I signed up to run the Run as One 4M Presented by JP Morgan Chase back in February. I knew that running a race just eight days before the New Jersey Marathon wasn’t ideal, but I didn’t sign up to get a PR. This race held a more personal meaning for me.
One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of each year is to browse NYRR’s list of upcoming races (what can I say, I’m a party animal). My eye caught the Run as One, a 4 mile race on Saturday, April 20. I normally might have skimmed over it, but I noticed that the race was not only the day before my mom’s birthday, its purpose was to raise funding and awareness in the fight against lung cancer, specifically honoring former Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman Tom Labrecque. Like my mom, Labrecque was a non-smoker who died from lung cancer. I figured the $23 I’d pay to run the race was a tiny drop in the bucket as far as cancer research funding and, at the same time, a nice way to honor my mom the day before what would have been her 73rd birthday.
So I signed up.
As difficult it was for my bloated ego to accept, I didn’t think I should all-out race the Run as One. I’m in the taper period of marathon training now, and slow, easy runs should be my priority. But last Wednesday, during NYRR’s weekly live Facebook Q&A video where coaches answer viewer questions (I try to watch these if I’m home, and luckily at the time I was), I asked them how fast I should run the 4M race given that my marathon was eight days out. Both coaches, Steve and Stuart, said it would be safe to go for it, Coach Stuart even saying that running at marathon pace would feel “way too slow.” (Looking back, he was absolutely correct.) So I took that as a blessing that I could push the pace a little more than I’d initially intended. (Also, shoutout to Coach Steve who is running the NJ Marathon! He does not read this blog.)
Here they are answering my question. I was internet famous for 17 seconds!
So with Coach Steve and Coach Stuart’s blessing, I decided to put forth a solid effort in the Run as One 4M. Maybe not a PR, maybe not to the point of feeling like death, but an effort I could feel good about. Somewhere between 10K and half marathon pace felt right to me.
Rain was in the forecast for Saturday morning. This does not phase me as much as it once did. If anything, it feels like a fun challenge. Also, after running 13.1 miles in January’s Fred Lebow Half in 40-degree temps and rain (causing swollen, frozen hands), the idea of 4 measly miles in some light rain feels like a vacation.
Start time was 8:30 and about a half hour away from home, so I woke at 5 am – ideal because that is the time I normally get up anyway. I wanted to be done consuming food and drink by 6:30, walk my dog, go to the bathroom, and leave by 7:30.
I ate my usual breakfast of 16 oz. water, oat bran + fried egg, and one cup of coffee (1/2 decaf). I decided against any kind of Nuun or electrolytes. This was only 4 miles, I kept reminding myself. I’d be home before 10 am.
It wasn’t raining when I walked my dog, but I kept checking the forecast, and of course the rain was set to fall between 7 and 11 am, then stop. No matter. Like I said before, I’ve experienced worse. I just put on my 5th Avenue Mile hat and a positive attitude.
I don’t normally wear the race shirt to races (it’s kind of as uncool as wearing a current concert tee to a concert) but 1) I liked the shirt a lot 2) a t-shirt seemed fine for 60-degree rain 3) it was another reminder for me to take this race a bit more casually. I even wore my Brooks Adrenaline training shoes as opposed to my Saucony Kinvaras. The more physical reminders that I wasn’t supposed to race at breakneck speed today, the better.
It was raining by the time I got off the train at 72nd, so I just started jogging over to the park. It was a mile to the starting line, a nice warm up. On my way there, I noticed runners huddled under Bethesda Terrace, trying to stay dry. I kind of chuckled at them. Guys, you’re going to be wet soon enough. Might as well get used to it. Don’t worry, I said this in my head as opposed to shouting it, funny as that would have been (to me).
For the next 20 minutes I hung out next to the D corral, lifting my knees, moving my legs, trying to keep my muscles warm. At least it wasn’t freezing out. The rain was falling lightly. Conditions really could have been worse.
I couldn’t believe how many runners had honest-to-god umbrellas – INSIDE THE CORRALS. Guys. GUYS. What. Why. What are you. Doing. WHAT. Are you doing.
I mean. Come on.
And of course, the obligatory corral selfie. There’s always something hilarious to me about accidentally capturing a stranger looking at my camera. Sorry, stranger! But thank you for making my picture better than it would have been otherwise.
It started raining a little harder. Fine, I thought, reminding myself once again that this was only 4 miles, a positively nothing distance to me these days. The route was almost identical to the Midnight Run 4 mile race. I knew the course like the back of my wet hand.
