by Paul Thompson
Despite the mile not being my thing this race has a great cache and is a real spectacle. The televised elite races were won by Nick Willis and Jenny Simpson, fresh from the World Championships in Beijing. How could I refuse the chance to tread in their footsteps and to help score team points for Warren Street.
As with races in and around Central Park I caught the train to Harlem 125th Street and ran the three miles to the start area. The novelty this year was for us M40-49ers – the race is actually many age group races races – to have Meb Keflezighi, who turned 40 in May, pose for start line photos with us all. And if that was not enough he then joined us for the race itself – the twenty blocks from 81st Street to the finish at 61st Street, just across from the Plaza Hotel.
Meb clocked around 4:50 – about the same pace at which he ran 26.2 of ’em back to back in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Meb was just a few seconds behind me as I matched my 2013 time of 4:45. While I was reduced to a standstill, bent double, a few meters after the finish line, Men looked ready to repeat it another 25 times. These are humbling moments. Moments that remind us that there’s always someone else faster than we are. Sometimes a lot faster.
This race was humbling in more ways than one – it reminded me that I’m just not as good at it as I’d like to be. I got soundly beat by some I comfortably beat at longer distances. Knowing my shortcomings at the shorter distances I’d done a few shorter, faster repetition sessions recently to help inject some pace into my running. But it was too little too late.
Rather than start on the front row I deliberately started four rows back in order to avoid getting pulled into too fast a start. I figured a slower start would help me achieve even splits of 70 second quarters and bring me home in around 4:40. But four rows back was a mistake since I spent much of the first quarter weaving through other runners. As I passed the 1/4 mile in 70 flat my local age group rivals track ace Peter Brady, Matt Chaston (Justin’s brother) and Javier Rodriguez (a training partner) were well clear.
The second quarter climbs steadily but I held my pace and passed the half way point in 2:20. I was picking off runners but Matt, Javier and the lead pack were edging away. At the 3/4 mile point, reached in 3:30, I passed Urban Athletics runners Christopher Stewart and Stefano Piana-Agostinetti. At this point 4:40 felt achievable. But in the final 200 I seemed to fade and two guys out kicked me.
My 4:45 was good for 3rd M45-49. However this was the first time this year I was outside the top two. Moreover 1st placed M45-49 Sean Wade was 20 seconds ahead – a whole freakin’ block! I just never registered in his consciousness.
But it was worse than that. I lost the race before the starter’s gun. I’d reconciled myself to low expectations, stood on the start line plotting a little low risk race strategy and then proceeded to execute the plan – I met those low expectations. So next time it’s back to high hopes and competing for them.
As I jogged north along Fifth Avenue on my warm down I spectated the 50-59 age group race where men and women ran together. For me this was a preview of what was to come. I turn 50 in December so I’d be in this age group race in 2016. It was won in 4:46. I took some comfort from this. I’m all set for the big 50.
With Sham and her camera missing this race, I had to resort to these pictures.