There’s no relaxing in running

I can’t believe I’ve gone all summer without the opportunity to bitch about training in the heat or racing in the heat or sleeping in the heat or complaining about the heat.  It’s been a hot summer — at least until the last week or so, when it’s been blissfully nice out.

That being said, I’ve not had the chance to race or even train very hard.  Some personal stuff has kept me from hitting the track often or get in as many long runs as I’d like.  That’s fine — life should come before running, right?  Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I was signed up to do the club championships 5 miler in central park on Saturday, and it was important to me to do the race.  This is a unique race if only because it’s so competitive.  Everyone it it has a team affiliation and therefore you don’t see people out for their first run in the park.  It’s also split up into genders — the men run first and then we cheer on the women.  It’s just different.

Also, the race is small compared to other central park races — I think there were only about 800 men running.  So you can actually run at the start of the race rather than feeling as if you’re stuck on the subway trying to escape a fire with a bunch of emaciated potential victims.

I wanted to do the race, to be sure, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a great day for me.  When I woke up to the sound of rain I thought very seriously about just going back to sleep.  It’s what the cats wanted, to be sure.  But I got my ass out of bed and drove to the city.

I thought the race started at 8am, but it turned out it was 8:30, so I had another half hour to kill.  I bullshitted with the other runners, found a handicapped porta-potty which was awesome.  It was like a suite at the Ritz.  OK, not quite like that.  But it was awesome.

At the start I saw my friend Jin and talked to him — he said he was going to do around 6:30 pace or maybe a little slower… this was perfect for me.  Jin, unlike the rest of us, has a habit of actually sticking to his race plans, and I thought it might be a great day to try and hold on to him to make it a little less stressful. Thinking to myself I wondered if maybe for once I could relax.

I wound up running with Jin the entire race and it was great.  Whenever I thought to myself “Self, you can’t run.  You’re not in shape to be racing.  Stop for a hot dog.  Or maybe one of those pretzels.  Does anyone get mustard on their pretzels when they buy them in the park?  If so, would you get it in a separate container and use it like a dipping sauce?  Is it yellow mustard, or spicy?”  I’d stop and think “just hold on to Jin.  He’s doing all the work.”

I felt good, and tried to pick it up just a little bit in the final mile.  I looked back at Jin and he said “just go ahead,” as if I had any freaking chance of going ahead.  We finished, I think, within a few seconds of each other. Our final mile was our fastest in 6:24.

I wound up with a 33:24.  59 seconds faster than last year, a race that I totally hated.  So the relaxing, such as it was, seemed to work out well.

My results aren’t in the NYRR system even though my bib looked intact to me.  I filled out a form online and I’m sure they’ll add me later.  It’s amazing that they don’t have more problems like this — I’ve run 20 or 30 races with chips and this is the first time I’ve ever had a problem.

9436632419_6a62b5e168_zOur team coach Jack got a picture of me where I look more miserable than I ever have running.  And this was a race when I was as relaxed as I could ever imagine being in a race. I guess I’m a long way off from being relaxed.  I think no matter how much I tell myself that I’m not expecting anything, I have to push it hard in the last half mile at least.

Where that picture was taken was about 400m from the finish, and our whole team was standing there.  Almost to a person, there aren’t any smiles in those pictures.  Everyone is racing.  Everyone is pushing.  I guess that’s what makes it a race.  There is no happiness at the end.   Until the end.  Then you can relax.




Written by Greg Cohen

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