Last week was the Scotland 10k in Central Park. As soon as I got out of the car, I was filled with self doubt. Not about my race, which I was confident I could mess up without any doubt, but about what I waswearing. It’s April. It’s supposed to be spring. I was going to dress like it was spring.
Runners combine quiet resilience with never ending disappointment. On the coldest days we leap out of bed (exaggeration) and say “well, it’s 12°! That’s just 20 degrees below freezing. Freezing isn’t so bad.”
In the fall, we declare the season of inevitable death of everything green as “the best seasons for running.” If, on Thanksgiving, the men aren’t wearing tights we embrace the cold and wonder if this year we can be spared winter. On a warm day in January, we run in the unseasonable weather knowing we are taking full advantage of all that nature has to offer. Ah, then spring! The hippies come out of the woodwork, and the runners breath the fresh air in shorts confident that the winter is over.
Last Saturday, winter was not over. At the start it was 30°. Cold. I texted with my buddy — also named Gregg (he spells it wrong) — and we both agreed it was perfect shorts weather. It was not! Although I wasn’t cold during the race, the walk from the car to the start caused more soul searching and doubt than usual.
I wound up warming up alone, and got to the corral right before the gun. For whatever reason, I was placed in the second corral, and because I was late, I was in the back. The gun went off and it was a struggle. There were people in front of me wearing headphones that looked like something out of MASH. One woman was wearing an overcoat. I may have made that part up.
It’s hard to talk about being behind slow runners in a race without sounding like a dick, but in many many people’s eyes, I am one of those slow runners. And it’s hard to politely relax while people in front of you talk casually about all the bullshit in their lives. I have a lot of bullshit in my life. Which I will resume in about ten kilometers. But I can’t be one of those assholes who bobs and weaves through the crowds. So I took it easy.
But a slow first mile was a good thing. I hit it in 7:01 (I was hoping to run 7:40 pace) and by then the crowd was thinning out a bit. The hardest thing about a crowded start is remembering when the crowd opens up, I have to pick up the pace.
It worked. Second mile in 6:39 — right on pace. Third mile 6:34. I could write a novel about how much love the third mile of this race. It ends at the bottom of Harlem hill after a great decent. Ah, then time to pay the piper — running up Harlem hill 6:52.
But then I was feeling great, looking at folks in front of them, reeling them in. Lap 5 6:32.
Then, a sharp pain in my rib cage. I am sometimes worried about cardiac events. And by sometimes, I mean always. But this didn’t feel like my heart, it felt like someone was trying to rip a ribs out of my chest. Ouch! Wow. My first side stich. For fuck’s sake. I had to back off, a lot. Lap 6 6:45. OK, maybe that’s not a lot — but it was 15 seconds off my pervious split, and I think I had more in me.
Total time 41:52. Average pace 6:44. I wasn’t thrilled, but even if I had run the last mile 30 seconds faster. OK, then I would have been thrilled. Last year I ran this race in 41:59 and it was a precursor to a few more bad races. So I am glad I at least beat least year’s time.
But because it was a sharp pain I didn’t beat myself — it wasn’t like I died out there. Literally or physically.
So what’s next? Race more! I’m going to do the healthy kidney 10k in a few weeks, and there is a 5k in Croton I got my eye on.
And I swear I’m going to blog more — these posts would be funnier if there were more of them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.