Category Archives: New York

Race Report: NYRR Five-Borough Series – Bronx 10-Mile, New York, September 27, 2015

by Paul Thompson

This race came as a timely shot in the arm. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all I’d put in a good few months training with many 70 mile training weeks and spent last weekend training in Boulder. But confidence was low on back of some mediocre performances at distances below my bandwidth, like the Fifth Avenue Mile. I’d also not raced at a distance of 10 miles or more since November 2013 so I was in uncharted waters. But an ‘easy’ opening mile in 5:18 put all my concerns to rest: the engine room had plenty of horsepower. I ended the day with my best ever age-graded (AG) performance.

It's been 3 years since Paul last raced in this borough

It’s been 3 years since Paul last raced in this borough

The Bronx 10-Mile is a classic race. Classic in distance – a rarely run imperial distance that harks back to Chariots of Fire days. And classic in venue – much of the out and back course (Download Course Map (PDF)), gently undulating with a 600 meter steady incline just after the 10k mark, is on the Grand Concourse, the borough’s main artery. A record field of over 9,300 toed the line and, thanks in part to prize money and being a part of the NYRR Club Championship series, was loaded with talent. So it was no surprise that course records would tumble – Ayele Megersa Feisa setting a new mark for men in 48:18 and Salome Koskei for the women’s in 56:57.

They're off and some really mean business

They’re off and some really mean business

The course record looked vulnerable barely a mile into the race. As I passed the mile mark in 5:18 the leading two, sporting bright yellow tops, were over 100 meters ahead of me. In the early miles I settled into running 5:18-22 pace and by three miles I was running in a 5 main pack pack including Michael Cassidy, Brent Frissora and Bobby Asher.

While running relaxed, strong and confident I was in the company of guys that, in recent years at least, typically beat me. That left me wondering whether I was out of my depth. Turns out I was not. During the approximately 2.5 mile section that’s not run on the Grand Concourse, I emerged as the driving force of the pack. I passed 5 miles in 26:57, an average of 5:24 mpm. By the time we got back onto the Grand Concourse at around 6.5 miles I  was edging away from the pack. Unfortunately I had no one to chase: I could barely see the runner ahead.

The route back was slightly net downhill and we had a tail wind filling our sails. The roadway on the other side was full of runners headed out, many cheering us on. As I reached 8 miles I realized I had stepped up the pace to 5:20 mpm. I seemed to be clear of my chasers. I was wrong. Soon after Michael Cassidy came cruising past and went on the open a big gap.  With the finishing line in sight I dug deep and found that long lost sprint finish. I crossed the line in 53:36, 40 seconds faster than my last Bronx 10 in 2012. The pictures capture the finale.

Sprinting hard for the finish line

Sprinting hard for the finish line

This was my best race performance for sometime. I was first masters, 13th overall (lucky for some), first age grade on 93.26% and ranks me second on the UK rankings in 2015 for M45-49. But more importantly the Warren Street team boasted PRs for Sam Lynch (5th overall in 50:40), Carlo Agostinetto (54:57), Aaron Mendelsohn (56:17), Alex Lorton (58:10), Paul Sorace (64:17) and Michael Watling (67:14) and secured 3rd open team (Sam, Carlo, Aaron, Alex and I) and 1st masters (Aaron, Peter Heimgartner (60:07) and I). I was in the minority without a PR! How’s that?

Warren Street, and friend Christopher Stewart (UA), team photo

Warren Street and friends team photo (clockwise from top left – Christopher Stewart (Urban Athletics), Aaron, me, Alex, Fabio Casadio and Carlo

For my post race warm down I ran down the Grand Concourse with Aaron to Marcus Garvey Park where Sham had parked the car. There I waited for Sham and her running buddy Kelly Gould to run / walk their way back. As they came into view Kelly’s smile was as wide as Madison Avenue. And she had good reason, running 1:23:22, a 7 minute PR!

Kelly Gould was ecstatic with a 7 minute PR

Kelly Gould was ecstatic thanks to a 7 minute PR

Back home Sham – coach, manager, driver, camera woman – turned chef. She whisked up a brunch of egg and sausage on home-baked bread washed down with mimosas.

