NYRR Gridiron 4M Recap

I ran the New York Road Runners Gridiron 4-Miler in 2011 as the first of my nine races to qualify for the New York City Marathon. I had barely been racing at the time, and I remember loving it. I felt fast, I enjoyed every mile, and I was really into the four-mile distance.

Turns out, five years later, the Gridiron is still a great race, and I’m still really into the four-mile distance.

I posted this photo on Facebook and everyone commented, "She's getting so big!" They were talking about Ellie I THINK.
I posted this photo on Facebook and everyone commented, “She’s getting so big!” They were talking about Ellie I THINK.

A bit about the race: 

  • It’s a four-mile loop in Central Park.
  • The first mile is rolling hills, the second mile has a decent amount of downhill, the third mile has Cat Hill, and the final mile is flat and downhill.
  • After the two-mile mark, the course splits and — because it’s Super Bowl Sunday — you run under the sign belonging to the team you want to win. A pre-race Google search taught me that the Panthers were playing the Broncos. Good to know. (I ran under the Broncos sign not because I care, but because I was running the tangents and the Broncos were on the inside.)
Truly a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Truly a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

A bit about my pre-race “training”:

  • LOL.
  • My last race was in August. Since then, my running was as lazy as possible.
  • I took almost four weeks off from running on account of an achy-but-not-quite-injured knee. Preventative! I did not do a whole lot of cross-training during that time.
  • I started running again two weeks ago, and declared I would do so without goals, plans, or a watch. I would take my mileage way down, and run for fun and quality rather than quantity.
This is my training. 2 legit to quit running. I don't know.
This is my training. 2 legit to quit running. I don’t know.

And with that, my race goals:

  • Run all four miles without stopping. No walking up hills. No walking through water stops. No walking on account of laziness or “I need to check Snapchat real quick.”
  • Run without a watch. Run by feel. See what happens.
  • Have fun! Yay!

There’s not a whole lot more to say except that I loved racing again, I loved being out in the park on a gorgeous Sunday morning, and I loved running without any data. But let’s see how much I can write about a four-mile run in my backyard…

It's fine. I'm fine.
She’s got my whoooole face in her mouth, she’s got my whoooole face in her mouth.

My day started by spending the entire morning going to and from the bathroom (in true Feller style), and trying to remember what I usually eat before a race. I decided a bowl of dry cereal (“Honey Nut Cheerios,” but whatever Whole Foods calls them) and chocolate chips would be my key to success.

I gave Ellie a kiss goodbye (I may have given Brian one, too — our goodbyes for Ellie are far more endearing) and slow-jogged to the start area, where I met up with my November Project teammates.

Go team!
Go team! (Can you find me?! Probs not.)

We group photo-ed, scurried into our corrals (I was Corral D), listened to the National Anthem, and took off.

The great thing about no-pressure racing is that I was never nervous. The gun sounded, the race started, and I ran with the pack.

Look, I found a friend in my corral! It's Gregg!
Look, I found a friend in my corral! It’s Gregg!

The rolling hills during the first mile were fine. I don’t really remember the second mile. The Cat Hill incline was barely noticeable. And then, during the fourth mile, I just kept running. WHAT A GREAT RACE RECAP, I KNOW. SO VIVID! SUCH DETAILS!

I felt comfortable the whole time. I never felt like I was gasping for air, but it didn’t quite feel like an easy jog either. I didn’t know if I was running 9:30s or 8-minute-miles, and I kept forgetting to check the clocks at each mile so I could attempt math. It didn’t matter and I didn’t care. (Why haven’t I been running like this all along? Why did I spend so long caught up in all those numbers?)

Within 800m of the finish, I decided I could probably pass the girl with the nice bum I’d been trailing the entire time (hi, girl in a jersey and black shorts and black compression socks — thanks for the pacing and PS you have nice legs!), so I pushed a little harder and it was the first time I really felt like I was working hard and breathing heavily.

Up ahead, I saw Brian and Ellie cheering for me! Brian was yelling, “Ellie look, it’s Mom!” but she didn’t care and I could tell she was focused on a pigeon, squirrel, or piece of trash in the distance.

So I set my laser-like focus, Ellie-style, on the finish line, and just kept running. I heard my November Project teammates cheering and then I crossed the finish line.

The end!

Official results. Non-watch running = you have to wait to know your time!
Official results. Non-watch running = you have to wait to know your time!

My official finish time was 30:34, which is a 7:39/mile pace. I am mighty happy with that. If I had worn a watch, I never would have run that pace. I would’ve seen sub-8s and backed off, and I would’ve doubted myself, and I would’ve been annoying. Instead, I just got to cruise. I’m completely pro-watchless running now.

Turns out, I was only 10 seconds off my PR, and I beat my previous Gridiron time. And I ran the whole race! I wasn’t even tempted to Snapchat my way up Cat Hill!

A shot from my jog home. New York, you're just the best.
A shot from my jog home. New York, you’re just the best.




15 Responses

  1. A beautiful day in NYC!! I have no idea how fast I run. Some days I feel like I’m flying and some days not so much but I LOVE running and that is all that I care about. So happy you had such a fun race and Ellie is so sweet. Tu must be so excited to run with her. Cocoa is my most favorite running partner!!

  2. You’re awesome! I can’t believe how speedy you are without wearing a watch! I have been more consistent with running, and still am not that fast, and definitely wouldn’t be without a watch to push myself. Happy to see you had Brian and Ellie cheering you on. Your little family is adorable. 🙂

  3. Amazing! That is one sweet come back…and speedier than I am with consistent running lol.
    But I do agree on the whole watchless thing. I do try and hit solid workouts 2 of my 5 or 6 runs a week and clock them but other ones I just run what my body feels like. The mental part of seeing a pace and thinking you won’t be able to sustain it I think gets in our way of success. So well done!!!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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