I don’t remember why I signed up to run the New York Road Runners Scotland Run 10K this year. I can’t recall when I signed up, I just know it ended up on my calendar somehow. I’m guessing it was after receiving one of our November Project team emails, after which I undoubtedly experienced a fleeting moment of “Must Register For All The Races.”
I’ve long proclaimed the 10K to be my least favorite distance. Too long to sprint, but not long enough to give myself permission to ease up like during a half-marathon. I’ve only run five 10Ks — and one was a fun run in the middle of the Runner’s World Half & Festival‘s 5K and half-marathon — and I recall always having a hard time pacing myself during them. (Fun fact: The Scotland 10K was my first-ever 10K back in 2011! And my allergies were killing me then, too!)
But after this weekend, I’m no longer a 10K Hater. I actually kind of liked racing 6.2 miles on Saturday, especially because I got to do it in Central Park!
When you run in Central Park every single day — which I did for years — it seems silly to pay to run a race on those same roads. But when you move to West New York, NJ, and you’re no longer logging all your morning miles in the park, handing over that entry fee becomes a bit more enticing.
Between getting the flu, being slightly overwhelmed with work, and moving, I had actually forgotten I was running the Scotland 10K. I definitely didn’t train for it, and haven’t been running much lately. The miles I have been running have been lazy, lackluster, and filled with stops to take pictures of my new scenery. (PS Did I tell you I got hit by a GOOSE on a run the other day? That asshole flew right into my face. It was traumatizing for me, but hilarious for the nearby construction crew that witnessed the brutal attack.)
Going into the race, my goal was to run all 6.2 miles without stopping. My how my goals have changed over the years. But hey, life happens sometimes. Turns out, running isn’t always my main priority! I had no plans to try and break records, and forgot to look up my 10K PR before the race. I couldn’t remember if my PR (from 2011, yikes) was 50 minutes, or if I had once broken the 50-minute barrier.
In spite of my vicious seasonal allergies, I have a bit of a love affair with Central Park in the springtime. It reminds me of when I met Brian, and of where I went for my first walks as I was bouncing back from a Crohn’s flare-up. I love when the park is all in bloom — even if that makes it so I can’t quite breathe.
I made it to the start an hour early. NDB. I picked up my bib (my first time doing day-of bib pickup!), used the bathrooms at Bethesda Terrace, and used a Porta Potty. I was so early that there were no lines for anything. We took a November Project team photo before getting into our corrals, and I was giddy seeing all my NP friends and teammates. I know I’ve only been out of the city for two weeks, but I felt like I hadn’t seen some of those kids in forever. Their hugs have never felt better.
After the team snapshot, I scooted over to Corral D. Just as the singer began the National Anthem, the rain started to fall. I did not care. I was happy to be out with 8,000 or so other runners, and was kind of eager to see what was going to happen, considering my amazing training and stellar running-related work ethic of late.
I’m still running watchless, and I decided not to use my Strava app during the race because as much as I would’ve liked to see my post-race splits, I didn’t want my phone to die during the race. (Poor thing can’t handle the cold sometimes.)
I turned on my music, popped in my headphones, and then we were crossing the start line.
The course is a full loop of Central Park, and it’s a rare case in which the race runs clockwise (most CP races run a counter-clockwise loop, which I think is harder). This meant we got to go down Harlem Hill and down Cat Hill. There are other rolling hills along the way, but I prefer running this direction. (It sappily reminds me of when Brian and I started dating — I began running the clockwise loop of the park knowing he’d be riding his bike going counter-clockwise, and that meant I would get to see him a bunch of times during my run. #stalker)
Even though it was insanely crowded, I probably ran the first mile too fast. I remember coming up behind and then passing two of my NP teammates (they’re dating and were racing together, awwwww you guys!), and thinking to myself, “Shit, I should be nowhere near them.” Both are significantly faster than I am, so I had no business passing them. But I felt fine, so I rolled with it.
I didn’t notice the first mile’s rolling hills, and mile two came up quickly. I fell into a happy groove where I felt like I was working decently hard, but I wasn’t gasping for air [yet]. I wanted to save that for the second half.
Mile three takes you into the Harlem Hills. You run up a short but steep-ish hill, then you get to cruise down the main Harlem Hill before ascending a second, longer-and-winding hill. My legs felt great climbing the hills and I was passing some people, but I got to the top and it was like I ran into a knife.
I got the worst side-stitch of my life. It felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. I tried to even out my breathing and stay calm and shake out my arms a bit, hoping it would work itself out, but it never did.
I slowed down a lot in the second half. I started noticing a few people passing me, then everyone was passing me. It was like a wave came up from behind all of us, and it took everyone forward with it, but I was chained to an anchor and couldn’t move forward. My breathing was super shallow and the pain in my right side was becoming unbearable. (Kim Kardashian, is this what it feels like when you wear your waist trainers? I wanted to Tweet that to you during the race but my phone was in a plastic baggy in my SpiBelt, so I couldn’t!)
We passed Engineers’ Gate, and I waved to Bernie’s Bench, and then as we approached Cat Hill, I got a crazy tickle in my throat that wouldn’t let up. I tried coughing and hacking, but I was mid-run so it was unproductive. I finally pulled over to the side of the course, heaved out a massive, ugly, mucus-y cough, and then continued on my way. (At that point, my aforementioned faster NP teammates breezed by me and I never saw them again.)
I knew there were only two miles left at this point, but I just wanted my cramp to go away. We got to the mile five mark, and it hurt so bad that I pulled off to the side of the course again to try and stretch out the cramp. Another friend and NP teammate ran up behind me and yelled something along the lines of, “Come on, let’s finish this together!” OK. Screw this cramp. So I chased her and followed her to the finish.
My fast fast fast teammates were already done and cooled down and on the sidelines cheering just past the six mile-marker, so when I heard their screams, I powered forward in spite of the pain. I didn’t have much of a kick, but I managed to pass a few people in the final stretch.
I crossed the line fully exhausted. I was that girl gasping for air, keeled over just past the finish line. It was pouring rain and my legs were filthy, and I was so happy to be done. I still had my cramp, but I made it through.
My official finish time was 48:51 (a 7:52 pace, and good enough for a 44 second PR).
Then I went to 16 Handles, had two (OK, six) mimosas at my friend’s baby shower, and took a $63 Uber back to West New York, NJ. My bad.
It was a really good day.
Congratulations to everyone who was out racing this weekend! It was cold and windy and rainy here in the northeast, so power to you if you were out running through it all. (Racers, report back! How’d it go?)