No better way to follow a race with brunch

No better way to follow a race with brunch thanks to Sham

Race Report: Achilles Hope & Possibility (5M), New York, June 28, 2015

by Paul Thompson

Back in 2011 some Warren Street team mates and I responded to a request from Kathleen Bateman, of Achilles International, to guide a visually impaired runner who would be tripping down from Ottawa to New York to run the Achilles Hope & Possibility 5 mile race. She needed someone capable of running under 27 minutes! And she was not exaggerating.

The runner in question was multiple paralympic medallist Jason Dunkerley. Jason went onto to get a silver medal in the 500o metres,  category T11, at the London 2012 Paralympics in 15:34. That day I guided Jason to 28:58 for the 5

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mile race. I got the bug, if not the hang, of guiding. And today, with teammates Sam Lynch and Aaron Mendelsohn, I got the chance to do it all again but this time with Jared Broughton in the 2015 Achilles Hope and Possibility.

I opted for Jared over Jason on account of my fear that I would not be able to keep up with Jason. Since 2011 we had diverged – he had gotten faster, me slower. I was also short of shuteye having arrived home at 1:30am from a work trip to Trinidad (where I’d been running laps of the Savannah, Port of Spain in 90F).

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Jared is a T13 category athlete which means he is less visually impaired than Jason. At 25 Jared is not as fast as Jason but if he plays his cards right he has the potential to medal at future Paralympics. While Jason needs to run either with a short rope (tether) connecting him to his guide or an arm gently nudging his guide, Jared, who can make out shapes within a certain range, just needs guides in close proximity to help him navigate people, potholes and puddles.

After warming up together Jared, Aaron and I joined Jason and his guide Sam near the front of the corral. Jared set his mind on starting at around 5:45 mpm pace and progressively stepping it up so as to run around 28:30. He wanted us to keep Jason in sight. Aaron, having raced the day before in the team scored Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run (5M), was confident of 5:45s but less so the progression bit of the plan. After a few words from Jon Stewart we were off.

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After dodging traffic we passed the mile one mark in 5:43 but Cat Hill crimped our pace and we passed the mile two mark in 11:42. We held constant in the third mile but by now Jason and Sam were out of sight but by no means mind. The fourth mile, not surprisingly given its hills and net ascent, caused us to slow slightly once more – we passed the four mile mark in around 23:30.

The final mile proved to be quite exhilarating – not only was it the fastest mile in around 5:30 but we passed a string of runners. As the finishing clock came into view 28:30 was out of the question but sub-29 all to play for. We sprinted the final 20om but the results had all three of us at 29:00! Jason was the first visually impaired athlete coming in at 28.33 minutes.

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Guiding Jason and Jared has proven both motivating and enlightening. Motivating in so far as you can see what can be achieved when you put your mind to it and love doing it. Enlightening in so far as  you focus on every detail of the run, most especially the things your runner struggles to see. You get to see the run close-up. Strange though that may sound.

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Race Report: NYRR Retro 4-Miler, Central Park, New York, June 7, 2015

by Paul Thompson

In my last post I rounded off by saying how important it was to be the hard to please type. And so it was today. As I warmed up – running the 4 miles from Marcus Garvey Park in Central Harlem after Sham had driven us in –  I fixed my goal finish time of sub-21:00 in my mind. So you’d think that my 20:55 finish time would have made me happy as Larry. But it didn’t.

Race conditions were ideal. A gentle breeze, bright sunshine and temperatures hovering around 60F. My warm-up, a repeat of what I did for the Scotland Run 10K, suggested my legs were well rested after a tough few weeks in mid-May. The only cloud fogging my mind was my ongoing IT band ‘issue’ which for the last few months appeared to have triggered some ankle swelling. The fat ankle had prompted me to visit Dr Stu on Friday and he’d worked his usual magic.

Many runners were decked out in club colors from yesteryear in keeping with the retro race theme. Some Warren Street team mates did the same but also in honor of our recently departed all time best runner Pat Petersen. Runners respected a moment’s silence in his memory. Pat died at just 55. He was a former U.S. marathon record holder and top 5 at three New York City marathons. I never had the privilege of meeting Pat but somehow feel like I did. He set a very high bar as a husband, father and runner.

Thinking of Pat – how he so completely dedicated himself to running, how he achieved so much, and yet how he was in all other ways just a regular kinda guy, husband and father with no airs and graces – it seems he lived my favorite Tibetan proverb “better to live for one day as a tiger than to live for a thousand years as a sheep”. To honor Pat the only way a runner can meant I had to hurt today.

