When I laid out my 2010 running goals I said that I wanted to run in two different half marathons this year and have at least one of those half marathons with a sub 1:50:00 time. At the time I made the post, I was unaware of the New York Road Runners Manhattan Half Marathon — two and a half gruelling laps up and down the hills of Central Park at the end of January. Naturally, I registered for the race.
It was brisk this morning, but not cold. The air was about 35 degrees, cold enough that most people were wearing tights, gloves, and hats. I warmed up by running to the starting line around West 62nd St at about a 10 minute/mile pace. As usual, the NYRR staff were on the ball on made it incredibly easy to get started with the race. I found my corral, which was a bit further back than normal due to the larger number of runners in this race, about 5500.
Although my training runs have been floating around 8:10/mi for runs around 7 miles, I felt like I wanted to take this run a bit easier. I knew I couldn’t overrun and spend the rest of the day in bed. Also, Central Park is tough, there’s a nasty hill on the northwest side of the park that I dreaded climbing twice. I set my goal to finish under 2 hours. The 1:50:00 goal would wait for another race that wasn’t so bad.
I got into my corral, turned on RunKeeper, and prepared myself for a leisurely couple of laps around the park. My first mile was slow, about 9 minutes, largely because of the large number of runners in the park. After that point I was able to pick up the pace some. Familiarity with the park definitely helped out. I’ve run enough around Central Park that I know every turn and hill in the park.
As I continued I kept up a good pace and RunKeeper dutifully chatted in my ear once every five minutes to let me know my approximate time, distance, and pace. 10:02, 9:25, 8:50, 8:40, 8:35, 8:30. I was now at considerably under my 2:00:00 overall pace and feeling great. I decided to try and stick with that pace. But I was feeling great. My pace hovered around 8:30, but then began to drop some more. Even on tough miles, like mile 10 which faced the dreaded hill, I continued to do well. In the end I crossed the finish line at 1:48:26, an 8:16 min/mi.
The race was great. A completely unexpected find, and even more unexpected that I would do so well. Two weeks ago I had my first race with a sub 8 minute overall pace, and today I ran an unexpected half marathon and finished faster than I thought I could. Interesting things await for the NYC Half Marathon in March. It’s a considerably easier course with considerably more people. Should I push down to 1:45? I think I should.