Sunday, I ran a 4-mile race in the park called “The Race to Deliver.” This is very popular race for two reasons. The first is that the race benefits “God’s Love We Deliver,” a beloved NYC organization that delivers high-quality meals to people around the city too sick to cook or shop for themselves. The second reason is that it’s the first race post-marathon that most marathoners are recovered enough to run.
I hadn’t “raced” in a long time. I ran a 5K race a few weeks ago but alongside my friend from work, and I let her set the pace. The Race to Deliver wasn’t a goal race for me. I didn’t follow a dedicated training plan, but I was excited to get out there and see what I could do.
The day before the race, Matt and I went hiking with our friends Aman and Steph. The hike wasn’t especially long or strenuous, but it was steep. Hiking uphill is 100% fine for my ankle but headed downhill is where I get into trouble. (The descent is where I sprained my ankle in Colombia.) I didn’t get injured on Saturday’s hike but my ankle was definitely a little sore headed into Sunday.
The race started where all New York Road Runners 4-mile races starts, at East 68th Street on the Park Drive. In fact, if you’ve never run a 4-mile race in NYC before, this post may help break it down for you.
I arrived right before the 8:30am start time and slipped into a corral. I started a corral or two behind where I should have been. Starting out in a slower pace group is a total safety net move for me. It’s admittedly a weird habit and I need to break it because it slows me down during the first mile.
I love the pre-race vibe in the corrals. It makes me feel like I am a part of a community that I chose myself and that I fit into. I love when Peter Ciaccia (the President of NYRR) gives his little pre-race speech and then says “Do I have clearance on the raceway?” before we take off. Something about the sameness of it each race warms my heart.
The first mile of the 4-mile loop includes Cat Hill. There is a lot of runner emotion about Cat Hill but I think if you’ve run the hill a few times, you’ll end up deciding that it’s a short hill and not so bad. What makes it a little challenging is that the hill isn’t straight up, but on a curve. Mile 1 was my slowest mile. (9:12/mile)
(Sidebar: Do you have any Cat Hill superstitions? Matt always salutes the cat statue, I sometimes nod at it but often ignore it.)
Mile 2 is my favorite mile in the race. It’s a net downhill (-33 feet according to Strava/my Garmin) and it takes you along the east side, past Engineers Gate (the east 90th Street entrance to the park) and north until your first turn on to the 102 transverse. (8:43/mile)
Mile 3 is rough. Here is where you really hit the West Side hills. Cat Hill gets all the glory and fear because it has a name and that stupid statue but the hills on the West Side are so much tougher. And you know what, they have a name too. So there. The three hills together are called the “Three Sisters.” This mile had a net elevation gain of +44 feet. By this point in the race I’m at least warmed up but it’s mentally tough to see the crowd of runners in front of you heading straight up so many times. (8:47/mile)
Mile 4 is kind of great. It’s a net downhill (-55 feet). Once I can see the turn to the finish line (the finish line is on 72nd, and at this point you’re headed South on the West side of the park) it’s easy for me to just power through. The last .10 of the race is lined with people cheering and it’s awesome. This was my speediest mile of the race. (8:09/mile)
Average pace: 8:43/mile
This was not my fastest 4-mile race in the park. Not even close, actually. But it wasn’t my slowest either.
When you haven’t raced in a while (like me) it’s hard to remember how to trust yourself and set a smart pacing strategy. I was very wary of starting out too fast, but to be honest when I saw my first mile was a 9:xx I wondered if I wasn’t having my best race and if I had started too slow.
Most crucially, this was the last race I needed to qualify for the 2017 NYC Marathon through the 9+1 program. The 9+1 program requires you run 9 NYRR races and volunteer at one. TBD if I actually run it, but I am excited to have the options
NYC runners, do you have any Cat Hill traditions/superstitions?
Did anyone else race this weekend?