This past weekend I ran my first 10k, the NYRR Joe Kleinerman Classic 10k in Central Park. It started on the upper east side near 101st street and looped all the way to the edge of the northside of the park, down the west side, across the bottom of the park near 59th street and then back up on the east side to the finish line around 101st street.
Once again I had to face the challenge of those Central Park hills. I find I actually prefer not to know much about the course and just tackle it as it comes. Perhaps this is an approach I prefer just for Central Park because of the varying degrees of rolling hills. So just when you think you’ve accomplished the 2 big hills, suddenly you’re on mile 5 and there comes Cat Hill, kicking your butt even though it’s not supposed to be much of anything compared to what you ran at mile 1 and 2. Or maybe this is a naive novice approach? Isn’t ignorance sometimes bliss?
Running is such a mind-game of personal puzzle pieces. Not everyone’s piece fits in the same way to get a picture of the finish line. Some pieces require water at mile 2, other’s need a sip of Gatorade at every fluid station while still other’s won’t drink till the finish. Some prefer to start out in the front of the pack, other’s prefer to lay far back and enjoy the feeling of passing other runners as you build up speed each mile marker.
I planned to run the first 3 miles kinda easy and then push hard for the last 3. I sort of kept to that plan. I had a friend join me for the run and I don’t train with her so her presence still impacted my strategy whether I realized it or not because now the puzzle pieces I was fitting together to make my perfect picture of crossing the finish line unintentionally became a duo effort. Sometimes that was a really good thing when it meant more motivation and sometimes it just became an added level of decision-making to an already tricky jig-saw puzzle.
By mile 5 we were really pushing up Cat Hill hard and then as we started down the hill I looked at my friend and said for about the fifth time – “Put it in cruise control to the finish!” – because when you go down a hill it should be just a free-flowing sensation with minimal effort or energy so that you can clear your mind and cleanse out your muscles and heavy-breathing from the challenge of going up the hill.
We pass mile 6 and we have a point-3 to go. That point NEVER came! We started to hear the announcer and music but when I looked ahead I just kept seeing the snaking trail of the racers as though it was never end. We are now passing speakers and a lot more runners that have finished and are eating their apples and bagels. But still, we can’t see the finish line. I can’t keep pushing at this fast pace of close to 9 min per mile. My friend says “Where is it?! When is it gonna end?!” And then finally we see it just around the bend.
I finished the race feeling amazing and invigorated because I pushed myself harder than ever with an average pace of 9:54 but my per mile splits were a lot faster than I’ve ever done for a run of more than 5 miles. I have never had a bad experience running a race. Every one of them has been an incredible adventure and journey for me. I always focus on the positives and little victories rather than anything negative.
And yes, I absolutely did smile across the finish of my first 10k.