by Paul Thompson (and pictures by Shamala Thompson)
Australians, coach Lee Troop (‘Troopy’) included, will tell you that us Poms are a whinging lot. On the post race warm-down some poor unsuspecting runners from Brooklyn Road Runners who chose to run with me got this whinging in spades. With a face as long as next week I waxed lyrical about how I was struggling to shrug off the effects of age and injury.
Going into this race coach Troopy had me tapering with reduced miles and easier workouts. We hoped this would allow my long standing IT band issue to gain some reprieve from 70 mile weeks packed with hard workouts. But as I warmed up – jogging from Marcus Garvey Park where Sham and I had parked the car to the start area near St. Nicholas Park – I could feel the now familiar nagging pain down my right thigh.
Barely half a mile into the race the course hits a steep ramp while turning sharp left then right in quick succession. At that point I found the power on my right side wanting. As I favored the left side I started to tire quickly and saw team mate Carlo Agostinetto and masters rival John Henwood slide past and quickly open up a gap. The gap kept growing as we made our way up a long steady incline.
By the right turn at the mile mark, reached in 5:15, I felt like my race – what I had to give – – was exhausted. I felt defeated, in sharp contrast to my last outings in Harlem in 2014 and 2015 when the mile was the point where I started racing in earnest. My target of 16 flat was already slipping away from me.
As the course gently rolled south towards City College – which incidentally is a particularly nice part of the course as you run along a shaded tree lined avenue lined with proud town homes – I was in damage limitation mode, working at minimizing the deficit to runners up ahead whom I usually beat or battle it out in the finishing straight.
Soon after 2 miles, reached in 10:35 following a 5:20 mile, the course takes a nose dive, descending steeply and taking in a ninety degree left turn. The sharp descent proved particularly uncomfortable for my IT band. It was clearly unhappy at running fast downhill. Fortunately the descent is as short as it is steep and I was soon on St. Nicholas Avenue running north, hammering the half mile straight into the finish.
The finishing straight is for me the least enjoyable part of this race. Until at least I’m at the finish. It’s long, flat and for the most part straight as a die. I count down the streets – from 127th to 138th St.- and eventually, after what seems like a whole morning, I’m over the line.
I rallied a little in the closing stages, clocking 5:12 for mile three and overtaking at least one runner. I ran 16:31, good for 32nd overall. John Henwood pushed me into 2nd masters but I was 1st M50-54 and top AG with 89.4%. It was a long way shy of my 16:17 at the 5K point at Gate River 15K earlier this year. NYRR’s video captures the race highlights.
A small contingent of Urban Athletics runners excelled. We managed to kill the men’s masters competition while Stefano Piana-Agostinetti, 1st M45-49 in 16:42, and Carlo Agostinetto, 3rd M35-39 in 16:01, ran PRs. Meanwhile on the UA women’s side Fiona Bayly ran 18:05, topping masters and getting a 90% AG, while Maggie Mircovich ran her debut for UA in 21:52 coming 2nd in W1-14.
So now you see why I’m whinging. As I warmed down I my IT band was sore and I started to wonder whether I’d run the World Masters Athletics Championships in Perth, Australia in 8 weeks time. If, however, I can quickly park this problem and rediscover the form I showed last fall when I ran 1:11 then a medal in the half marathon is on the cards. That’s a big if from where I’m (painfully) sitting.