I was excited to run the Mini 10K again this year. First of all, it’s a 10K. I like 10Ks. I like them better than 5Ks and I think I like them better than 15Ks, although I have only ever run a 15K twice. My “regular” route is seven miles, so 6.2 feels not only doable, but short.
There’s a lot of cool history surrounding the Mini. It’s the world’s oldest all-female road race, created in 1972 by Kathrine Switzer and my close personal friend Nina Kuscsik, with the help of then NYRR president Fred Lebow. That inaugural race in 1972 had just 78 runners. Over the years, there have been some legendary competitors: both Grete Waitz and Tegla Loroupe have won it five times each. The fastest female marathoner in history, Paula Radcliffe, won in 2001. Deena Kastor won it in 2004, the last American winner for a decade until Molly Huddle claimed that honor for herself in 2014. Mary Keitany, a four-time winner of the NYC Marathon, won the Mini in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
This year’s Mini had 8886 runners. We’ve come a long way, baby.
While I don’t mind running alongside men, it’s cool running with only women – since men’s and women’s races are considered separate, running with only women means I am running with only those in direct “competition” with me (“competition” in quotes because it is absurd to think of myself as competing against Mary Keitany or Molly Huddle).
The race also served as the 2019 USATF Women’s 10K Championships, so the field boasted many professional names: Sara Hall (the eventual winner), Stephanie Bruce, Sally Kipyego, Emma Bates, Laura Thweatt, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Jordan Hasay, Deena Kastor (who I had just met the night before), and more. Spoiler: I saw none of them on the course.
I wasn’t sure I’d PR. My last 10K was October 2018’s Grete’s Great Gallop, which took place about three months into marathon training – I was in pretty good shape then. For today’s race, I was about six weeks out of marathon training and coming off a cold and few low mileage weeks. I had doubts as to whether I could best my 7:43 pace at GGG. In the back of my mind was the knowledge that if I could pull off a 7:34 pace, I would advance from corral D up to corral C. It seemed like a longshot. Let’s just say it was my “A” goal – the crazy one.
The weather looked good. Upper 60s, low 70s. Sunny, pleasant. The race start was at Columbus Circle, about three miles south of my apartment. I’d considered jogging down as a warm-up but ultimately decided I didn’t want to warm up for three miles, so I just took the 1 train down to 86th Street and headed to Central Park on foot from there. It was two miles to the starting area. I jogged it nice and easy with some strides at the end.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d already made a fatal mistake. Since I hate to have to pee during a race, I like to stop drinking water about an hour and a half to two hours before I run. This gives me enough time to make the necessary bathroom stops before I start.
Unfortunately, what I did this morning for some godforsaken reason was to stop drinking water an hour and a half before I left my apartment. I left my apartment at 6:45. The race started at 8:00. So I stopped drinking water and coffee at about 5:15, a full two hours and 45 minutes before the start of the race.
Big mistake. Big. Huge.
When I arrived, I was not yet aware of my error. I was just relieved I didn’t have to, well, relieve myself. I took some pics of the crowd, marveling at how many women were running this race. Most NYRR road races have about 5000 runners, total. This race had close to 9000 – all women.
I made my way to corral D (up front, of course, to be as close to the glory of C as I could) and noticed a few women had special bibs on their backs. I remembered that these were women who had run this race 15 times or more: “Crazy Legs,” they were affectionately nicknamed. One woman in front of me had run it 39 times. Thirty-nine times. I quickly did the math: assuming she had run it 39 times in a row (not necessarily, but let’s just imagine) that means she first ran it in 1980.
In 1980, I was six.
While waiting for the start, I met a fellow Harrier, Robin, who was running her 29th Mini! It was fun to meet a Harrier I hadn’t yet met as well as one who was such a great part of the history of this race.
There was a staggered start, which I like: the elites and corrals A through C start together. A few minutes later, corrals D through F get their start. And so on through corral L. Seeing that I was at the front of D, this meant I was one of the first to cross the start in my section – an exciting but also intimidating thrill.
The first mile had us heading up Central Park West. This is another part of the Mini I like. Instead of starting inside the park like many other NYRR races, they close Central Park West for us and we run straight up the avenue for about a mile and a half until 90th Street, at which point we turn into the park and run the loop clockwise – another strange twist, as most NYRR races in Central Park go counter-clockwise.
Here’s a nice pic of me and Robin as we made our way up CPW. (Race course photos courtesy of Gameface Media.)
I felt strong in this first mile. Not great, but good. Good enough. My plan was to keep it around 7:45-ish for the first mile or so and then see how much I could crank it up after the halfway point. I really did try to rein it in here, accidentally overshooting the pace here and there.
MILE 1: 7:33
A bit on the fast side. I purposely slowed down in mile 2 after seeing this split.
We entered the familiar Central Park loop in the second mile. My legs felt heavy. I kept checking my pace: 7:40s, 7:50s. I’d run 10Ks at about these paces before but didn’t remember it feeling this laborious. I was glad to slow down a bit here. There were some twists and turns in this mile; I tried sticking to the tangents. I braced myself for the upcoming hills.
My mouth was dry. This was not something I was accustomed to feeling in the second mile of a race. Not a great sign. We passed a water stop and I stupidly decided against slowing down to take some, assuming it wouldn’t be worth the seconds I’d lose.
Once again: big mistake.
MILE 2: 7:53
I wasn’t feeling great but, of course, if I saw a photographer I smiled. I’ve never appeared in a NYRR photo gallery – even with thousands of runners, they’ll usually only post 30 to 40 pics total, which I’ve never understood, unless it’s just a matter of server space? As a photographer myself, I know in these types of shoots I’m more likely to photograph someone smiling. So unless I’m feeling close to death, I smile.
