I like big races. I like the energy of the crowds and the feel of a well-executed event. I like lining up next to guys I’ve beaten or who’ve beaten me to see who is going to gut it out on this particular Saturday.
I like small races, too. The community feel and variety of runners. The clear sense of a club or team or organization pulling together to execute what for them is a big event. And Saturday was a big event at Bronx Community College: the 33rd Hall of Fame Run and Walk. The race included a 10k and 5k run and a 2 mile walk.
The race was scheduled to go at 10. We showed up around 9:15 to check in, get situated, and do some warm-up laps. Despite the forecast of early rain, the weather was appealing on Saturday morning with bright shining sun and a nice breeze. The race start itself was moderately confused and messy, but it came together all right. They had initially announced that the 5k would start at 10:00 with the 10k and walk beginning at 10:10. I’m not sure how or when this changed or how it was communicated, but I found out at about 9:58 that all runners should start together at 10. Fortunately, as this was not a NYRR race, the gun time was much later than that. I scrambled over to the start and eased into the front section where I was surrounded by a nice turnout of VCTC purple, some WSX and DWRT runners, and plenty of unaffiliated runners.
After the typical chatter at the microphone, the runners seemed to bolt at the start. The pace of any start is often too fast, but this was ridiculous. The course started with a right turn onto 181st Street (Hall of Fame Terrace) followed by a quick left onto Aqueduct. This was a combination of downhill to flat and the runners, led by the 5k racers, were flying. Even though I was holding back, I ran the first half mile or so at a 5:30 pace. We ran along Aqueduct for about a quarter mile before turning onto 184th and dropping fast down to Grand Concourse. After another right, we headed south on Grand Concourse to the first turnaround at 170th St. At this stage I was still hanging with Chris Ekstrom and a small group cruising just below a 6:00 pace, but I knew I needed to should drop back to avoid blowing up later. So, sadly, I let Chris and a few others slide away from me. Not long after I let them go, I realized I was putting myself in a bad—if necessary—position. I went from running in solid group to running alone. I locked onto the back of the closest runner and resolved not to let him go.
And up the Concourse we went. We pretty quickly said goodbye to the 5k leaders who were heading to their finish and plodded north along the uneven roadway. For those who haven’t raced this road, it is not flat. Rather, it’s a series of 300 meter stretches of climbing and dropping. With sun in my face and not enough breeze to help, I did what I could to hang onto my pacer. We were about 3 ½ miles in when we hit the Van Cortlandt Park Avenue East turnaround at. I ate a caffeinated gel, grabbed a too-small cup of water to wash it down, and closed the last 15 feet to pass my pacer. Sadly, he passed me again pretty quickly as we neared the fourth mile heading back down the Concourse. This time, though, I hung tight and followed him on what felt like a soul-crushingly dull fifth mile.
I finally started to feel some relief as we approached the turn onto 184th Street. Here, there were at least a few spectators to holler at us; the majority of the course was basically silent save for the cheering of fellow VCTC runners as we passed each other. The climb back up 184th to Aqueduct felt steep at this stage, but psychologically I was finally feeling better. I knew the damned race was almost over, and I knew I had hung within shouting distance of a younger and fitter-looking runner. As we turned from Aqueduct to 181st I felt the end of race surge that typically carries me over the line. I accelerated up the hill into the finish and was in an all out sprint when I crossed the line in 14th place at 39:40.
I can’t say I am happy about 14th. Or 39:40. Indeed, it’s not even close to the sub-39 I intended when I signed up for the race. That said, I do believe the course was a bit longer than advertised and it was certainly a warmer day and more challenging course than I anticipated. Garmin told me I averaged 6:17 a mile while my official time was 6:23. Not a huge difference, but when combined with the longer distance I recorded I think there’s a bit something to it. No matter, really. The takeaway for me from the race is that I was tired going it, tired during me run, and tired at the finish. It goes without saying that I shouldn’t be doing double days on a Thursday before a race, but it’s good to be reminded what happens when I do.
I have another 10k this weekend, but my plan is simply to run it at 6:35, my target half-marathon pace for the Brooklyn Half. Even so, I plan for a somewhat more relaxed running week. No double tempo on Thursday and nothing more intense than my Tuesday track workout.
Congratulations to all the finishers, especially to my many teammates who placed prominently in their age groups in both the 5k and 10k.