I started out much slower than the last time I did the last time I raced this 4 mile course. I buried myself deep in the pack and passed the mile mark in 5:12. Matt Chaston, perhaps the New York area’s fastest runner over 5K to 5 miles for M45-49 , was almost 10 seconds ahead of me. I hoped I could reel him in during the hills in the third mile. Matt, born in Wales but New York resident for many years, comes from great running stock. His brother Justin, also Stateside living in Colorado Springs, ran for Great Britain in 3 consecutive Olympics.

I tracked a group dominated by Central Park Track Club (CPTC) runners. They passed 2 miles in 10:20 and had been closing on Matt. I was working hard, too hard. That proved to be my downfall. As we turned left off the 102nd Transverse onto the East Side Drive and started the gentle climb towards the third mile mark I started to drop off the group. At mile three the clock read 15:45. In the final mile the course gently descends. This saved me from unravelling further.

As I straightened up after taking the final turn – a 270 degree left hander – I saw the clock reading 20 something and sub-21:00. I dug deep and the body responded. I crossed the line in 20:55. Matt was 9 seconds ahead of me. He’d only previously beaten me once before – in the Central Park Conservancy Run for Central Park in July 2011 run on the same 4 mile course.

So I finished in 20:55 for 26th overall and 2nd M45-49. There was some consolation in gaining the top age grade of 91.40%. Warren Street’s masters team finished second to CPTC. Danny Tateo was 1st M50-54 in 22:28, 40 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger. Our masters team are still just ahead of CPTC in the year to date rankings but 2015 promises to be battle that will go to the wire. Sam Lynch, 7th overall in 19:23,  led us to 4th place open team.

Race Report: Try Audiobooks Riverside Park 5K, New York, May 13, 2015

by Paul Thompson

In just a few years Steve Lastoe and his New York City Runs (NYCRUNS) outfit have quickly established themselves as a credible grassroots race organizer and emerging rival to the incumbent New York Road Runners (NYRR). In place of thousands lining up in Central Park, bereft of $30-40 in exchange for a sponsors smothered tee shirt and bagel, NYCRuns offers no frills races for $10. It’s a throwback to how races used to be before big time corporate sponsorship and the masses got in on the act.

So here I was lining up at 7pm, in unseasonably chilly temperatures, to give a 5K in Riverside Park a shot along with 153 other runners. I’d run the 4 miles from my office in Midtown as a warm-up.  As my club Warren Street were co-hosts, providing a supporting cast of volunteers, I was assured of plenty of familiar faces in fluorescent yellow volunteer bibs enroute as well as Sham with our niece, Eloise, and her parents.  The race was part of the NYCRUNS InterClub Challenge and my aim, as the lone Warren Street runner competing, was to create some visibility for the club.

After a few opening words from fellow club captain Mike Guastella, decked out in Wall Street suit and tie, the course headed north from its start at 108th Street and Riverside Drive. After barely 600 metres we were met with a short sharp incline of 50 metres before turning south. The course undulates along the path sitting beneath Riverside Drive until 97th Street, circumnavigates a play area before it retraces the route back to the finish.

Clubmate Aaron Mendelsohn was on his bicycle showing the way and clearing pedestrians free of the route. After a mile I started to edge away and over the remaining 2 miles built up a lead of almost a minute, breasting the tape in 16:39, an average of 5:22 mpm.

Overall it was a welcome change from the big NYRR weekend morning extravaganzas. It was intimate, friendly and amateur in the nicest possible way. It was not without its problems. Aaron struggled to clear the path so runners had to navigate pedestrians. And some might have complained that the prizes were surplus mugs from a past race series. Still I will be back for more.

Victory felt sweet. It was the first since January 2006 – the Manhattan Half Marathon, my first race as a masters runner. But the time was disappointing. I had hoped for closer to 16 flat and for much of the race it felt that fast. Still it’s my hard to please mentality that serves to motivate me to train harder. Odd though it may sound I fear the day I cross the line completely content. Discontent drives me. Long may I be discontented.

