What’s this? A New York Road Runners race that isn’t in a park? Surely it must be something like a half marathon, right? Wait, it’s a 5k? The Road Runners almost never do 5Ks. Where is it? Fort Washington? Where the heck is that? Wait, Manhattan goes up that far? Wow.
Thus was my thought process for Coogan’s. It’s been a long time since I ran a timed 5k race. I also realized it’s been a long time since I ran a race this big. I had no idea what to expect. Even the weather forecast wasn’t cooperating. Would it be warm or cold? What about rain? Ughh. Too many decisions. In the end I made the decision to do shorts and long sleeve tech shirt. Wasn’t a bad choice, but it was so warm I could have easily done with a short sleeve shirt.
I arrived at The New Balance Armory to pick up my number around 8am after leaving at 7am. This was a pleasant change from the Al Gordon 4M last week when I had to catch the 5:11am train. It hadn’t started to rain yet, but you could tell it would soon. You could also tell the race was going to be big. Much bigger than I expected. I told myself this because I had been half demoted to a yellow bib instead of my normal red. People were lounging all over the place inside of the armory and on the streets outside killing time before the race which helped restore some of my confidence.
While doing some quick runs for a warmup it started to rain. Not really hard, but certainly enough to be annoying. I think this might have led them to start the race a few minutes early. The course was a pretty simple route along Fort Washington Ave: up a medium hill, down a small hill, up a small hill, down a big hill, around The Cloisters, up the big hill, down a small hill, up a small hill, down a medium hill. This wasn’t a course that was built for speed. The road surface also had potholes. Did I also mention there were more than 5300 people on the course along a two lane road? Elbowtastic.
It took me about 50 seconds to cross the starting line. Slower than last week in Prospect Park. The first mile felt slow. I think it was somewhere around 8:40 when I hit the marker, for a 7:50mile. It was cramped and people were making due. I got bumped a few times, but nothing big. It’s expected in large races. As we approached the split the lead runners came around. I looked at them and half thought “They don’t look so fast”, then I thought some more and realized, yes, they’re very fast. The loop around the Cloisters was beautiful as usual, then back to the chaos of runners in both directions.
I hit mile 2 and estimated my time at about 7:30/mile. I wasn’t really going for super speed. Just to have a good time, but man, these hills were dragging on me. The last mile was kinda a blur. I remember thinking it smelled under the GW, but that’s about it. I crossed the line and knew that I was under 24:00 for total. Final time: 23:00 even. Much better than expected.
My RunKeeper results turned out to be pretty accurate this time. I don’t doubt that I ran an extra 0.1 miles during the race. Lots of weaving in and out of people and taking some curves very wide to avoid folks running 2-3 abreast. No biggie. I managed to pull off negative splits (ignore the 1st mile, there’s a GPS jitter there that had me leaping around), which made me feel good. In short, everything was much better than expected.
After the race I headed down to Chinatown to meet some friends for vegetarian dim sum at Buddha Bodai. It’s nice when you go to a vegetarian place and don’t realize the food it vegetarian. However, the real highlight was checking out the Nutropolitan Museum of Art after. If there’s one thing that fuels runners like nothing else, it’s peanut butter. Interesting Peanut Butter art, make your own sandwiches, plus freebies. Oh yeah, and an awesome photo of me with a monkey.