I’m actually not sure where this was taken but it was definitely in the first half of the race – before The Bad Miles.
The first hill, still on the west side of the loop, wouldn’t be the steepest hill of the race, but it’s also not nothing. I had run up it just two days prior at what I considered to be a fast pace. The hill always lasts longer than I think it will. Luckily, it peaks right before a nice decline down Harlem Hill, normally dreaded by runners going in the opposite, counter-clockwise, direction. Clockwise and downhill, it was a relief.
Mile 3 was about as fast (or slow) as mile 2.
MILE 3: 7:54
We ran along a flat stretch on the northern-most part of the loop. I saw another water stop – and actually stopped this time. I didn’t stop to walk, just grabbed a cup off the end of the table, took a few sips, and kept going. The steepest hill was coming up.
The hill is the one I’ve run up several times on “hill days.” It’s not as bad as Harlem Hill going in the other direction, but it’s a good solid quarter mile up. I lost a whole bunch of steam here. So much for “using the hill” – I could barely move my legs. It felt awful. Something wasn’t right. I felt like shit.
By the time I reached the top, I was spent. I wanted this race to be over. I found myself exhaling audibly like I was having a heart attack or something. I had never felt like this in a 10K.
I didn’t realize it yet, but I was severely dehydrated. The water I’d just had came way too late.
MILE 4: 8:27
Luckily, mile 5 was mostly flat, with just a few dips and small hills. I fought like hell to get back some speed. It was so hard. I might as well have been running through sludge. I did manage to speed up to my second-fastest mile of the race, which was a miracle considering how I felt.
A photographer captured me around this point. My smiling miles were over.
MILE 5: 7:50
As the miles ticked by on my Garmin, I counted down in my head: three miles to go, two miles to go, one mile to go. I was so happy when I saw “5” on my watch, meaning I had just over one mile left of hell.
I also felt hot. It wasn’t actually what I would call “hot” out, but Christ, I was on fire. And not in the awesome, figurative sense.
After coming around the southern part of the loop, I knew the end was near. Normally, with one mile left, I can speed up. Not today.
I passed one guy on the side of the road who I swear said this directly to me: “Push! Push!” And I wanted to be like “Bitch, does this face look like I’m holding back?!”
Ah yes, the blissful euphoria of a runner’s high. You’re welcome.
It felt like the end of the Brooklyn Half all over again – I wasn’t running fast but couldn’t move my legs any faster, and all I wanted to do was stop.
MILE 6: 8:12
I don’t remember much of the end, only that I did not “kick it” into “high gear.”
MILE 0.29: 8:18
And then I stopped.
In similar fashion to Brooklyn, I was dizzy so I ambled over to the side so I could just stop for a second. I didn’t drop to the ground but instead leaned over a partition to catch my breath. I heard a man’s voice ask if I was okay and if I needed medical assistance. I said no, I just needed water. He asked if he could go get me a bottle of water from the medical tent. I looked up to see none other than NYRR President & CEO Michael Capiraso speaking to me. I didn’t have the energy to say anything other than “Oh!” (at recognizing him) and “Yes, please” (to the water). So the president of the New York Road Runners went and got me a bottle of water. I was so touched. This guy didn’t need to be running around. He could have been relaxing and delegating. Instead, he was going around and making sure everyone was okay. I’ll never forget that.
When he brought me the bottle, we walked a bit and made some small talk about the humidity and how hard it is to run in it. I guess it was humid. It still hadn’t hit me that I hadn’t had enough water before the race.
They gave us a medal and flowers. I never care all that much about medals but I have to admit, this was a nice one. The color of it matched my face.
The flowers were sweet. I remember last year hearing grumblings from some women that they were “demeaning” or something. I don’t see it that way at all. Look, they gave us an entire 10-kilometer race. You’re not forced to take home the free plants if you don’t want to. I happily took mine and they sat in a glass of water, brightening my kitchen, for a full week and a half.
I found Robin and we took a selfie since I’d only taken a pic of the back of her shirt earlier. She ran a great race and agreed the humidity made it extra tough.
Like last year, they had pink bagels. They don’t taste any different from regular bagels. They’re just more fun. And this time we had pears instead of apples – a fun and delicious twist.
I asked a kind woman to take my picture because I wasn’t sure if there would be any race pics of me. Thank you, kind woman! I felt better at this point. I had just needed some water and, obviously, to stop running.
I went home soon after this because I had a photoshoot scheduled, and also, I just needed to rest. The Harriers were planning on going on a brewery run later that morning, and even if I hadn’t had the shoot scheduled, I probably wouldn’t have joined them because I was beat.
My Garmin had indicated that I’d run a 7:59 pace, but it also said I ran 6.29 miles. So my official pace was going to be slower. This was the first 10K since the fall of 2017 that I’d run slower than an 8:00 pace.
Incredibly, my overall pace today was the same pace as my 2019 Brooklyn Half pace. Definitely not my best 10K.
I know that progress isn’t linear, so I can’t be too disappointed in the results. This is what I was able to do on this day. Next race, things might be different. Also, I run a lot of races in a year. If I only ran two or three, then yes, I’d probably be devastated. But I have two 5M races coming up, a 5K, a mile race, a 10M, two more 10Ks, a marathon, a turkey trot, and a 15K, all before the end of the year.
I’ll be fine.
I took the following day off from running, something I had not done last year. I’m trying to be smarter this year. Maybe one of these days I’ll be smarter about hydration. It only occurred to me later that I had stopped drinking water too soon before the race. Trust me, I will not make that mistake again. I’d rather have to pee.
– Time: 50:14
– Pace: 8:06/m
– Age Group: 58/1214
– Women & Overall: 576/8882