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Race Report: 2016 Race to Deliver 4M, Central Park, New York, November 20, 2016

by Paul Thompson (with pictures by Shamala Kandiah Thompson)

While my sojourn to Perth, Australia to run the World Masters Athletics Championships was purely a personal indulgence this one was solely for the team – Urban AthleticsRace to Deliver promised to be one of NYRR’s lower key races coming as it does soon after the New York City Marathon, not being a club points race, and the absence of prize money. We decided if we turned out in force and populated the front end we’d get a lot of kudos and name recognition. And that we did.

Weather conditions dramatically worsened on the eve of the race. Peekskill encountered gale force winds and torrential rain overnight and as temperatures raced down to below freezing the rain turned to snow on higher ground. While the rain stopped it was no surprise to find it windy, cold and overcast on the start line. The weather seemed to reflect the rather gloomy mood of most New Yorkers as the election results have sunk in. And that mood was reflected in Peter Ciaccia’s words just before the start. He was in a mournful mood and suggested the New York running community needs to hang tough these next four years. And that’s exactly what it will do.

New York’s running community is a microcosm of all that  is best about New Yorkers – open minded, diverse, respectful of others. On the start line I realized we – just like the vast majority of Americans – were all immigrants in some shape or form, some whose families settled here in previous centuries through to some like me who had more recently got off the plane. The diversity – of gender, of ethnicity, of age, etc. – was clearly visible. And it’s this diversity that makes the New York running community so interesting.

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UA’s  Jason Lakritz, me, Stefano Piana-Agostinetti, Harriott Kelly and Fiona Bayly in front.

With the front end lacking depth there wasn’t the usual scrum in the corral. There was elbow room and none of the compression that characterizes typical NYRR races. I quickly got settled into a four man lead group comprising team mates Jason Lakritz – returning to form and hoping to run 5:15 mpm pace for the first three miles and then open it up in the final mile – and Javier Rodriguez and Alejandro Ariza of Henwood Hounds.

Jason, Javier and I after 400 meters just before the Boathouse.

The opening mile takes in Cat Hill and ends just after the Metropolitan Museum. As we passed the clock at the mile mark showing 5:20 Jason decided to accelerate. Alejandro made chase while Javier and I resigned to spectate from a steadily increasing distance. Jason slammed in a 5:03 second mile and half way through it Ariza slipped off his tail. That was my cue to make chase.

Jason in the finishing straight having just passed the Daniel Webster statue.

The course was the so-called Central Park inner loop, run counter clockwise. Javier and I, with me doing the pushing in pursuit of a fading Alejandro, reached the two mile mark on the 102nd Transverse, in around 10:35 according to my Garmin (the NYRR clock was not working).

Just after the two mile mark we caught and overtook Alejandro, clearly suffering from going with Jason’s second mile surge. The third mile, heading south down the West Side Drive, is arguably the toughest in the park as it takes in three hills and include significant net gain in altitude. I continued to push hard, albeit in surges rather than consistently. Javier and I were side by side as we passed the the three mile mark in 16:02. It was literally all down hill to the finish from here. Javier, in view of my doing most of the work, conceded a few meters in the finishing straight to let me take second.

Javier and I in the finishing straight.

I ran the last 200 meters hard, almost all out, and passed under the finish line clock as it showed 21:17-18. Disappointingly the final official result was 21:22 though that was good enough for winning the masters and getting an age grade of 89.61%. In any case NYRR is legendary for its :59 finish line clocks translating to :01 in the official online results.

Jason won comfortably in 20:55. With me in second and Javier in third UA took a clean sweep 1-2-3 in the men’s race. And for good measure Harriott Kelly won the women’s race in 22:56 and Fiona Bayly, 4th woman overall, the women’s masters in 24:23.

Harriott digging deep in the finishing straight.

