Regular readers know I host On The Run, New York Road Runners’ Web and TV show about running. It’s a job I genuinely love that has one flaw: I don’t get to run any of the races I cover for the show. It’s OK. I’ve run most of NYRR’s major events in the past: TCS New York City Marathon, NYC Half, Brooklyn Half, Staten Island Half, Fifth Avenue Mile, the list goes on.
Thankfully, NYRR puts on dozens of other races throughout the year. I’ve done a New York Road Runner’s 4-mile run in April every year since 2007, except 2012. It’s traditionally my first fitness test of the year. Basically, this one is my annual wake-up call.
Today, I finished the City Parks Foundation Run for the Parks 4-Mile Run. Last year, the race on April 21 was an especially emotional one. Just one week after the attack at the Boston Marathon, New York Road Runners turned the event into a Run For Boston and benefit for The One Fund Boston. I’ve never seen so much blue in Central Park. My race report is here: An Emotional Run For Boston At Run For The Parks.
This year’s race reminded me of a few things.
First, I’m lucky to call Central Park home turf. The day before the race, I logged 6 miles, much of them through the park. After a winter of hiding out on the treadmill and running errands on the city streets, Central Park kicked my butt. It’s both an unusually beautiful and challenging place to run.
My splits at this race were a case in point. Mile 1 is uphill and (and pretty crowded): I ran 9:20. Slow for me. Too slow. Mile 2 is mostly flat: I ran 8:39. Mile 3 is a series of three hills: I ran 9:01. Mile 4 is largely downhill: I ran 8:35.
Second, I’ve run enough races—large and small, within New York City and without—to be continually impressed by how well-run NYRR events are. Nearly every weekend, and in this case two days in a row, they put on races with 5,000+ runners. Yesterday’s Scotland Run 10K had 8,067 finishers. Today’s Run For The Parks 4-Mile Run had 5,542 finishers. And those are just two of more than 55 races they put on each year.
Plus, NYRR races start on time, corrals are well-marked, and water stations have plenty of staff. Mile markers are always in place every mile, often with a time-clock. Water, a bagel and fruit (at this race an apple) are at the finish of most events. Race results are posted before you even get home, and I live a 20-minute walk from the finish. Yes, some are crowded and Run For The Parks was no exception. But I’ve never been so boxed in that I can’t run the race I want. And as an NYRR member, I paid just $25 for race-day registration.
Third, I’ve got some work to do. I had no delusions whatsoever about running a personal best. I just wanted to go out there, run hard and see where I’m at.
Well, in the exact same place as last year, it seems. I finished in 35:34, 5 seconds behind my time at the same race, on the same course last year. That’s 56 seconds behind my 4-mile personal best of 34:38, which I ran at a track workout last fall.
Basically, I’ve reached a fitness plateau. The fact that I simultaneously said, “Bleh!” while laughing and gasping for breathe at the finish says it all. This photo perfectly captures how I felt. What’s it going to take to break through? Running, running and more running.
After a strong start to my winter training, I fell off the wagon. I battled some mystery foot pain that subsided once I backed off running, took two international trips where I ran exactly once during each, came down with a cold that sidelined me for another week, and struggled to string together workouts in between.
In the entire month of March, I barely scraped together 40 miles of running. That’s compared to 90 miles in December and 80 miles in each January and February. Considering that, I’m quite pleased with my time.
But on the other hand, if I want to get serious about breaking sub-2 in the half-marathon this year I have to get serious about my training. My pace today was 8:54. If I hope to run a half in the 9:00-9:10 pace range, I’ve got to up the ante in workouts.
Which brings me to the fourth thing this race highlights: I seem to have a mental and physical block when it comes to race distances farther than 5K.
My 5K personal best is 24:46, which I nailed just this last November at the Trot Off Your Turkey 5K. That’s a 7:59 pace. My 3-mile PR is even faster at a 7:47 pace.
I should be able to run 4 miles at an 8:03 pace, 10K at 8:17 and a half-marathon at 8:45 per the McMillan Running Calculator, which in the past has been incredibly accurate for me. Yet, I haven’t even come close. My 4-mile and 10K PR paces are both in the 8:40-8:45 range and my half-marathon PR pace stands at 9:12.
Something’s gotta give. For starters, I’ve get to get back into training. A 40-mile month does not a runner make. In said training I’ve got to hit my paces.
During my trip to the Jerusalem Marathon, I had the pleasure of getting to know Running Times’ columnist Rachel Toor.
“If you want to run fast,” she told me, “you have to run fast.”
Wiser words about training have never been spoken. I’ve got to get back to weekly speed workouts and do my dreaded tempo runs, much as I hate them.
So with my marching orders in place, here goes. I’ve got some training to do.