After a breathy and hesitant rendition of the national anthem courtesy of someone I could not see and therefore could silently critique, wave 1 was off. I was right at the front of wave 2, and we started just three minutes later.
I ran fast right out of the gate, mostly because I knew I was at the front of the wave and knew I could create some distance between me and the pack before reaching Cat Hill. It was actually really cool to have this 4-wave staggered start, because I am so rarely at the front of a race pack. Normally I’m weaving around runners at the start. Today, I got to burst out at top speed.
Speaking of which, I looked at my watch after a quarter mile, knowing I was going faster than I’d intended. 7:30 pace. Oops. Luckily, good old Cat Hill was there too graciously slow me down.
Once I had ascended Cat Hill, I fell into a rhythm. Fast but not as fast as I could. It was nice to run alongside people going about my pace. A few were way too slow for where they started, a few people passed me. The rain didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t really notice it.
MILE 1: 7:47
The second mile was along the flattest stretch of the park, so I naturally picked up the pace here. The burst of energy I had felt right out of the gate was fading. I wondered if I should have just worn my Kinvaras instead of the heavier Adrenalines.
At one point, for just a few steps, the second toe on my left foot tingled. Like a weird nerve thing. Pinched nerve? I don’t even know what to call it. It was sharp and sudden, and after two or three steps, it went away. It was weird and I did not like it.
Other than that, I felt pretty strong in this nice, flat mile. We made a left onto the 102nd Street transverse. There would be no Harlem Hill in this race, thank the lord.
MILE 2: 7:39
The third mile began on the transverse and then up the first of three small hills going down the west side. Ah yes, the Three Sisters. They’re the kind of hills you barely notice when you’re running easy, and really notice when you’re not.
At this point I knew I was well ahead of whatever pace I’d had in mind for this race, so I slowed on purpose. The toe thing had kind of freaked me out. I figured as long as my overall pace was in the 7s, I’d be fine with that. So I allowed my pace to wander into the 8s, preferring to save my energy a bit.
MILE 3: 8:09
Once we were in the last mile, I sped up just because that’s what I do in a race when I know there’s only a mile left. Also, once we were over the last of the hills, it was a nice downhill and flat until the finish on 72nd.
Luckily, I didn’t feel that thing in my toe again. I just kept running strong but not crazy fast. I imagined what it would be like to run a marathon at this pace. Ha, no way in hell would I be able to do that right now. But so many people do, which blows my mind. Then again, just a couple of years ago, I couldn’t imagine running any paces in the 7s at all. I guess all progress is gradual. I wondered if I’d ever get to the point where I could run 26.2 miles faster than an 8:00 pace. Time will tell.
Before I knew it, I turned onto the 72nd Street transverse toward the finish line.
MILE 4: 7:37
According to my Garmin, I ran 4.04 miles at an average 7:48 pace. Even though my official pace for 4 miles would be slower than 7:48, this was fine, and exactly what I had set out to do: run a pace between my 10K and half marathon pace.
Being off by 0.04 isn’t too bad. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get all of the tangents right and run an accurate race distance.
I grabbed my post-race apple and bagel, quickly putting the bagel into the quart-sized Ziploc bag I’d wisely brought with me, saving it for after I got home. I ate the apple right away.
I normally would have gone straight to the subway, but something told me to go to the post-race festivities area, where a DJ was blasting Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” even though I thought Michael Jackson was cancelled. Guess someone didn’t get the memo.
There was a large fact sheet about lung cancer I thought was interesting. It shows how prevalent, how deadly, and how underfunded lung cancer is. I had not known this.
I love this area of the park and thought it would make a nice photo op. I asked a runner if he would take my photo and he very kindly did. I returned the favor afterward.
I’m surprised it came out decent, as my camera lens was wet and I had literally nothing to dry it with. Every single thing I was wearing was soaked.
I trudged through puddles and mud to the west edge of the park and starting jogging up Central Park West, starting an easy mile cool down. I got on the subway at 86th and went the few stops home where I took my nice, dry bagel out of the Ziploc, toasted it, and covered it with peanut butter, banana, and cinnamon.
Thanks for my post-race breakfast, NYRR.
I’m glad I signed up for the Run as One. It was fun to run a race and give it a good effort while not taking it too seriously. The rain wasn’t a big deal at all. And if I ever started to get down about the weather, I thought about my mom and what she went through during the last year of her life with lung cancer. Suddenly, a little rain doesn’t feel all that bad. It’s actually nice. Like I’m lucky I even get to feel it.
– Time: 31:32
– Pace: 7:53/m
– Age Group: 16/347
– Women: 191/2863
– Overall: 1238/6108