That’s not all. UA runners were all over the leader board, many taking a Top 3 age group placing. The Javier was 1st M40-44 in 21:22, Carlo Agostinetto 1st M35-39 in 22: 25 (less than 24 hours after winning the NYRR NYC 60K in 3:57 minutes), Stefano Piana-Agostinetti 1st M45-49 in 22:46, Jonathan Schindel 2nd M50-54 in 24:10, Stephane Bois 3rd M50-54 in 24:18, Jim Olsen 1st M75-79 in 32:16, Michelle Goggin 3rd W35-39 in 27:30, Ellen Basile 2nd W40-44 in 25:42, Jennifer Harvey 2nd W45-49 in 25:59, Dominique Saint-Louis 1st W50-54 in 26:47,and  Ivy Bell 1st W60-64. It would have been quicker for me to list what we did not win.

Jason, Javier and I picking up our awards.

Immediately after finishing Jason, Javier, Harriott and I were rounded up and reminded repeatedly to be at the Naumburg bandshell to collect our awards at 9:30am sharp. Ans so we did, shaking and shivering as the windchill took the feel like temperature under 0 celcius.

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UA on parade. Photo credit: Sam LaFata

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Race Report: NYRR Retro 4-Miler, Central Park, New York, June 5, 2016

by Paul Thompson

It dawned on me today, as I lined up and observed the retro paraphernalia – the sweat bands, psychedelic colors, the mini shorts etc. – that I actually experienced much of the retro era. For many it was something they’d read about like  a history lesson. For me, and other masters runners, it was something we’d lived through. And for a moment it made me feel sentimental and old!

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This race fell on Sham and my anniversary. At 6 am, in pouring rain, she was driving us (or was it me?) to New York. It’s amazing sometimes what our partners, consciously, do for us.

After Sham had set me down at Marcus Garvey Park I ran the 3 miles or so south down to the start on the East Drive at 68th Street. As I reached the Boathouse I saw Urban Athletics team mates headed north for a warm-up. I was already warmed up – the  weather was as humid as a sauna though not so hot – but jumped in. This would be my first time running for Urban Athletics (UA) – in the US at least as I’d premiered in the Greater Manchester Marathon. This was also my first race since Manchester in early April. I’d finished that marathon with a chronic calf strain: question was would it re-emerge?

On the start line I was some way back from my usual position near the front. As

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Retro lead car at the start line

well as hearing a rendition of the National Anthem we also heard a tribute to The Greatest. Muhammad Ali passed away yesterday. As I get older I’m finding that not only have I lived through eras like retro, I’ve also lived during the lifetimes of iconic figures who have had a profound positive impact on our lives. Bowie now Ali.They show us what’s possible.

Right back to the race. Within seconds of the starting gun I found myself passing the Boathouse dodging traffic thanks to starting deep in the A corral. Club mate Javier Rodriguez ‘s rationale for starting deep was that it would moderate the early pace and help ensure we run 5:15 miles and finish  in 21:00. But I found myself panicked into trying to make up for lost time and get into my finishing position! The net result was a 5:07 opening mile, a mile that takes in Cat Hill. Too fast. I’d pay for that later.

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Heading up Cat Hill

In the second mile fellow masters runners Javier, who had never beaten me at distances over  a mile, and John Henwood, who  I don’t recall  I’d  ever beat, joined me. We’d end  up duking it out for the rest of the race: another masters runner, Peter Brady, was also in hot pursuit. We traded strides, sparring running style. We passed the two mile mark in 10:19 making it a 5:12 second mile.

Bobby Asher, who looked like Freddie Mercury but was  hoping for Mark Spitz, breezed passed us during the third mile as we navigated the hills on the West Drive heading south. Fellow UA club mate Jason Lakritz, nursing an injury, caught us. Approaching mile 3 we had Greg Cass in our sights and he’d stay there. During the third mile I found myself starting to pay for the fast opening. We passed mile 3 in 15:47: the 3rd mile had taken 5:28, the slowest of the race due in large part to the hills and fast opening.

