Race Report: 2014 NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

Cheering on the men with my teammates. (Courtesy of NYRR)

Smells like team spirit? You bet.

The NYRR Team Championships is a 5-mile race in Central Park for all the running clubs in New York City. It’s one of the most fun races of the year and one of the best deals in the Big Apple at $10-$20 depending on how far in advance you sign-up.

Race Report: 2014 NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler

(NYRR instagram)

To register, you must belong to an NYRR-recognized team (there are more than 90 of them) and run at least one NYRR race for that team in the previous year, though you don’t have to be an NYRR member. (In am an NYRR member and host On The Run, their web and TV show.)

However, most of NYRR’s 55+ races and events are open to everyone, members and non-members, team runners and non-team runners, tourists and New Yorkers alike, including dozens of 4-mile, 5-mile and 10K races in Central Park. If you want to run and race in New York City the next time you visit, you can find the whole schedule at nyrr.org. Team Championships is one of the few events that’s just for club runners.

Men and women race separately, which makes for a great morning. The men cheer on the women while they race and then the women root for the guys.

The course is a 5-mile loop, which makes it easy to catch your friends at the half or 1-mile marker, then cut across the center of the park to see them again at the 4 or 4.5-mile mark. Team runners line the entire first and last miles, with a few dotting the other miles in between.

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler

With some teammates before the start. (Courtesy of NYRR)

As a result, NYRR Team Championships has the most people watching and cheering of any of the smaller “local” events in Central Park. Of course, teams cheer loudest for their own teammates as they race by, but we all clap and cheer for everyone. This team spirit is what makes it one of my favorite events.

Then, many teams have picnics in the park afterward. My team, the New York Harriers (not to be confused with the Hash House Harriers and Hashers), is no exception. We hold our annual team picnic after the race and take our annual team photo. More than 50 of our teammates came out to race and a few more showed up just to cheer runners on.

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

The course

Overall, 839 men finished the event and 599 women crossed the line at the NYRR Team Championships, making it one of the smallest races in Central Park. If you’re a New York runner and need an excuse to join a team, there you have it.

The morning of Saturday, August 2 was off to a rainy start for the women’s race at 8:30 am. Despite the humidity, I welcomed the 65 degree temperature, a rarity in New York City in August. By the men’s start at 9:30 am, the rain had stopped and humidity dropped to 90 percent for the best summer racing conditions I’ve even seen in Central Park. It’s usually sweltering.

The Course

Any who has run in Central Park knows this: it’s hilly with nary a straightaway in sight.

The first mile of this course climbs three hills in succession. The second mile is gloriously downhill. The third mile gently undulates.

The fourth mile encompasses the biggest climb of the course and second largest incline in all of Central Park, affectionately know as “Cat Hill” because of life-size bronze sculpture of a cougar perched on a rock atop the hill. During the TCS New York City Marathon, runners get to run down Cat Hill. In many NYRR races, we run up it. How far up? Cat Hill has a grade of 3.7 percent, climbing 49 feet over a quarter mile. For comparison, Heartbreak Hill has a grade of 3.3 percent, climbing 91 feet over half a mile. It’s not as long as Heartbreak Hill, but ever so slightly steeper.

The fifth mile feels a bit like olly olly oxen free. It’s mostly flat with the longest straightaway in Central Park as you run along the Reservoir before a slight dip then climb into the finish.

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

Running in the first mile. (RunKarlaRun.com)

Karla’s Race

I had zero expectations going into this race. I successfully ran a 5-mile personal best at the Firecracker 8K in July and finished my first triathlon of the summer just six days before. (Race report to come!) I knew my legs and body were still tired from the tri (it’s not quite, but close to a half-marathon level of effort for me). To make matters worse, I ran a few fast 800 meter repeats on Thursday. I had a 5-mile tempo run on my schedule, so the race fit in well. My goal was just to go out and run 9-minute miles, putting in a hard effort.

As my home turf, my feet know every dip and turn of this course well. So I knew to run an easy first mile up the West Side hills, let it rip in the long downhill of the second mile, hold it through the undulations of the third and hope I’d left enough gas to get up Cat Hill in the fourth mile, before the straightaway of mile 5 into the finish.

I also knew this: I tend to lose mental focus and fortitude at the halfway mark of most races. I don’t know why. But the middle mile or mile after halfway at any distance is usually my slowest. Knowing and recognizing that, I wanted to practice staying positive, focused and pushing hard through that mile. For a 5-miler, that meant making sure I kept my pace during Mile 3.

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

In the last mile. (RunKarlaRun.com)

Here was my inner monologue for most of the race:

Mile 1, 8:55: Just take it easy Karla. Three hills. You know this. You’ve got this. (Glances at watch) Great, 8:55 pace! Just hold it here.

