by Paul Thompson (photos by Shamala Thompson)
Today was a test. To see whether my hamstring tendinitis was in check and whether I’d maintained my fitness despite abstinence from long runs and workouts the past four weeks. I think I passed with flying colors. The acid test will of course be how the legs feel when I wake up tomorrow. But from where I’m comfortably sitting it’s looking hopeful.
The London Marathon is two weeks today. When coach Lee Troop talked me into it back in early January I set my mind on a 2:30 ‘stretch’ goal. By late February I was on track. As indeed were my arch rivals Graham Green, Rob Downs and others. But then I felt a small pain in the butt, both literal and metaphorical. I self diagnosed hamstring tendinitis. I could feel it before the Washington Heights 5K and even more afterwards.
Since then I’ve been traveling a lot for work, city hopping across Europe. I’ve got the miles in but on Troop’s sound advice steered clear of 2 hour plus runs and workouts. Strengthening and stretching got squeezed out by a heavy work load and work socializing in the evenings. And I failed to find suitable physios and the like while away to help me rehabilitate. On arrival back in New York I sought out emergency treatment from Russell Stram (acupuncture) and John Henwood (deep tissue massage). The body responded well.
And so here I was. On the start line of the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K. I last raced this some years back. In 2007, I ran 31:35, my fastest ever 10K as a masters runner. But I lost interest in the race when it fell off the team points schedule. It’s now back on the roster. As well as a test for me, it was crucial for Urban Athletics to follow up its great performance at the Washington Heights 5K and put in a good showing.
Conditions were near perfect. Temperatures around 55 F, bright sun and slight wind. The only thing standing in the way of fast times was Central Park’s roller coaster course which included the counter clockwise traverse of the northern hills. I quickly got into my running but not as quick as Jason Lakritz UA’s fastest runner. My legs felt rested, the hamstring barely noticeable. I passed one mile in 5:10 with team mates Javier Rodriguez, Carlo Agostinetto, and Jamie Brisbois in close company. John Henwood was just behind.
Javier was somewhat nervous as he was 10 seconds up on his target pace of 5:20, good for a PR around 33. I was just intent on chasing the first American lady. Natosha Rogers has pedigree and I suspected would hold a good even pace throughout. And she did. I broadly tracked her. During the race one (male) runner after another pulled alongside and one by one she got away from them. The same fate would befall Javier and I.
Javier and I passed 2 miles in 10:20. We then descended to Harlem Meer before negotiating the imposing 600 meter climb of the northern hill, the hardest climb in either direction of Central Park. Javier and Natosha started to edge away from me. I passed 3 miles in 16:05 and 5K in 16:19, 17 seconds faster than Washington Heights 5K.
By now it was clear that the hamstring would not scupper my race, that my legs and lungs were ready for some serious punishment. The fourth mile was possibly the hardest with a significant net gain and undulating roadway throughout. I failed to see the 4 miler marker but extrapolating from my Garmin 235 it was around 21:30. Into the fifth mile I realized there was gas in the tank and plenty of runners just ahead to chase. So I chased.
By the 8K / 5 mile mark, passed in 26:18 / 26:28, I was back on terms with Javier and Natosha. We had momentum and edged past Phillip Falk of Central Park Track Club, Ned Booth of North Brooklyn Runners and Maclean O’donnell (16:04 in the Washington Heights 5K) of Dashing Whippets Track Club.
I now started to put the hammer down. When I do, few can match my momentum in the final mile. Natosha was one of those few. We gapped Javier then traded strides before she out kicked me in the finishing straight. One of the most tenacious runners I’ve raced. She did not yield an inch and then took a few yards.
My finishing time of 32:44 was good for 30th overall and 1st masters. It was my fastest 10K since April 2011. The age grade of 92.57% AG was one of my best ever after 2015’s Bronx 10 Mile and Grete’s Great Gallop 13.1 and 2007’s Cherry Blossom 10 Mile. Here’s my Garmin stats.
Natosha’s time was 32:46, slower than me due either to my starting a few meters behind or else NYRR messing up the results (again). Natosha was runner up in the 2012 US Olympic Trials for 10000m but did not get to London as she failed to get the A qualifying time. In 2013, she flirted with retirement. Imagine at half my age!
Javier logged 32:48, smashing his PR. Beating Henwood secured 1st M40-44 and 2nd masters overall. Jason Lakritz was first UA runner in 31:53 (19th overall, 5th M25-29). Other individual top 10 UA placings were: James Brisbois 33:41, 7th M20-24; Carlo Agostinetto 33:47, 5th M35-39; Matt Chaston 34:24, 1st M45-49; Stefano Piana-Agostinetto 36:27, 7th M45-49; Peter Heimgartner 37:29, 10th M45-49; Jonathan Schindel 37:28, 2nd M50-54; Fiona Bayly 37:57, 1st women’s masters and 1st W45-49; Adam Kuklinski 38:39, 5th M50-54; Ellen Basile 40:16, 2nd W40-44; Jennifer Harvey 43:06, 4th W45-49; Kieran Sikso 44:57, 5th W40-44; and Kaori Takai 47:57, 9th W45-49.
Like Washington Heights this was a big day for UA team placings. UA were 3rd open team (Jason, me, Javier, James and Carlo) behind West Side and NYAC if you ‘discount’ the NIKE elite team. UA were also 4th open women’s team (Fiona, Ellen, Jennifer, Kieran and Kaori), 1st men’s masters (me, Javier and Matt Chaston), 1st women’s masters (Fiona, Ellen and Jennifer), and 1st men’s M50 (me, Jonathan and Adam).
In the overall standings both the men’s and women’s were close run affairs. In the men’s race, Sam Chelanga of the United States won in a sprint finish over Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya, with both men timed in 28:21. The women’s race saw Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia beat Magdalene Masai of Kenya, 31:37 to 31:44. Natosha Rogers of the United States was seventh in 32:46. The course records of 27:35 and 30:44 survived.
So it seems I passed the test. London is calling The M50 field is loaded – top 3 Brits in 2017 half marathon rankings Graham Green (1:13:20), Rob Downs (1:14:02) and Nigel Rackham (1:14:14: I was watching this in Reading nursing hamstring) against Martin Fiz, former World Marathon Champion and 2:31 in tough Boston race in 2016. A Spanish Galleon verses some British frigates.