Race Report: Scotland Run (10K), New York, April 4, 2015

by Paul Thompson

After a training stint the previous weekend in Boulder, Colorado with teammate Carlo Agostinetto and Dr. Stuart Weitzman working his magic on the IT band I had high expectations for this year’s Scotland Run. My target was 32 and change, even if the change was 59 seconds. As I ran down the west side of the park as part of my 4 mile warm-up, Shamala having dropped me off at Marcus Garvey Park in South Harlem, I saw rival Hector Rivera. Hector and I ran the exact same race in  2005 and this time the same few seconds would separate us at the finish.

My NYRR race results history reveals I’ve done this race almost every year since I started competing in NYRR races in early 2005. I ran it for the first time in IMG_2750April 2005, my third ever race in the city, barely 6 months after Sham and I moved here from South East Asia in October 2004.  Being British I feel connected with it, more than any other NYRR race. The bagpiping boosts the adrenalin. Just before the start they piped ‘Flower of Scotland’, the national anthem.

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I was back in the front corral, after a several months long hiatus, sporting a two digit race tag, 52 (more on that later). I was barely ten seconds behind the leaders at the mile mark. The clock showed 4:57. Either I’d gone out too fast – I needed to average 5:19 minutes per mile to get under 33 minutes – or NYRR had misplaced the mile markers. At mile 2 the clock showed 10:30 suggesting no irrational exuberance on my part.

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Paul at the first mile with Bobby Asher, Matthew Lacey and Roberto Puente in front and Hector Rivera in hot pursuit

The northern hills and buffeting winds, coming at you from all directions, took their toll. I passed the 3 mile marker in 15:40 and 5K in around 16:15, faster than my finish time at the Washington Heights 5K. I was trading places with Bobby Asher, Hector Rivera and Matthew Lacey. The  clock at 4 miles showed 21:20 – NYRR’s mile markers appeared back on track – and at 5 miles 26:20. 32 something was on the cards.

In the closing mile or so Hector, Bobby and Matthew started to pull away from me. And then Oz Pearlman glided by. As the finish line came into view I could see 32:4.. But as I stepped onto the finishers mat I could see 33:0.. So near yet so far. Yet I was happy with that. My 33:02 was 3 seconds faster than my 2014 result. It secured me 22nd overall, 1st M45-49, 2nd masters overall to Hector and top male age grade with 92.23%. It was deja vu for Hector and I – he was the same 10 seconds or so ahead of me as he was in 2005 though age had slowed us both.

Overall the Warren Street team did well. At the time of initially posting this story the website results excluded someone with my no. 52 tag appearing in the live tracking. Now that NYRR have corrected the results the team are showing 4th and 1st respectively in the open and masters mens divisions. Sam Lynch led the team home in 4th in 31:05, Max Hyams (M1-19) and Danny Tateo (M50-54) won their respective divisions, and Carlo bagged a PR of 34:15. More race pictures are here thanks to Steven Waldon.

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Sam Lynch (38) battling with NYAC’s leading trio

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Danny Tateo (764) tracked by teammate Fabio Casadio (202)

Race Report: Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, New York, March 1, 2015

by Paul Thompson

In my last race, a cross country race in Boulder CO., I got sunburnt and almost complained of it being too hot. Today it was right back to reality. The sun didn’t show up and I joined the cacophony of runners complaining aybout the cold. But at least we got some warmth care of the sights and sounds of Washington Heights.

Like last year I rode the train to Harlem-125th Street Metro North station and from there ran the 3.5 miles to the starting area. I then added a few more miles of warm-up with clubmate Danny Tateo, a newly minted 50 year-old who looks more 25 at a glance and who had a shot at first M50-54.

This race starts with a long progressive climb in the first mile – a bit like a ski jump with a steeper incline near the top. Unlike last year there was no photographer blocking our way at 50 metres in so we were saved the mass pile up of 2014. I got to the one mile mark in a shade under 5:20, some 13 seconds behind last year’s split.

I hoped to claw back some seconds in the second mile, looping around Fort Tyron Park, and get back on target to match last year’s 16:10 time. But passing the band clambering up the incline towards the mile two mark, appropriately playing a “A Hard Day’s Night” (they seem to every year as I pass ’em), I was sensing I had not accelerated in the second mile. And sure enough I had not. The clock at mile two showed 10:40. For the last mile, essentially the first mile in reverse and as such a long descent, I tried to stay in contact with Bobby Asher of VCTC but he stole two seconds from me as I closed in 16:29.

