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I did it!!

Nine races and a 3-hour volunteer session later, I officially have guaranteed entry into the 2010 New York City Marathon!!! The NYC Marathon is notoriously difficult to get into, despite the fact that there are 40,000 or so spots — if you aren’t an elite athlete, celebrity, charity runner, don’t have a qualifying time, or haven’t completed 15 previous NYC marathons, you have to put your name in a lottery to get a spot.  If you try to get a spot through the lottery system, I believe you have a 20-25% chance of getting in, not the best odds in the world.

As a member of New York Road Runners (the organization that runs the marathon), however, you can gain guaranteed entry into the marathon by running nine road races and volunteering for NYRR in some capacity.  In addition to running my nine races, I also volunteered at the NYRR information booth in Central Park one evening, passing out park maps, letting people know about upcoming races, and giving out general park info.  Most people were curious about where bathrooms were, but one guy asked me where John Lennon was, which was pretty strange!  (He was really looking for Strawberry Fields 🙂 )

Here are the races that got me into next year’s marathon:

– Gridiron Classic (4 miler on Superbowl Sunday): finished in 47:53, an 11:58/mile pace

– NYRR 8000 (4.9 miles, or 8K): finished in 56:39, an 11:23/mile pace

– Colon Cancer 4 Mile Challenge: 44:24 (my 4-mile PR!), an 11:06/mile pace

– Scotland Run 10K (6.1 miles), completed in the POURING rain in March: 1:14:46, a 12:03/mile pace

– Healthy Kidney 10K: 1:17:53, a 12:33/mile pace (boo!)

– Fitness Magazine Mind, Body and Spirit Games (4 miles): 48:51, a 12:12/mile pace

– Norway Run (1.7 miles): 18:17, a 10:45/mile pace (fastest race pace ever, but shortest race ever!)

– NYRR Virtual Marathon

– Today’s Race to Deliver (recap below)

In addition to the 8 road races I completed, I also did the first annual Virtual Marathon, sponsored by NYRR and MapMyRun.com.  The virtual race took place the week of the marathon, and all you had to do was run 3 or more miles (up to 26.2) that week and record your run stats online.  The MapMyRun people would then take your pace and calculate your marathon finishing time.  I wound up walk/jogging 7.24 miles around Central Park in 1:39:25 (13:43/mile pace), which apparently translates to a 6:32:34 marathon!  I’m hoping to run a little bit faster than that next year! 🙂

So, back to today.  My final road race, a 4-miler, was scheduled for this morning at 8:30.  In order to make sure I was well-rested, I crashed around 10:30/11:00 last night and was up bright and early at 7am.  I threw on my running gear and my Garmin, kissed the husband and dog goodbye and was out the door by 7:20 or so.  I tend to run better with some caffeine in my system, so I stopped at Starbucks on my way to Central Park and grabbed a pre-race latte (as well as a post-race water bottle and banana), then continued on my way.

After getting my race number, timing chip and t-shirt, I finished up my latte, dropped off my bag at the bag check, made a quick porta-potty stop and headed for the start line.  I was feeling really good at the start; I had the perfect number of layers on, was wide awake thanks to a good night’s sleep and Starbucks, and had Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” pumping through my headphones.

Now I don’t know about you, but I find the first 5 minutes of a race the hardest.  You want to start strong, but not too strong that you bonk out early, and you have to weave through the crowds of people (running around the walkers without getting creamed by the faster runners trying to pass you) to get to the right spot.  Plus, you’ve probably spent the last 15 minutes or so standing still in the starting corral, so it takes a few minutes just to get loose and feel like a runner again.

Compounding the difficulties of the first 5 minutes of a race in Central Park are the hills.  Just about every 4-mile race in Central Park follows the same route: start on 72nd Street on the east side of the park, run north to the 102nd St. transverse, make a left onto West Drive, and run down to 72nd St. again.  The first mile has a good mix of hills and downhills, the second mile is virtually all downhill and SUPER fast, mile three has three terrible hills and makes you want to die/cry/quit, and mile four is a mix of the first three but still enables you to finish strong.

A few blocks into mile one is one of the infamous hills in Central Park: Cat Hill.  As this site confirms, “it is not the worst hill in the park [that’s Harlem Hill in the north part of the park]…but let’s just say, it’s a hill that every runner knows.”  Once you make it past Cat Hill you’re almost done with hills on the east side, which is nice, but it stinks that it comes up so quickly when you’re doing a 4-miler!  I made my way up the hill (where, ironically enough, a man was sitting with his dog next to the cat statue!), determined to run the whole race, and coasted down the other side.

The rest of mile 1 was pretty uneventful, and mile two was fantastic as usual.  I love running past the statue of Fred Lebow (the guy who started the NYC Marathon) and down the slow decline past the Metropolitan Museum of Art — it is such a great part of the city!  I ran across the transverse and headed to the west side’s dreaded hills.

The first of the hills comes at you as soon as you turn onto West Drive, and I’ve often stopped here during races to take a quick walk break.  Instead, I just focused on pumping my arms to gain momentum and ran the hills as best as I could, making up time by running the downhills a bit faster than the uphills.  After knocking out the first hill I felt pretty confident and kept my pace steady through the next two hills, picking it up a bit when I saw the 3-mile sign in the distance.

As I mentioned before, mile 4 has a few inclines but is generally pretty fast, so I picked up the pace a bit because I was feeling so strong and wanted to finish strong.  I gained a ton of momentum on the downhills and kept the faster pace up on the flat parts of the course.  When I turned onto the 72nd St. transverse and saw the finish line up ahead, I booked it, getting a few cheers from the crowd along the way (I checked my Garmin at the end of the race, and I think I was running a 7:49/mile pace for the last 100 meters or so!).  My final chip time was 45:40, and 11:25/mile pace, just about a minute slower than my previous PR!

I walked home from the park with a big smile on my face; not only did I run well and finish strong, but I also accomplished a huge goal I set for myself this year — earning a spot in next year’s marathon!  I can’t wait to start training seriously for the marathon, but I’ve got a few races to get through first: my next race is the Emerald Nights Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve, and I’m hoping to get another 2-3 half-marathons under my belt in the spring and summer, as well as a few more 4-milers and 10Ks.

What fitness goals have you set for yourself?


2 Responses

  1. I have a 10K and half marathon planned for next spring and fall. I am super excited about them.

    Congrats on you entry 🙂

  2. YAY Kara! Your race sounds awesome! And sounds like you had a great run. I am so excited for your NYC Marathon. I guess the next race for me is an X-mas race, haven’t decided on if I’m doing the 5k or 10k… it’s snowing today that makes me not want to run 6 miles in snow.. but I will keep you posted. Anyways – great job on your race!!!

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