by Paul Thompson
I’m getting older and slower with every race so it was a great boon to bag a PR. This race also proved to be the easiest race in which to log a PR. This might have had something to do with it being the first time I’d ever run an 8 kilometer race. But given it’s almost 5 miles (4.97 miles, some 50 meters shy) not surprisingly I treated it like the imperial equivalent. And that meant a target in the 26:30 ball park.
You might wonder why I ran this race. I rarely run two races in successive weeks and this was a week after the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run. But there were many good reasons for doing this one. For a start many Warren Street team mates hail from France so this was a way of showing some camaraderie. One of our own, Sebastien Baret, had helped make the whole event happen. The post-race festival would be endowed with some French culinary delights. And it would be an opportunity to help promote Imagine for Margo, a charity dedicated to eliminating childhood cancer. There’s other reasons but you’ve got the idea.
After collecting two parking violations during our journey by car to last week’s race Sham and I decided to ride Metro North to Harlem 125th Street Station. But train times meant setting down at 8:25 and then having to run the 60 blocks, around 3.5 miles, to the race start at 65th street. That meant clipping along at around 6:30 pace to be sure of getting in the start corral with at least 5 minutes to spare. I’d need that time to weave my way ever so politely through the corral from the entrance at the rear.
By the time I got my way to the front of the corral I was definitely warmed up – over cooked even. But I’d had a successful visit to the wash rooms at the Boathouse en route. At huit heures (my 16-year old French is coming back to me) I was all set. While my French language skills are awful thanks to French team mates I easily understand, and enjoy hearing, English spoken with a thick French accent.
With some prize money there was a handful of West Side Runners at the sharp end. Oz Pearlman, as usual topless and number pinned to his ‘short’ shorts, took off in the opening mile that took in Cat Hill. The West Side runners sat back but then ate into his lead and swept by during the second mile. At least as far as I could see from where I was. I reached the first mile mark in 5:12, neck and neck with club mates, Sebastien B and Carlo Agostinetto.
Carlo, whose’s been relentlessly getting closer to me with every race (9 seconds last time), ran with me through the second mile mark in 10:28. I felt relaxed. Until that is Carlo pushed me out of my comfort zone on the ascent of the hill at the top end of the park by running it hard. I tried in vain to stay in contact but by the summit he was clear and I was in oxygen debt (Greek style). At that point I realized he had me beat: he’s never been known to crack.
I passed through the three mile mark in 15:58 and four in 21:18. It was now the long descend before 600 meters on the flat to the finish. Until four miles I was still barely a few seconds behind Carlo but he was now competing hard with another runner. This race, like the four mile races in Central Park, ends with a sharp left hand turn – a U-turn almost – and then a 200 meter slight incline to the tape. I crossed the line in 26:22 (equivalent to 26:32 for 5 miles) and Carlo 26:19. Sebastien (27:22), Fabio Casadio (28:45) and Peter Heimgartner (30:03) completed the five man team that secured 2nd place behind West Side Runners.
Being beaten by a team mate threw up a mixture of emotions. I was very happy for him. He works incredibly hard and despite being very accomplished is very self deprecating and full of humility. This race was maybe his best ever road race especially if his age grade (AG) score is anything to go by (he almost got 82.3%). It was the first time he’d beaten me. And he’d out smarted me. My consolation was to be 1st masters and 2nd highest AG on 91.2%.
Post race I did like everyone else. I made the most of whatever was French and free. I binged on crepes, chocolate biscuits, detox tea (!) etc.. And I got to hang out with, warm down with, recap race with, fellow runners. Best of all we got to see the kids race. They are as competitive as their parents but more fun to watch.