This past Sunday I ran the Scotland Run 10K in Central Park for the first time. In fact, this was my first run in Central Park ever. The tail end of the NYC Marathon is in the park so I had covered some of the distance before, but I couldn’t recognize where I had run previously. At mile 24 in the marathon you’re really not all that aware of your surroundings.
Before the race I was nervous. I knew the course would be hilly and hill training has not been my specialty. Until recently I’d avoided hills as much as I could so I didn’t know how I’d hold up running hill after hill. Even though I was in the back of the bunch I also thought that pretty much everyone around me looked like a “real” runner and even though I’ve finished a marathon I still have some difficulty with the idea of being a “real” runner.
Before the race I was hoping to run 10 minute miles. My best 10K pace (in my only one other 10K race) was about 9:57 so I wanted to get close to that. As the race started and I began hitting the hills I remembered to go up the hills slowly and run fast down the other side. I was getting tired with the hills, but so far I was doing ok. I could tell I was slightly behind my goal pace though. I tried not to worry about my pace too much as I’d barely trained for this race and I’d never run hills like this.
As I crested a really big hill right around mile 3 I realized that there was no big downhill on the other side. Now I was tired. I didn’t have my downhill to make up the time I’d lost on the way up. I was beginning to feel dejected. I knew I was slipping further and further off my desired pace, but there was little I could do. I still had half the race to go. If I sped up too much now I might not finish and in my mind that was unacceptable.
I kept going forward and conquered a few more hills and finally saw the 6 mile marker. That was when I told myself to “Finish Strong”. I picked it up and actually passed a whole bunch of people on my sprint to the finish. I crossed that finish line pretty much dead, but I’d finished and I’d finished strong!
I didn’t know my time or final pace at that point as I don’t wear a watch, but I thought I was around 11 minute miles. I felt that was slow, but at least I’d conquered my first race in the hills of Central Park. Next time I could do better.
The next day I finally went online and found my time. It turned out that I’d run 10:29 miles with a finish time of 1:05:02. And I’d finished in the 48% percentile for my age group. That was much better than I’d thought. That was only 30 seconds per mile slower than my fastest 10K which had been almost completely flat plus I’d actually trained for that race.
I realized how far I’d come in the past 18 months or so. At the start of my first 10K I’d pretty much wanted to throw up because I was that nervous. Now, I believed I could run a 10K with little training leading up to the run plus I was willing to conquer the infamous hills of Central Park. I’d also beaten 52% of those “real” runners so maybe I should learn to give myself a break. I’ll keep working on that. In another 18 months you never know what can happen.