I was a bit dismayed to be 19 seconds off 2014. But I was first masters. In the finishing area I caught up with team mates: Warren Street had finished 5th men’s open and 1st men’s masters.  A great start to the year. And something for the team to savor over food and drinks at Thursday’s NYRR Club Night. And for me a great end to a week in which I learned at my annual medical check that my ‘body age’ was 29.

As I warmed down, with Antony Scott and Carlo Agostinetto,  I reflected on what a weird but wonderful crowd runners are. Who in their right minds would be out running, let alone racing, on a bitterly cold Sunday morning. Over 5,700 New Yorkers did just that today.  NYRR’s full report and pictures are here.

 

Running Plans for the Year I Turn 50

by Paul Thompson

Every year around this time I say to myself, and others prepared or forced to listen (like team mates on long runs – a captive audience), that I will plan the year ahead – what races, target times and accolades, training mileage, and all that. But by March my new year’s running resolution is either broken, shaken or stirred. And 2015, the year I turn 50, looks set to be no different.

My 2015 race campaign started early with a cross country race in the UK on January 3 (in conditions similar to these in Edinburgh). Following that I logged some great confidence boosting training in Jordan with fellow Warren Street blogger Mo’ath Alkhawaldeh, most notably one of my fastest long runs ever in Aqaba.  Mo spent much of the time convincing me to run a 2015 marathon or two.

So what’s on the cards for 2015? First up is the 2015 USATF Cross Country Championships on February 7 in Boulder, CO. Last year I finished 3rd in this race, collected a silver medal for M45-49 and then had to give it up as I was not a US citizen.  This year I hope to repeat the feat but avoid having a medal on loan.

In March I will open my account running for Warren Street in the NYRR club championship series with the  NYRR Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K. A few days later I hope to be voted NYRR Runner of the Year for the M45-49 category at the NYRR Club Night.  That would make it 8 from 9 since turning 40 (the only hiatus being 2013 when I was plagued with injury and accident). In 2015 I aim to make that 9 from 10 by winning my age in NYRR club points races and help the team improve on its 2014 performance.

After that my 2015 game plan is work in progress.  My 5th place on January 3 earned me Northamptonshire team selection for the UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships on March 7 but as things stand I’m unlikely to trip across the Atlantic to compete in this national championship race.

A spring marathon is a possibility. My 1:12 half marathon from 2013 was enough to get me guaranteed entry to the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon Championship in late April. I have ’til the end of this month to pay up but I’m inclined to wait until 2016, when I’m 50, before having a crack, in London or Chicago, at my 2:29:56 marathon PR. As team mate Carlo Agostinetto said getting a PR at 50 has a better ring to it than 49. 49 is like a no man’s land.

I’d like to return to San Francisco to retain my masters crown at the Bay to Breakers but it clashes with a family event. And while on a planned vacation to the UK in late July I could do the British Masters Athletic Federation 10 km Road Race Championships in South Wales.

What would like to do before I turn 50 this December?

A fast half marathon, sufficient to get me guaranteed entry to the London and/or Chicago marathon in 2016, would be ideal. So I have my sights set on the Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon,where Deena Kastor set a world record for women masters in 2014. By fast I mean 1:10-1:12, not as fast as Deena.

I’d also like to notch up a masters victory in a big classic US race like the  Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run (April), where I ran 51:36 at age 42, and Peachtree Road Race (July).  And maybe have bash at other USATF National Championship events, like the 5 km cross country (October).

To some extent what I end up doing will be determined by what team mates talk me into. Presently they are softly selling the Breakneck Point Trail 25k in April. The hard sell is sure to come. Watch this space.

Race Report: Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run, New York, August 23

by Paul Thompson

I have to confess the chance of winning the masters category and pocketing a princely prize purse of $150 dollars ($120 net of expenses like race entry fee, post race coffee etc.) was not an insignificant motivation for running this race. As it turns out I was 2nd and after dinner with Sham the same evening there wasn’t much change. So for now I’ll stick to making ends meet with my day job at IFAC.

