Race Report: 2014 Run for the Parks 4-Mile Run

Run For The Parks 4-Mile Run

Finishing Run For The Parks in Central Park. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

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.

Run For The Parks 4-Mile Run

Stretching in Central Park after my 6-miler on Saturday. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

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.

Run For The Parks 4-Mile Run

Phil waits in line for race-day registration. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

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.

Run For The Parks 4-Mile Run

That’s me saying “Bleh!” and laughing at the same time. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

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.

Run For The Parks 4-Mile Run

Run For Life? Yes! If I can get my act together. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

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.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


04 2014

18 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    Wise words. I started running based on time, and not pace. But now I am trying to get faster, and I have push myself to pick up the pace, even though it’s not as pleasant as just slogging through the miles. Gotta work for that speed!
    Jojo @ RunFastEatLots recently posted..The Ultimate Coffee DateMy Profile

  2. 3

    True words. Hopefully your cold is behind you as well as your foot problems. Good luck breaking through the plateau.
    Lesley recently posted..Random Sunday MusingsMy Profile

  3. 5

    That is some seriously good advice from your friend. Such a simple concept, but powerful!

    Good luck in your sub-2 hour training. You got this!

  4. 7


    Nice race! I hear what you’re saying re: longer race distances. I think you will figure it out when you find a good training rhythm. Perhaps try some NEW workouts or follow a different training plan for your goal race?

    And that’s cool you met Rachel Toor– I really enjoy her columns.

    I haven’t run ANY NYRR races since the 2013 INGNYCM… I kinda miss them! I’ve been running trails and trail races instead… But I think I’ll sign up for NYRR Queens 10K — it’s in my home borough and I ran it in ’12 and ’13 so I want to keep the streak going. I agree w/ you so much about how well NYRR organizes its races — I’ve only had minor gripes over a few relatively small missteps in almost 4 years of running NYRR races.

    Good running!
    Arun recently posted..Race Report: Cold Feat 10KMy Profile

  5. 9

    This winter has thrown us all off our game a little I think. But like you said, considering your running of late, finishing around the same time as last year is pretty good. I know it’s frustrating staying the same instead of getting better but you’re strong and focused and you got this! I think this warm weather will bring out the running in all of us. 2014 is the year for getting our goals! :)
    Kellie recently posted..Who Wants to Help Me Go Shopping?!?!My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      “2014 is the year for getting our goals!” I like that, Kellie! I’m feeling very optimistic about what warm weather will bring. I’m actually excited to get back to some real training.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: 2014 Run for the Parks 4-Mile RunMy Profile

  6. 11

    I’d say you had a respectable time to start the season!
    I can’t wait to run again in Central Park one day. You are indeed lucky to have that in your “backyard”.
    Kristi recently posted..How Did I Run Such a Solid 30k?My Profile

  7. 13

    Very cool! I’ve often thought about what it would be like to work for RunDisney or Rock n Roll or the like. I wonder if being behind the scenes working on producing the videos would be frustrating because I couldn’t run the races.
    Anyway, I’ve never run a 4 mile race, I’ll have to look for one. I did get to run through Central Park last time I was in NYC, that was a bucket list experience for me, even though it wasn’t a race.
    Scott Evans recently posted..The Killers, Taxes & Open Mouthed SelfiesMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      I love doing On The Run. Truly and sincerely. Being behind the scenes is as much fun as running. And you’re still a part of the event, so it’s pretty cool. I think from a tourist perspective, I might take a Sunday jog through the park over a race, because you can really take it in and enjoy it. Central Park is my favorite place in NYC!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..I’m In SHAPE Magazine! Running Diva Dash MinneapolisMy Profile

  8. 15

    Its so simple and so true! To run fast you have to run fast. I keep intending to work on speed and yet it always falls to the wayside when life gets in the way and it is much easier to work on “endurance” (what I tell myself) or just get through the miles. I love the picture of you at the finish – a picture is worth a 1,000 words!
    Emily recently posted..2014 GO! St Louis HalfMy Profile

  9. 17

    Love Central Park, but yes, it’s hilly. I remember walking up Cat Hill a couple of times.

    I think Rachel could have also said (in your case) “if you want to run fast you have to run more.” Paces dropping off indicate poor endurance. You can improve that by running more days per week, miles per week, miles per month. Simple!
    Ewen recently posted..Great racing!My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Yes, the first mile of this race was up Cat Hill. And that’s not even the toughest hill in the park! And you’re 100% right about endurance. I’m thinking of going back to streaking. It was working so well for me and will help me get in those days and miles! Great advice as always. Thanks, Ewen!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..I’m In SHAPE Magazine! Running Diva Dash MinneapolisMy Profile


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