On Sunday, I ran my first-ever mile race — the inaugural Brooklyn Mile!
I was irrationally nervous about this race all week. Every time I would go on the race page, I would get a knot in my stomach — the kind of nerves usually reserved for dance competitions, marathons, or the daily 4 PM email about my Hamilton lottery status. (Yes, I’ve already seen it. Yes, I still enter the lottery every single day.)
Whenever I would tell someone I was racing on Sunday, they’d ask how far the race was. I would respond saying it was a mile, and people would laugh! “That’s it?” “Oh, that’s nothing!” To which I would kind of balk, because people, it’s not the distance that makes a race hard, it’s the effort you put behind it! (Write that down.)
Yes, I have run thousands of miles in my lifetime. But I had never raced one singular mile, so I had no idea how to pace it, what it would feel like, how badly it would hurt, or what I would be capable of.
Based on my times on the track lately, I decided I wanted to break seven minutes. I tend to hover around that time for my 400m repeats, so I figured in a race environment, I could hopefully break that. But who knows.
I was also nervous about the race because I had no idea how to get to the start. I’m so accustomed to doing New York Road Runners races in Central Park, and even after moving out of Manhattan, I have that race-day ritual down to a science. (Luv u, Uber.) But this race would take place in Brooklyn! So transportation would be a challenge: The ferry doesn’t run early enough on the weekends, the subways and PATH trains are confusing, and all that jazz.
But Jersey Girl Emily to the rescue! My fast and fabulous neighbor-to-the-south Emily agreed to get me to the start on time. I took the Light Rail to meet her in Hoboken, and then we Uber-ed our way to Williamsburg. We got to the start with more than an hour to spare. Easy peez.
At this point in writing about running and training this summer, it goes without saying that it was hot out.
There were several different starts, and the Open Women’s division was set to kick off at 9:30. That’s late. But it was only a mile, right?
Also, FYI, I did not go to Outback for my pre-race dinner. Again. Instead, I had pesto pasta, which was delicious, but it was not a 6 oz. Victoria’s Filet (medium rare) with a baked potato (butter only) and asparagus ($1 extra charge). I wasn’t in the mood for it the night before, so pesto it was! This isn’t really important, I just like to remind people that Outback is the greatest steakhouse of our time.
So I woke up Sunday morning, I ate a little bit of my oatmeal thing, I kissed Ellie goodbye (and maybe Brian, too, I don’t remember), and I was off to the races!
Also of note: I decided not to wear my HOKAs! In the spirit of it being a mile, I decided to go with a flatter, smaller pair, wondering if they would give me some speed. So I wore a pair of Nike LunarEpic shoes that I received at Nike’s Innovation Summit earlier this year and had never run in before. Everything new on race day!
Emily and I got to the start, met up with some November Project teammates, and then I checked my bag and headed off to do a little warmup. I slow-jogged two miles and worked up a good sweat. My legs felt heavy but I didn’t overthink it. I was excited and nervous and excited and sweaty!
Eventually, we all started to work our way toward the start so we could watch the Men’s and Women’s Masters heats. (Our NP co-leader, John, was racing in the Masters field and placed third! No big.)
After the Masters fields took off, it was time for the women to line up!
I loved everything about this race and thought it was executed really well, but if I could give one piece of feedback, it would be to tell the announcer at the start that yes, we are women, and yes, we are runners, but no, that doesn’t mean we “rolled up straight from the club” to run the race. Also, as much as I love Beyoncé’s “Run the World” song, I am getting mighty sick of it being the only song they play at women’s races. (We also got “Brave” by Sara Bareeirielelles, which I doubt they played for the men. Minor gripe, but #equality. Give me some DMX or something.)
There were no corrals or anything since this was a smaller race, and I found myself lined up behind the 6:30 pacer. That seemed a little faster than what I thought I was capable of, but hey, why not try to stick with her?
The announcer yelled “On your marks,” and then we were off. I locked into a pace right out of the gate that felt comfortable, and as we kept running, it started to feel harder. I didn’t look at my watch at all, so I have no idea if I sped up, slowed down, or stayed consistent, but I managed to stay right with that 6:30 pacer, as well as a handful of my NP teammates. I ran without music, and I didn’t start heavy breathing until the final 400m or so.
The spectators were awesome, and the energy of this race was great. There was a huge Nike cheer squad around the 800m (halfway) mark, and they gave me a huge boost to keep moving. Then, as the finish line came into sight, I remember the 6:30 pacer yelling to the runners around her, “OK, that was six minutes — go!” She slowed a bit so we could surge, and I crossed the finish line in 6:23.
I kind of couldn’t believe I beat my goal by so much, but it was a huge confidence boost. My training is going well so far, and I’m excited to be feeling strong and hopefully getting faster.
And to all the people who were all, “It’s only a mile?” Let me tell you, you can absolutely get a runner’s high from “just a mile!” I had so much fun running for 6 minutes and 23 seconds, and loved cheering for the other heats. (Shout-out to Michele who ran with the invitation-only Nike Fast Movers mile — blazing fast!)
I’m loving throwing shorter distance races into my training, and can’t wait to run the mile again. Next up: sub-6:20.
Congratulations to all of the Brooklyn Milers! So fun!
Great tips! Accepting that waking up super early doesn’t feel stellar, especially at first, and being okay with that and just rolling with it is key. Eventually it becomes second nature. I actually more often than not sleep in my running clothes and I also prep my breakfast the night before. This makes things so much more streamlines. I also like to have my work outfit already picked out for the next day so that when I am back from my run I’m not stressing about it. I am a daily runner and truly cannot imagine starting my day any other way. It keep me sane. I get that ‘how do you do it?’ question all the time as well. I recognize it isn’t for everyone and so much of it is really just a mental challenge and will really help with mental discipline. I also love that you gave a shout out to night /after work runners. I used to run after work years ago but just could not imagine doing that now. I manage Section 8 properties and my days are just way too unpredictable and often I am out and about at different properties late in the day. Not to mention I’m exhausted by 5 and really look forward to relaxing/errands/cooking/catching up with my own life. That being said, I often envy the energy that evening runners have!
Amazing! That was a blazin’ fast time for a blazin’ hot day. Congratulations. Also, your jumping photo — I’m not a dancer, but when I think of what a dancer looks like when she takes a jumping photo after a mile race, that’s what I picture. Nice job, girl!
Hi, very good post! Thanks…
So cool! Congrats on your PR! You are a fastie! 🙂
I’ve yet to do a mile race, so maybe eventually? I suppose the Galloway magic mile time-trial thing sort of counts, but it’s not a race, so… LOL
Wow, how cool! Congrats to your new PR! I have never raced a mile before. I’m not so great at the short speeds, so it probably would not be that impressive! Looks like you had a great time. Does a mile race still warrant a beer & burger? I hope so!
You know what phrase is grossly under-used? “Quad goals.” Which is what I said to myself when I saw that jumping picture.
PS. 6:23 is amazing!! I’ve had the goal of getting a sub-6 forever – haven’t done it since high school – but then I found out that getting pregnant and having a baby does not help with this goal and is actually a huge setback, so I am super jealous/impressed by your 6:23!!
Thanks for the inspiration Ali. I’m racing my first mile this year as well. #NB5thAveMile
How awesome! I have never tried to race a mile. I’m curious though.
I’ve never raced a mile! Haven’t found any mile races in California…AKA another one of a billion reasons to come back to NJ! Also, YES about distance vs effort. So frustrating when people think shorter distances are easier. I’ve had many a 5K crush my soul, haha.
That is crazy fast, lady! Congratulations.
I need to start incorporating more speed work in my training.