Aside from the cash incentives, which extended to top 5 teams (we are still waiting to see if Warren Street got 4th or 5th in the final results), the other great attraction of this race is the fact it’s a break from the NYRR cookie cutter affair in Central Park. This one is deep in Harlem and follows a varied urban loop which, apart from some initial climbing, is relatively fast.

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The streets of Harlem.

This was my second stab at this event, the first being back in 2012. My race report back then tells a story of the politicized countdown before the starting gun and ending up with 16:02. This time I wanted to duck under 16 and, knowing Bobby Asher shared the same aspiration (according to his Facebook post at least), I figured he’d be a good man to target.

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Paul keeping an eye on the competition at the start of the race.

So after the first quarter mile I settled onto the tail of a group of 4-5 runners including Bobby. The first three, which included former clubmate Emiliano Garcia, quickly got a sizable gap on us. I got to the one mile mark in 5:15, slightly slower than my goal pace of 5:10 which would give me 16 dead. I was now trading strides with Peter Brady, USATF Masters 800m champion in 2013 and 2014. It was only when checking the results after the race that I realized who he was – and that he’d gotten that $150 cheque for first M40 plus.

While the course is advertised as flat or downhill from one mile the reality is, at least according to my Garmin data, the course keeps rising gently until around 2 miles. I got to 2 miles in 10:26 and was now starting to slip away from Peter and Bobby. The final mile is fast – a steep descent past City College, followed by two sharp left handers and then flat 800m on a great wide roadway gets you home. I chased the 6th placer hard but 16 minutes slipped away from me.

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Paul pushing hard towards the finish.

As team mates gathered in the finishing area – Carlo Agostinetto, Aaron Mendelsohn and Michael Watling blew big holes in their PRs with 16:34, 16:43 and 19.54 respectively (boy it would be nice to run a PR).

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Carlo looking strong heading to the top of the final hill.

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Aaron on his way to a PR.

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Michael heading to the finish.

I quickly got acclimatized to 16 minutes and 6 seconds change and being 2nd masters. After all I did win the M45-49 and was 3rd AG with 90.17%. But on the warm down with Carlo, Aaron and Mike I realized I was the odd man out. The only man without a PR from the race.

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Warren Street team post-race.

Race Report: Scotland Run (10K), New York, April 5, 2014

by Paul Thompson

Today’s race, the second NYRR club points race of 2014, was preceded by a stirring bagpipe rendition of the Flower of Scotland, Scotland’s national anthem. A nice way to help pump the adrenalin in the final few minutes before the starter’s horn. Then it was over to Alex Salmond, who leads the campaign to take Scotland out of the 308 year old Union, to get us away. More of Alex and my views on Scottish independence at the end!

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Members of the Scottish band.

The 8am start presented Sham and I with Hobson’s choice. Option one: catch the 6:35am train from Peekskill, arriving at 7:40am at Grand Central Terminal. That would give me barely 20 minutes to run the 1.5 miles or so through Midtown to the start area – and then have to weave my way oh so politely (‘excuse me’, ‘sorry’ and all that lark) from the back of the packed corral to get a good starting position near the front. Sham wasn’t sure she would even get to the start on time. Option two: catch the 5:35am!

We chose option one. Except that in the starting corral my adopted New York version of politeness kicked in – more ‘I have every right to push my way through’ than ‘I am terribly sorry…’. Sham and I have been here almost 10 years so we are getting quite good at this version.

The start of the race.

The start of the race.

After Alex klanged his klaxon I quickly settled into a small group, team mate Sebastien B included, that had been immediately gapped by the lead group of around a dozen runners. The lead group were logging sub-5 minute miles so the gap grew quickly.

Like the Washington Heights 5K I found myself running alongside Sebastien. I passed the first mile in 5:10, two miles in 10:21 and three in 15:34 (my Garmin log is here). Turns out my first 5K was too fast. But I was too slow to realize that. The damage was done. As we ascended the first of the two northern hills, just after two miles, Seb started to ease away.

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Sebastien making his way to finish.

For the latter 5K I was isolated and slowing. I had no one in close range to shoot at. I covered the fourth mile, with its two hills and a net gain in elevation, in 5:33. That was outside the 5:20 average I needed to get home under 33:00. With no runners in close proximity this was now my only goal. To stay focused I resorted to my old habit of counting the gap in seconds between the next runner up the road and each time they passed a marker – like a pedestrian crossing.

