I’ve never liked the 10K distance. It’s too far to sprint, but it’s not quite as long or rewarding to me as the half marathon.
I also haven’t loved racing recently.
Look at them, with their fancy low bib numbers. What speedy little show offs.
So why did I agree to “race” 6.2 miles with my favorite out of town friends? Well, Emily and Lauren came to town to celebrate, and while we celebrated a bit like normal humans with plenty of champagne and wine, we felt it was truly important to celebrate Lauren’s engagement and Emily’s no-longer-broken-foot like real runners: in race form.
Lauren and Emily arrived at my apartment on Friday night, and I wore a bunny onesie for the occasion, because nothing says “I’m really psyched for both of you and I’m ready to party” like a pink fleece suit that needs to be fully removed when you have to use the bathroom.
Emily and I showered Lauren with gifts of the old, new, borrowed, blue and Parmesan cheese variety. It didn’t take much for Emily and me to convince Lauren that her wedding should have a cheese theme.
Since we were racing the next morning, it was important to carbo load. In fact, it’s important to carbo load every single day, because you never know when a race will just pop up. Eat your bread people. Smother it in cheese while you’re at it.
Also, since we are spoiled, we did not order food or go to a restaurant or attempt to cook anything ourselves. I asked Emily if I should cook dinner for us, and she practically screamed, “Please, no! You’re probably a wretched cook and you’ll poison us by accident! Stay away from the kitchen, Alison.”
Good thing this guy lives nearby…
So while us chicks caught up on life, Brian cooked. I swear he wanted to. He volunteered. And I’m sure seeing his girlfriend in a sexy outfit made him really want to hang out with us all night.
We stayed up late and eventually made our way to bed — and air mattress — well past midnight. Because we take race night very seriously.
Lauren and I were not thrilled about this race. Emily made us register. She was all, “You guys, I can run again! Let’s run a race together! It’ll be fun!”
But when Emily said she could run again, she really meant she could run for two or so miles at a time, and then would need to take short walk breaks so she didn’t overuse those strained little muscles in her foot.
Walk breaks during a race?
Not what Lauren and I had in mind for a celebratory 10K.
Sorry, Emily. Love you, don’t love “fun running.” Aren’t I such a good friend?
But then we were like, “Wait! Lauren is engaged! She can run the race wearing a veil, and we can wear flashy outfits, and then it actually will be a blast!”
I wasn’t overly pumped about waking up at 6 am on a Saturday morning, but it was really nice not to be nervous at all. I usually go into races with a jittery stomach. Not this time, though. This was all about the brightly-colored experience.
We got to Central Park and I actually started getting really excited about the race. Shockingly we were the only people in lime green, pink, sequins and legwarmers, and oddly enough there were no other Brides On The Run. It was almost 50 degrees by 8 am — incredible for a January race!
We spotted Kelly — she spotted us, actually, which I’m sure was very difficult given the obnoxiously loud outfits — and Lauren and I made a Porta Potty stop before we jumped into the corrals and started to run.
Since we were planning to run/walk the race together, I didn’t bring music — Lauren told me that would be rude — and I didn’t wear my watch. This is my second Garmin-less race in a row and I’m hooked!
Apparently while Emily and Lauren were at Starbucks that morning without me, they made a plan: Don’t let Ali wear her watch. They were testing me! And I didn’t know it! Rude. And awesome. And smart.
Emily and Lauren stuck with an “easy race pace” and I just planned to try and keep up. Turns out, I kept up just fine. We chatted almost the entire time as we cruised along the route, a counterclockwise loop of Central Park.
Lauren made tons of friends thanks to the veil. Everyone loved her getup and yelled “Congratulations!” or “When’s the wedding?!” or, mostly from the men, “Don’t do it!”
I had no idea what type of pace we were running in the first few miles, and we basically let Emily call the shots. When she needed or wanted to stop and walk, we would do that.
We started off running up through Harlem, and I loved that we hit Harlem Hill within the first mile. It felt easy. I assumed we were doing an 8:30ish pace, and every time we passed a mile marker I forgot to check the time.
As we approached the west side of the park, we conquered the rolling hills that I usually loathe. But with good company, I hardly noticed them, and when we made it to the third mile marker Emily declared it was time for our first walk break. We moved to the edge of the course — out of the way of the runners blazing past us — and swiveled our hips as best we could.
After about five minutes of walking, we ran again. My legs and stomach both felt good, and I really wasn’t thinking much about my pace or how I felt. I figured we were running slowly because I felt comfortable and was able to carry on a conversation the whole time. When I asked Emily what pace we were doing, she refused to tell me. Apparently that was the plan, though she didn’t share that at the time. She just kind of brushed me off and kept running.
We rounded out the lower half of the park and took our second walk break right around Cat Hill. Fine by me. Lauren and I may have accidentally ditched Emily on the hill and jogged up it holding hands — at which point a man ran by us and said, “Marriage is a beautiful thing!”
At the top of the hill it was on to the finish line. We picked up the pace and cruised along the wonderfully flat east side of the park. As we approached the finish line, a dude on the sidelines screamed, “Yeah cheese!” and I was like, “Who is that guy and is he following the #cheesewedding updates on Twitter?!”
Turns out that guy was Brian. Emily and Lauren saw him. I did not recognize my own boyfriend. Way to go, Ali.
He cheered for us and took this photo:
I knew we were running a decent pace at this point, but I still felt great. It was a gorgeous day to be running and everyone in the race seemed so happy. The atmosphere was fantastic.
And then we crossed the finish line, and I came to the conclusion that racing can be fun if you’re not stupid about it. If you just show up and run and stay positive, there’s no reason to hate racing.
And then Emily and Lauren told me that during the final mile we were holding down a 7-minute mile pace.
Our overall pace was an 8:13, and Emily told me that when we were running we were never going slower than 8-minute miles. And I felt good!
New race strategy: No more Garmin. Do races with fast friends. Keep up. Run happy.
We hung around the finish line to cheer for a while and play with puppies, and as we were leaving the park a New York Road Runners photographer found us and asked if she could take our picture.
Um, obviously. We didn’t dress up to blend in, lady.
And now we are featured on the NYRR website.
I left this race on a major high. It was a no pressure race, I ran well, I got over my ego and I took walk breaks as needed to ensure Emily doesn’t break her foot again. I felt really, really happy. And I feel like I need to get over my fear of running fast and pushing myself. It’s on, 2012.
Post-race celebrations included many hours of mimosa drinking, wine drinking and brownie eating. Healthy living at its best, don’t you think?
I woke up this morning with a pretty brutal hangover. My body can’t hold its booze like it could in college. But Lauren wanted to go for a run, and so we did.
My watch didn’t get a satellite until a mile into the run, but check out these splits from the last four miles of the first ever Ali & Lauren On The Hungover Run:
And again, even though I felt like a gnarly form of death when we started running, my legs felt awesome and I settled into this pace pretty easily.
Now I’m excited because I think Lauren and Emily have agreed to move to my fair city and run every single race with me. That, my friends, is true friendship.
I loved this weekend. And while I don’t think I have a future career in power walking — it’s surprisingly difficult — I do think that 2012 is going to be a great year in racing for me. I’m re-energized and I’m motivated. Fast friends will do that to you.
Oh and yes, I’m still thinking about a spring marathon, because Lauren agreed to pace me to a PR. And if I learned anything this weekend, it’s that I have too much pride to ask my friends to slow down for me.
I can keep up.
Hope everyone had an awesome weekend!