the second time) was my second-slowest mile of the race in 8:29. I made a small surge for the last stretch after mile 9 at a 7:37 pace.
It was super cold, but I quickly got sweaty and eventually removed my hat, holding it from somewhere in mile 6 until just before the end. I put it back on to cross the finish line just in case I was one of the very few who make it into the official race photos. Speaking of which, does anyone else notice how few official race photos there are for NYRR races? I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, because I love NYRR, but as someone who used to work as a photographer for large events, I am well aware of how many photos I am capable of taking over the course of a couple of hours – especially when there are thousands of people involved. It’s just weird that in a race with nearly 5000 runners, there are only 33 photos in the official online photo album. Okay, RANT OVER. Thank you.
One more nice thing in comparison to last year’s race: it’s a 9.32 mile course, but many runners (me, always) will run slightly more than this due to how well/poorly they run tangents. Last year I ran 9.52 miles. This year I ran 9.45. So, not perfect, but better?
My overall pace this year was 8:19. I think I could have run it faster, but it’s really okay that I didn’t.
I’M OKAY WITH THIS, JUST SO I’M CLEAR.
I was happy to finish in 1:17:28, taking 4 minutes and 4 seconds off of last year’s time. And I was also happy for my good old NYRR post-race snack of apple and cinnamon raisin bagel. I have to say, this apple was GOOD. I don’t know if being out in below freezing temps helped, but it was one of the crispest apples I’ve ever had.
I met up with my friend Elle from A Fast Paced Life, who had started behind me but finished before me – and this after running a 6 mile warm-up – because she is a rock star. She has a great running blog and runs races all over the country. It’s inspired me to want to get out from my little New York racing bubble one of these days.
Elle had already changed into her extra layers when we took this, while I was still very cold but also somehow very sweaty.
The obligatory selfie, I guess.
After the race, I met up with some other Harriers and we headed on down to 72nd Street for a nice post-race brunch at Friedmans, where I had a delicious B.E.L.T. (bacon egg lettuce tomato) sandwich. Three of the women Harriers finished in the top ten of their age group, which is amazing. I’m so proud to be a part of them.
All in all, I’m so glad I ran this race, glad I beat myself from last year, and most of all, glad that I allowed myself to just relax a bit and not stress out about a specific finishing time. After all, running is supposed to be relaxing, DAMN IT.
– Time: 1:17:24
– Pace: 8:19/m
– Age Group: 52/317
– Women: 373/2422
– Overall: 1505/4975