The fifth mile in 5:15, slightly down hill, gave me hope. But tired legs trumped that. I passed the 6 mile mark in 32 minutes dead, leaving me with 59 seconds to run 0.21 miles gently uphill to the finish by Tavern on the Green, the finish of the New York City Marathon. I covered it in 65 seconds, breasting the tape in 33:05.

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The finish line is in sight at this point.

As Warren Street team mates gathered in the finish area to conduct the post mortem and race analysis I felt pleased to be both top masters and first AG on 91.32% – but less pleased to ‘break’ 33 minutes. As we get older ‘break’ assumes a different connotation, more PW than PR. Still I ought not complain (but of course I am) as this race came off the back of a poor training spell thanks to a stomach bug.

The men’s team did great with 4th place – the scoring team were Sebastien (32:49), Ryan Korby (close to a PR in 34:49), Charlie Baily (35:08), Fabio Casadio (36:16) and me. And the masters team of Peter Heimgartner (37:00), John Nelson (39:39) and me came second.

So now that matter of Scottish independence. I am pro-Union. I am British first and foremost. Now though I’m a fan of single malts for me being British means I’m a blend – of Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish. I can not carve out that Scottish part of me. So Alex while I love your passionate patriotism, I don’t like your suggestion that those of us born south of Hadrian’s Wall are not, at least in some small part, Scottish. And proud of it – especially this part of me!

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Runners were shown how to do the Highland Fling after the race.

Race Report: Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, New York, March 2, 2014

by Paul Thompson

While “Coogan’s” has been dropped from the race title there is no doubt this race will live on in the minds of New York runners as Coogan’s. And judging by today’s spectacle it lives on as a colorful, talent packed race with an edge over New York Road Runners (NYRR)’s bread and butter offerings. One of a handful of NYRR races held outside of Central Park, it takes in the hills of the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. Once again it was the opening race in the NYRR club race series that ends in December 2014.

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It’s been two years since I last did this race. Injury left me spectating in 2013 – a much overrrated occupation in the cold wintry months, as Sham will testify. With my 50s on the horizon my main objective was the usual damage limitation – to run as close to the 16:02 I ran in 2012 as possible. Well I ran 16:10. I was pleased with that, no mean feat given how hard I am to please.

Sham and I usually get to this race by picking up the subway at Marble Hill, in The Bronx, after the Metro North train from Peekskill. This time we decided to stay on the train until Harlem-125th Street and then run the 3 miles to the start. 5K is so short I figured it needed supplementing to make the train ride worth it and this way Sham would get a run in.

The race was full of incident and entertainment. First incident – soon after the start a dozen runners were piled up on the road in front of me. A scrappy hurdle got me out of trouble. Then entertainment – descending the hill in Fort Tyron Park “A Hard Day’s Night” (how apt) blared out from a band on the sidewalk just as it did in 2012.

This out and back course is perhaps the toughest of all NYRR races. It takes in the hills, and the highest point, of the northern tip of Manhattan. There are two hills to climb on the way out and two to claw up on the way home. But at least after cresting the last hill at 2.5 miles it’s then a long downhill straight into the finish. My Garmin recorded it all including the several minutes until I remembered to stop it.

For most of the race I traded positions with team mate Sebastien B. (one of Warren Street’s NYRR Club Night nominees) but he edged me in the last few metres. My 16:10 finish time was good for 23rd place, of 6,182 finishers, first masters and 2nd age grade with 89.78%.

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Close to the finish with Seb hot on my heels.

But more importantly, after a mediocre 2013, Warren Street Social and Athletic Club to be first men’s masters team (Danny Tateo, John Nelson and me) and third men’s open team (Robert Dugger, Sebastien B., Carlo Agostinetto, Ryan Korby and me). See here for NYRR pictures, story, results and more.

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Robert was the first Warren Street Runner to cross the finish line.

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John and Mike Guastella running hard to the finish.

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Danny in good form just before the finish line.

This year Sham and I missed what truly defines Coogan’s – hundreds of sweaty runners squeezing into Coogan’s Restaurant to enjoy free beer and pub grub with intoxicating post race analysis. Instead we ran the 3 miles back to Harlem 125th Street and treated ourselves to a $1.75 toasted bagel with butter and coffee combo from my traditional post long Saturday run deli. Long live austerity.