The Central Park Conservancy Run for Central Park was my sixth qualifying race for the NYC 2012 Marathon, and one that I'd been deliberating over for most of the preceding week. This was my third 4 mile race of the year, and the second time I'd run this course. Last time had been at the NYRR 4 mile back in April, where I'd knocked 4 minutes off my previous time and exceeded all my expectations. It was a brilliant race for me, not least as it was absolutely pouring with rain, which to my complete and utter surprise made for great running conditions: cool, refreshing and just plain joyful (picture me leaping over puddles and whooping with excitement and you get the idea).
The recent weather in New York City, however, has been far from ideal for running. We've been experiencing extremely hot days, with temperatures consistently hitting 30 - 34°C. The double whammy of heat along with high levels of humidity has made running a sticky, dead legged, energy sapping challenge. Thankfully, in the week leading up to the race the humidity eased its grip on the city. This made things slightly more bearable, but the heat remained. Even leaving the house before 7am to run, I contended with temperatures between 23 and 25°C.
So, in the lead up to this race, I've been more than aware how unlikely beating my previous time and achieving a new personal record (PR), would be. For a while I even considered not showing up, and registering for a 'cooler' race later in the year. But then I came to my senses and saw this race for what it could be: a qualifier. I needed to finish the race, simple as that. Fast or slow, once I crossed the finish line, I was one race closer to my marathon qualification. It was a no brainer, really.
Race morning was beautiful. Sunny and warm as expected, the park teemed with thousands of runners and buzzed with their collective energy and excitement.
Lining up in the corrals awaiting the start of race, we were reminded by the race organisers of the heat, and that we shouldn't push ourselves too much. 'Fine by me', I thought, and I decided to take the race as it came, to see how I felt mile by mile and to go with the flow, so to speak.
|Standing in the corrals minutes before the start|
|The view of the corral in front of me|
|And behind me|
And go with the flow I did. I started off easy - not least as I felt pretty sluggish - and finished the first mile in around 9.50. Mile 2 felt a little better especially as we were treated to a 'misting station' (a.k.a a volunteer with a hosepipe who showered cold water over the runners as we passed her). This instant cool down perked me up a little more and I managed to pick up my speed, finishing mile 2 in around 9 minutes. The rolling hills of the west side of the course made for hard work as the heat picked up and by the 3rd mile mark I realised that to beat my previous PR I would have to run the last mile in under 8 minutes. And that was the point at which I thought 'No. I don't need to prove anything. I'm just going to enjoy this last mile and relax'.
Of course, no sooner had I given myself permission to back off, than we hit a long downhill. 'Oh sod it!' I thought, and picked up my pace again - I mean, you can't let a good downhill go to waste, particularly as much of it was in the shade. As I turned off the loop at 72nd Street, I made one last push and sprinted for home. I finished in 37.52 and averaged a 9 min 28 second mile which I was more than happy with. Not a PR, but by no means an embarrassment, I finished 182nd out of the 435 women in my age group and that's alright with me.
|Hot and happy to finish |
Too often my goal has been to compete against myself, always aiming to improve or do better. Well, sometimes the wiser goal is to exert a little restraint, whether that's keeping my easy runs easy, my long runs slow, or just playing things safe. Sometimes it really is more about taking part (and avoiding heat stroke in the process). It wasn't impossible for me to make a new PR, it just wasn't (in my view) worth the effort. You have to pick your races just like you pick your battles.
Anyway, once I'd got my breath back I took a look at my phone and saw this: