Try to Catch Up: 2022 Run for the Health of It 5K

RACE DATE: May 7, 2022
LOCATION: Northport, NY

I thought I might have ended this blog. I didn’t mean to. I just had a very busy spring, summer, fall, early winter… and with posting about races on social media, I got mini-recaps out of my system while this poor old blog got the short end of the stick. I felt true guilt about it, but there were so many things that needed my attention last year. My priorities shifted. I figured I’d get back to it when I could.

As daunting as the idea of catching up on a whole slew of recaps is, it feels like time. I’ll just have to play catch-up for a while. No idea who even reads this blog but I want to do this for my future self who is already pissed at my present self for a variety of reasons.

The race recaps I write from last year will (I hope) be short(ish), as part of my reluctance to start writing in this blog again is the self-imposed pressure to make everything long, detailed, and perfect – which usually means hours and even days per post. Why do I make everything so overwhelming? A fine query, and perhaps a topic for another post.

So let’s try this again.

The Run for the Health of It 5K takes place annually in my hometown of Northport, Long Island – also the site of the Great Cow Harbor 10K (2023 recap to come!). I ran this 5K in 2019, partly as a way to help raise money for Visiting Nurse Service‘s Hospice House. I ran that race in honor of my mom, who VNS helped in the final months of her life. My sister, nephews, and dad were all there at the time (my nephews ran the kids’ run).

Me and my dad at the 2019 RFTHOI 5K

Since I live in NYC, running the race once again meant a trip on the Long Island Rail Road early in the morning, then back home as soon as it was over. I got someone to walk my dog in the late morning, left at 6am, got to Northport a couple hours later, and was back home before 1pm.

The race was going to feel a little different this year – my sister no longer lives in Northport, my parents are both dead, and I wasn’t sure who of my Northport friends would be out this year. Plus, it was raining. I was looking forward to the race, and seeing Northport again, but I did feel a bit more lonesome this year.

After an uneventful train and Lyft, I arrived at VNS on Main Street (race central) and got into my gear, stashing my bag behind a chair in a large room where lots of other runners were changing. (Fun fact: when I was a kid, the building was a Gristedes supermarket.)

This year, I ran in memory of both my parents. I had that information put on my bib because it made me feel nice.

The rain was light. I warmed up for a mile or so around the neighborhood. Temps were in the low 50s, which obviously means a singlet and shorts – for me, at least. I get hot when I run fast. Which is what I was planning to do.

This year, the race was held in memory of Anita V. Thomas, an early leader of the Northport Running Club. Anita was an avid supporter of VNS and died at Hospice House in 2020 of COVID-19.

Runners lined up wherever they wanted. I believe there were announcements of which pace goes where, a “do whatever you feel is right” system. Which is fine. I’ve run so many races in NYC since moving back there in 2018 that it’s sometimes hard to remember what small races are like. Usually, I’m hundreds of runners back. I did think I should be toward the faster end of this field (at least the women), so I tried figuring out where exactly to start.

What I mostly remember from this race was: 1) the roads were slick 2) I ran an unusually fast first mile 3) I felt strong.

It’s a “rolling hills” course through good old suburbia. Not flat. But not terribly hilly. There is no James Street (the infamous uphill in mile 2 of the Cow Harbor 10K). If I had to compare this race to NYC races, I’d say it’s similar to the Washington Heights 5K, or any race in Central Park minus Harlem Hills.

The first mile had us go up a tiny hill and then down the nice, long, gentle Norwood Avenue, ending with a right turn onto Waterside (which is part of the Cow Harbor 10K course). A downhill is a nice way to start off a race, even if I know it means uphills to come. I felt weirdly strong and surprised myself by running what is a fast mile for me.

Mile 1: 7:06

This was so close to a sub-7:00 that I almost didn’t believe it, but I guess the downhill helped. I also noticed that I passed a lot of runners in that first mile. I hoped I wouldn’t pay for it later. (In the 2019 race, I ran a 6:55 first mile, which at the time I knew was too fast. Today was almost as fast but felt more controlled.)

The second mile continued along Waterside – a stretch I’ve run many times in the Cow Harbor 10K. It’s a very slight incline but not as noticeable today as in mile 5 of a 10K race.

I think the rain was still coming down, but I can’t fully remember. If it was, my baseball cap and focus kept me from noticing it.

We made a turn onto Monroe, establishing us in the thick of quiet suburban streets and a few more rolling hills.

Mile 2: 7:20

Makes sense that I wasn’t able to sustain a 7:06 through mile 2. A 7:20 mile in a 5K is good for me, so I was fine with this. (In the 2019 race, I ran a 7:30 mile 2, so at least I didn’t slow down as much today.)

I knew if I wanted to PR, I would need to best my 2019 Run for the Health of It 5K time of 23:02.

It’s worth mentioning that I could see record-setting Masters runner (and Northport local) Kathryn Martin up ahead of me the entire time, and of course I couldn’t catch her. Just several weeks earlier, Kathy had set national age-group records in both the 3000 and the mile. She was 70 years old the day of today’s 5K, and I could not catch her.

The only somewhat scary part of the race was the steep downhill heading back onto Norwood. Incidentally, this was right by my old house – but not close enough that I could see it. That’s not the scary part. It was the wet road. I was so worried I’d slip at the paces I was running, but fortunately I stayed upright.

Here we go: Norwood’s mile 1 downhill was now an uphill. In the 2019 race, I remember slowing way down here to a 7:53 mile 3 – almost a full minute slower than mile 1, a sign of a 5K run quite poorly. Today, though, with some more hill training and stronger glutes, I ran it faster.

Mile 3: 7:30

The last stretch (which according to my Garmin was 0.17 miles) saw a nice downhill, and an average 6:33 pace. Not bad.

After I crossed the finish, a guy gave me a fist bump, saying “I was trying to catch you the whole time and couldn’t.” I laughed. I had been trying to catch Kathy Martin and this guy had been trying to catch me. This is part of what I love about running: there is no fast and there is no slow. Everything is relative. We are all trying to catch something.

As far as I know, this is the only footage of me from the race – and it’s a video still courtesy of Elite Feats. This is right before the finish.

My official time was 22:59 – a full three seconds faster than 2019! To be honest, I was sort of kind of hoping for faster, but considering the past few years, I was good with a PR.

According to official results, I placed 25th out of 174 runners, and 6th out of 88 women. I probably could have started a bit more toward the front. Maybe next time.

Kathy Martin finished one spot ahead of me. I will never catch her. And that’s just fine.

Some nerdy fun: a comparison of my cadence and stride length between the 2019 and 2022 races. My cadence has definitely increased across all of my races, which can only be a good thing since it was never very high to begin with (I’m kind of a loper).

2019: avg. cadence 173, stride 1.26 meters
2022: avg. cadence 180, stride 1.23 meters

After changing, eating, getting a nice award for finishing first in my age group (there were only three of us), and getting a ride to the train station from a nice VNS employee (Lyft prices at that time were nuts), I settled in on the Long Island Rail Road, happy to have taken a trip out to Northport in the rain.

My 5K PR would be broken again in a few months, but that’s another story.

Time: 22:59
Pace: 7:24/m
Age Group: 1/3
Women: 6/88
Overall: 25/174

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