“I think I might have made a huge mistake.”
That was the first thing that crossed my mind as the alarm went off at the unholy hour of 4:30 am. Yeah, you read that correctly, 4:30am. On a Saturday. Not even a work day. What the hell was I thinking when I signed up at the last-minute to run in the Brooklyn Rock n Roll 5 Miler this past Friday after work. Who knows. A touch of momentary insanity?
Well, it was too late to back out at this point. I paid my entrance fee. I made the commitment. I was doomed.
Don’t get me wrong as I love a challenge. After over a year and a half of competing in 5K races – around 25 so far – and a few 4 mile events, this would be my longest official race at 5 miles. Now, during my weekly training runs I will go anywhere from 3 – 6 miles depending on how my body feels. On a nice weekend day when feeling really energetic I’ll push it to 7 or 8 miles. I also love to run mostly at night as I feel more loosened up at that part of the day. This race being at 7am had me dreading it.
7AM!!! ON A SATURDAY!!! What the heck is wrong with this picture? These people are sick. SICK!!!
Well, at least I wasn’t alone. As I stumbled onto the subway platform at 5:30am I noticed a few other lonesome running masochists waiting for the train to Brooklyn. Other than some water and a banana before I left the apartment I had not even had a cup of coffee. I might have been delirious as I could have sworn I saw this guy sitting at the other end of my nearly empty subway car dressed as a clown, eating a whole turkey, while blowing bubbles out of his ears. Then again, NYC subways do have an “interesting clientele” riding at the wee hours before the dawn.
At least as we approached each stop on our way to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park I fully woke up and shook the cobwebs out of my head. Sort of. It was kind of surreal since it was still dark as the group of us emerged from the underground and headed to the race check-in area next to the Arch monument at Grand Army Plaza. As I looked around to take some pics I realized that people were swarming in from all directions. There was a buzz of excitement in the air as runners of all types were checking in, and getting ready to run in the 5 Miler as I was, or the Half Marathon.
I was extremely happy that I went to the bathroom before I left that morning as the lines to the porta-potties were a bit ridiculous. With literally hundreds of people waiting to take care of business before venturing out on their running adventure I could only imagine the horror that awaited them in each of those commodes. I am sure many did “the hover” technique! Let’s be real here. Some human beings can be pretty disgusting.
The crowd little by little piled into their assigned corrals. I made sure to stretch out as much as I could before heading into my slot. The morning sun was starting to peek out over the horizon, and it’s soft glow lit up the Brooklyn Museum which stood in the foreground. The national anthem was performed. The race organizers gave us some last-minute course info, and then the horns blared to start the race! All of a sudden, it seemed as if thousands of people woke up from zombie-like slumber at the same moment, and we started to slowly move forward at the same time. As the pace picked up after the first few minutes of running I hit a nice stride and got into a zone, as did many others alongside me.
The course itself was well laid out, with mile markers along the way, signage telling us where to turn to stay on the correct route, and water stations to hydrate on this muggy warm morning. Volunteers were also along the pathways directing us, bands were playing to entertain, and even cheerleaders were there to root us on. It was kind of eerie having Eastern Parkway closed to have us run on for the first mile, but also very cool. We then entered Prospect Park where the rest of the race was held. Always a nice run in this park as I have done a bunch of 5K’s here.
I have to say, the first three miles I felt good. My normal 5K run. As I passed the three-mile marker I thought to myself – “Hey, only two more miles. This is cake.” Then my exuberance faded into dread as I realized the next half mile or more was an incline that had me cursing. I was not the only one. I heard plenty of specific four letter words and colorful terms being thrown about by my fellow runners. Once I hit the four mile mark it seemed the course became more flat, and even some welcomed decline running. As I pushed through that last mile I was aware of my strained hamstring, yet it wasn’t bothering me too much since I made sure to adjust my pace and cadence throughout the run. I really focused on my running form, and made sure to not do anything stupid to re-injure myself. In the distance I saw the final leg approaching.
As I crossed the finish line I felt a surge of accomplishment mixed in with relief that I made it through to the end with no pain or injuries. Considering my strained hamstring was still tender during the race, and during my training runs leading up to this point, l was pretty much overjoyed that my leg didn’t go all Gumby on me. People were lined up along the lane to the end cheering us on. It was such a cool feeling, and I picked up my pace over those last few tenths of a mile to finish strong. Definitely a rush of energy as I knew I was about to complete the full five miles. In one piece.
There were close to 10,000 runners combined that ran in the 5 Miler and Half Marathon. Obviously, the majority ran the longer distance with around 1,000 of us who completed the 5 mile segment. I did pretty well all things considered. Ran close to a 10 minute mile pace, finished in the top 50% of runners, and also finished #8 out of 16 in my age bracket. That last one was pretty interesting since out of close to 1000 participants only 16 of us “older guys” were entered. Hey, someone needed to show those young whippersnappers how it’s done! I felt pretty damn good about myself.
An interesting note. I use a GPS running app for all my runs which is on my phone that I carry when running, while also listening to my tunes. I feel I run better with music. Hard rock and metal of course! The app said it was only 4.86 miles, so being the glutton that I am, I kept running past the finish line. Past those handing out medals, drinks, and bananas. Past the photo-op camera people. They looked at me like I was nuts, but I wanted to record that I ran the full five miles! When I hit it I turned back to get that well-earned finisher medal, and with a smile on my face put it on. Even some volunteers where laughing with me – or at me! Hey, it’s the principal of the thing. I sure felt good while walking around and watching others come across that finish line to cheers and applause from family and friends.
Overall, it was a terrific experience of which I am happy to say that I participated in and completed. Who knows? Maybe by this time next year I’ll try my hand at the half marathon. Yet, thinking about that 7am race time I’m getting the willies already, and it’s a year away,
Rock n Roll Marathon Series – http://www.runrocknroll.com/