Mile 2, 8:43: Okay, three hills done. Downhill for a mile. Wheeeeeeeee! Why can’t every race be downhill all the way? This is really easy.

Mile 3, 8:35: Wow! I feel great! I might even run a PR! I know I said I’d run 9’s, but I feel so good. Halfway done and I’m crushing this. Stay focused, keep pushing. Maybe I’ll push the pace. Yep, let’s push the pace. That sounds like a great idea!

Mile 4, 9:55: Oh my gosh, why did I push the pace? I’m dying! Why is Cat Hill so steep? Why is it so long? Why didn’t I leave enough gas in the tank? I can’t breathe! I need water! OK, Karla pull it together. You know this hill, you own this hill. Just keep pushing. There’s a water station just after the hill. Just make it to the water station. Ahhhhh!

Mile 5, 8:51: OK, just one mile to go. You can run one mile. It’s flat. It’s fast. You can make up some time here. Just keep pushing. Just keep pushing. (Glances at watch and proceeds to count down minutes to the finish) There’s Phil! There’s my team! I’m dying (Sticks out tongue like a dog as they cheer).

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

Pushing hard (RunKarlaRun.com)

Finish, 44:59: Ahhhh! The finish! There it is! Thank God, I’m done! (Slows to walk) Ack, I’m gonna barf. (Begins to dry heave multiple times). Breathe through your nose! (Takes deep breath, dry heaves again) Keep walking! (Takes one more deep breath through nose. Narrowly averts hurling.) Phew, that was hard.

So my plan to run a tempo pace of 9 minute miles didn’t exactly succeed. Sure, my overall pace was 9:00 even, but I didn’t run even splits, instead fluctuating wildly from 8:35 to 9:55.

In my overzealousness to make sure that third mile wasn’t the slowest of the race, I pushed too hard and blew up when I reached a tough hill in Mile 4. Sure, Mile 3 was my fastest mile instead of my slowest, but it was a bit too fast. I swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. I would have been better off had I stuck with 8:55-9 minute miles instead of dropping Mile 3 like it was hot. You run and you learn.

NYRR Team Championships Takeaways

Here’s what this race taught me:

1) Don’t over do it just because you don’t want to under do it. I blew up my race because I wanted to cure myself of my mid-race blues. Sure, the middle of my race rocked. But the end sucked as a result. Maybe the mid-race blues aren’t so bad.

2) I need to train hills. I couldn’t help thinking of Kellie at Will Run For Ears, who dubbed the hills of Central Park the “HILLS OF DOOM.” The capitals are her emphasis. The moniker was sadly right for me at the NYRR Team Championships.

Race Report: 2014 NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler

Go Harriers! (RunKarlaRun.com)

3) If you have teammates on the course, use them. During my delusional, wonderous Mile 3, I caught up to a teammate who’s just a bit faster than me. We often run track workouts together. Instead of sticking with her and working the rest of the race together, I passed her. It’s no surprise that she caught me during Mile 4 as I slowed to get water. She waved to me and said, “Come on, Karla! Let’s go!” I shook my head and waved to her to keep pressing on. I sincerely appreciated the encouragement. I would have loved to hang with her into the finish. But I just didn’t have it in me. I might have if I’d stuck with her the first time I found her. She finished 1:10 ahead of me at an 8:46 pace. Next time, instead of passing a teammate, I’m just going to stick with them as long as it makes sense.

Race Report: 2014 NYRR Team Championships 5 Miler

Harrier men (Courtesy of NYRR)

After the race, I cheered on my husband and the other Harrier men. Then we stuck around for the team picnic. All in all, it was a really fun day. I ran a hard effort, even if I didn’t run it wisely, and I learned something in the process.

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

Ready to race! (RunKarlaRun.com)

What I Wore

Why, I always match my hat to my race bib. Actually, that was just a happy coincidence. Here’s the gear that got me through the race:

Nike New York Harriers Singlet: When you’re running for your team, you need a team shirt!

New Balance Boylston Short: I love how light these shorts are and their really subtle black-on-black pattern.

New Balance Momentum Stride Cap: Running in the rain? I need a hat or visor to keep rain from my eyes. I love this hat I got at the Jerusalem Half Marathon. Yup, the tag is in Hebrew. The hat is insanely light and vented on the sides.

New Balance 1400v2 Shoes: My fave racing shoes. They’re light and fast. (New Balance sent them to me to wear for On The Run at the Brooklyn Half, a race they sponsor).

Bia Multisport GPS Watch: I’m wear testing this new GPS watch, courtesy of Bia. The white clip you see on my shirt is the “brain” of the device that you can clip just about anywhere while you run: shirt, waistband, belt, hat, etc. That leaves a slim and compact watch for my wrist. I’ll be wearing Bia through the rest of the summer and will share all my thoughts about it after I’ve worn and raced with it some more.


