The Big Chase: 2019 Percy Sutton 5K Race Recap

The 2019 Percy Sutton 5K happened over a month ago but it might as well have been six years ago based on what has transpired in the past several weeks. Time is strange. What is time? Does it exist outside our minds? Did the Percy Sutton 5K even happen? And if it did, will it happen again after the universe has been destroyed, the Big Bang happens for the 14th trillion time, and we experience life as we know it all over again?

I’ll begin by telling you that the day I ran the 2019 Percy Sutton 5K was a very good day. I had a good race. It was a lovely morning. I felt on top of the world.

I’ve been struggling to regain that feeling lately, which is partly why the race feels like it happened so long ago.


This would be my second time running The Perce (not an actual nickname for the race). Last year’s race was the first I ran as an official member of the New York Harriers and I remember being really excited about that. I PR’d at that race, running a flat 24 minutes.

I also remember the agony of running up the 141st Street hill at the end of mile 2. That was the only part that worried me. It’s a steep hill. I felt like it went on forever. The night before this year’s race, I looked up that hill on Google Maps and saw it was only one tenth of a mile. That’s it? I was shocked. I thought about how long a tenth of a mile is. I felt a little better. I could do this.

I also remember taking it really easy in mile 1 last year. The first mile is mostly a steady incline which you then come back down in mile 2. I held back last year, running mile 1 in 7:55, realizing later that I could have run it faster. I’d been too cautious.

We had great weather for the race this year: 67ºF, 61% humidity. After a summer of sticky high temps, the morning of Saturday, August 24th felt like fall. It was perfect. I jogged about a mile and a half to the start – one of the benefits of living where I do – and then jogged a bit more up and down the street near the start to make my warm-up an even two miles.

2019PS5K IMG_0796

2019PS5K IMG_0797

I found some fellow Harriers in my corral – good old corral D, which I’ve been in for the past year and a half. I might make it into C at some point, but first I have to run a faster NYRR race. I have not yet been able to do this. To get into C with a 5K, I’d have to run it in 22:30, or a 7:14 pace. I was fairly certain I would not be able to do this today. Maybe if 5Ks were two miles, I could.

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I had two main goals for the race: don’t hold back so much in mile 1 and get up the hill on 141st Street faster. If I could do both, I’d be happy.

Once I made my way around the crowds of the first minute or so, I ran steadily through the first mile incline. I held back enough so I had the energy to run another 2.1 miles, but I challenged myself more than I had last year. Didn’t sprint but didn’t play it too safe. I tried to find that boundary.

MILE 1 (2019): 7:43
MILE 1 (2018): 7:55

Not a massive improvement on last year, but I’ll accept 12 seconds faster.

Right around the start of mile 2, there is a hairpin turnaround and the incline becomes a decline. It’s a nice decline – any steeper would make it too hard on the legs, but I was able to get up to a 6:35 pace here, my fastest of the race. Last year, my fastest pace in the same spot was 6:57. Solid improvement.

At the foot of the hill we made a right turn up 141st Street.

Only a tenth of a mile, I kept reminding myself. I didn’t hold back as much as I had last year. Not as many runners passed me this time. But shit, this was hard. I was absolutely gasping at the top. I honestly felt like I might have a heart attack. Was anyone else gasping? Just me? It felt like it was just me. Or maybe my gasps just drowned out the sounds of everything else around me.

Once I caught my breath, I noticed the course had changed slightly from the year before: instead of running along St. Nicholas Park, we ran a five-block stretch straight through Convent Avenue and the City College of New York. I’m not positive but I think this stretch is flatter than the one along the park. I saw some other Harriers up ahead of me and tried to catch them.

MILE 2 (2019): 7:22 
MILE 2 (2018): 7:40

Fortunately, there would be no more steep hills. The third mile is mostly flat. I passed a Harrier or two, giving them a thumbs up as I did but I had no spare breath to even say “Hey.” Some Harriers I couldn’t catch. I was really booking it, for me. I so wish I could run faster than a 7:00 pace for a whole mile in a 5K, but I’m not quite there yet. I did manage to speed up from mile 2.

MILE 3 (2019): 7:17
MILE 3 (2018): 7:30

I was surprised at the 7:17. I’ve only run faster than a 7:20 mile in a few races. I credit the Harriers on the course for letting me chase them (and all of the great workouts I’ve done with them).

I ran the last flat stretch as fast as I could but I had nothing left in the tank for any kind of kick.

LAST 0.14 MILE (2019): 7:18 pace
LAST 0.13 MILE (2018): 7:04 pace

That’s interesting: the only part of the race I ran slower than last year was the final stretch. What this tells me is that I definitely ran this race too slow last year – I had so much energy left. This year, I had none.

So either I’m in better shape this year or I just know how to race better.

Some fun comparisons below. courtesy of my Garmin. I never get into details like these in race recaps but what the heck, why not. Look at my cadence!

2019 Percy Sutton 5K 
Overall pace (Garmin): 7:27
Best pace: 6:35
Avg. speed: 8.1 mph
Avg. cadence: 179
Max cadence: 187
Avg. stride length: 1.21m

2018 Percy Sutton 5K
Overall pace (Garmin): 7:40
Best pace: 6:57
Avg. speed: 7.8 mph
Avg. cadence: 170
Max cadence: 180
Avg. stride length: 1.24m

This was my second-fastest 5K ever, behind the one I ran in Northport last May (which did not have an official start line so who knows).

After the race the Harriers went to Ponty Bistro for brunch. I jogged about a third of a mile there and that was my cool down.

I had way too much coffee and Eggs Benedict with Canadian Bacon (or was it ham?). It was decent and the potatoes & peppers were nice and it wasn’t too big a portion, which is good. The bad: it wasn’t that hot.

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Some like it lukewarm

A few other teammates had the French Toast, which FYI does not come with real maple syrup. If you want real maple syrup with your french toast, do not order this because you will be disappointed.

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Not real maple syrup

I was surprised to learn that I had placed fourth in my age group. This is the highest I have ever placed in a NYRR race, unless you count last year’s New Year’s Eve Midnight Run, where I also placed fourth – but many runners don’t run that race very hard so I consider it a “soft” fourth. Placing fourth in a regular NYRR race is amazing and I can’t believe my body was able to do that.

My goal is to place third in my age group in a NYRR race, so I’m close.

Even if I’m not yet that close to corral C.

Time: 23:22
Pace: 7:32/m
Age Group: 4/245
Women: 131/2492
Overall: 810/4843

Women’s Open: 1st Place
Men’s Open: 3rd Place

So proud of the Harriers for placing 1st and 3rd in the women’s and men’s open divisions! (There were no Masters team award categories for this race.)

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Vera, who was very hard to catch, and I immediately after crossing the finish

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The best variety of apple: NYRR Post-race

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