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.

About The Author

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.

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Author his web sitehttp://runkarlarun.com


08 2014

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  1. 1

    Still an awesome race, we have ALL pushed too soon. You still finished strong, ran a great time and looked fabulous! I have read a few recaps of others from this race and it looks like a great time!
    Laura @losingrace recently posted..ROC Training: The Turning PointMy Profile

    • 2

      Thanks! I’m glad I slightly redeemed myself in that last mile. And it’s such a great race. You’d love it!

  2. 3

    Congratulations on another awesome race! I didn’t know what to expect with the Park hills during the NYC Half in March but they were tough! Thankfully, I had done lots of hill training so that kind of helped, haha!
    Kaella (KaellaOnTheRun) recently posted..A Very Inspiring Blogger AwardMy Profile

    • 4

      Thanks! Yes, hill training is essential if you’re racing Central Park. Even the pros I’ve interviewed talk about how tough the park is!

  3. 5

    What a great race! I love the idea of men and women running separate races and cheering each other on. It was fun reading your thoughts during each mile. I totally agree that each race teaches us different things! The only thing we can do is learn from it for future races! :0)
    Lauren @ Lauren’s Glass Slipper recently posted..Run Gait AnalysisMy Profile

  4. 7

    With the race excitement and those fast first miles I can see why you tried to hold that faster pace. It’s hard to know how hard to push ourselves. Congrats on your finishing time!
    Tina@GottaRunNow recently posted..A Healthy Snack & Your CommentsMy Profile

    • 8

      Thanks! Yes, sometimes it’s so hard to know. You could swear you could hold the pace for another few miles…and then you can’t. Oh well. At least I got a good laugh out of it!

  5. 9

    I really want to run in central park. I would love to do the 5 mile race but I am not a part of any of those running clubs.
    Meranda@fairytalesandfitness recently posted..How to get those Sold Out Items at Race ExposMy Profile

    • 10

      You still can! The Team Championships is the only one of NYRR’s races that you have to be a club member to run. They’ve got 50+ other races throughout the year that anyone can run including lots of 4 milers, 5 milers and 10Ks in Central Park. Check out the whole schedule at nyrr.org.

  6. 11

    That’s because there ARE the HILLS OF DOOM! Sorry they didn’t treat you well, but that’s still some awesome times! I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get 9:55 going down the HILLS OF DOOM! Thanks for the shout out! 🙂
    Kellie recently posted..Challenges, Challenges EverywhereMy Profile

    • 12

      Haha, thanks Kellie! I hope the HILLS OF DOOM treat you better next time!

  7. 13

    This is awesome! Such a great group! I think I told you, but my last visit to NYC I met up with a local run group and we ran around Central Park. It was a one time thing and I don’t remember who the group was exactly (my friend brought me there), but I wonder if you were there too!??!
    So how is your group different from the other Harriers??? I’ve heard of them – beer + running.
    Scott Evans recently posted..Man Panties & My New Teen Runnin BestiesMy Profile

    • 14

      That would have been crazy if I was there!! But there are like 90 running clubs in NYC, so who knows what group it was. So the Hash House Harriers are an international club that do scavenger hunt style runs, without scavenging and with lots of beer drinking. Someone lays a trail and then the rest of the club has to find and follow the trail. My team is just a regular old running club that happens to have Harriers in the name. Though we do go to a pub after our weekly track workouts. I hate beer though!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: 2014 NYRR Team Championships 5 MilerMy Profile

  8. 15

    One of my best friends is moving to NYC in 2 weeks. When I go up and visit can I join in on events even if I am not a NYRR member?
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted..Shine Activity Tracker ReviewMy Profile

    • 16

      Absolutely! NYRR has 50+ races and events each year that are open to everyone, non-members alike, including lots of races like this one in Central Park. You can check out the whole calendar at NYRR.org. Many of them sell out in advance, so when you know your travel dates take a look and register. And if you want to come for a group workout, you can pop in with my team, the Harriers. We welcome pop-ins at any time too!

  9. 17

    I LOVE this post!!!!!

    It was so great and so much fun reading about your thoughts while you were running. These are the best parts of a race report.
    Elle recently posted..Giving it Another Tri: NYC TriathlonMy Profile

  10. 19

    Your inner dialogue during the race sounds eerily familiar, lol. And then two seconds after the race is done, I’m all, “when’s the next one? That was awesome!”
    Judith recently posted..Exercise Addiction, Alcohol and Other Substitutes for FeelingsMy Profile

    • 20

      Totally! I do that all the time. When I was a teenager, 500m free was one of my events. During every stroke I used to think, “I hate this. I don’t know why I put myself through this. I’m never doing this again.” Then the second the race was over, my first thought was always, “That was awesome! I can’t wait to do that again!” Why? I have no idea.


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