The final mile drops down to the 72nd Street Transverse. Javier started to open it up and stole a small gap on me. John had dropped off. As we took the sharp left hand turn into the finishing straight I was 5 meters shy of Javier but I appeared to be catching him. I didn’t despite a 5:14 final mile. Bobby, Javier, myself and Jason finished in that order, and with daylight between us, but shared the same time of 21:01 in the official results.

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Jason, Javier and Paul heading to the finish line

I  had hoped to get under 21:00 not least since I’d tapered and had been doing some faster workouts with UA. But hey I can’t, or shouldn’t, complain. I got 31st overall (though I  was 30th over the line but that’s chip to chip timing for you), second masters, first M50 and best age grade with 91.08%. This suggested I had recovered from my spring marathon ordeal though my AG scores indicated I was better at longer races. UA got 4th in men’s open: The NYRR race report reveals WSX winning with its 5th scorer running 19 flat. With Aaron Mendelsohn closing in 21:24, and like Javier getting a PR, we comfortably won the men’s masters.  My Garmin race stats are here.

After driving home and getting a quick shower, Sham and I  were holed up at the Taco Dive Bar having a celebratory brunch. Sham had a potent cocktail with her breakfast burrito while I had water paired with a stack of pancakes inches deep. A few hours later I was at JFK. There I had a  frustrating 4 hour wait on the runway waiting for my plane to Las Vegas to depart due to foul weather. I’m now getting accustomed to a few days in 110F.  This morning I got out at 6 to beat the heat. I ran an easy 6. It was 85F.

Race Report: Greater Manchester Marathon, UK, April 10, 2016

by Paul Thompson

Reason for Running

Eight years ago I ran the Boston Marathon in 2:38:52. The wheels came off soon after getting over the ‘summit’ of Heart Break Hill, just as they had at 22 miles in my two other marathons, London 2006 and London 2007. At the end I made one of those running vows – this was my last marathon. And like all running vows this was destined for the breakers yard. All it needed for it to give was self-discipline to slip, memory to wane, or curiosity to return. And so here I was standing on the start line of the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Having recently turned 50 I made another vow that trumped (that word’s on my mind a lot lately, hopefully not after November) the one I made eight years ago. To try and get a PR at the distance as an M50 (sorry British readers but masters has a far better ring to it than ‘veteran’, a term that conjures up images of those wounded in war rather than those that have mastered something). My PR, from Flora London Marathon 2006, was 2:29:56.

There was more to it than that. This was a distance I’d yet to conquer. My three previous attempts were poorly executed, a combination of irrational exuberance in the early miles and inadequate fueling. On all three occasions my racing was done at 22. I’d been defeated long before the finish line, the last 4 miles typically being a funereal march to just get to the end. I’d stopped competing with myself, with others, with anyone. Many of us have been there. Deep down I had to put that to rights. Or at least collapse trying.

Race Preparations

This time I had taken a few crucial extra steps (!) to maximize the chance of success. The main one being getting myself a coach who has a word class pedigree at marathon running and a philosophy that sits well with mine. Lee Troop. And to top things off, on the eve of the race, Lee revealed he’d finished 7th in the Commonwealth Games marathon held in Manchester in 2002.

This time round I was stronger, smarter, and better prepared than before. As well as Lee’s expert guidance since 2011 I’d been running long easy distance of 18-21 almost every weekend. This started more by accident than design, dictated by a Metro North train schedule for Peekskill to New York that left me with 2:30 to get a run done (with trains every hour of course I could have opted for 1:30 but then I needed to justify the 50 minute ride each way with at least as long a time running!). 26.2 was no longer intimidating. I’d also made regular visits to DrStu to keep me in running order and was popping some pills.

Heading into the race I made no secret I was doing it. And the words of encouragement – text, email, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Strava, even face to face – boosted  motivation, pressure (living up to their lofty expectations) and accountability (explaining to them should I fail to meet those expectations). Thanks to all of you that sent me words of encouragement and / or congratulation.

I had three targets – an “ultimate” one of under 2:29:56, an “I’ll take that” one of under 2:33, and an “I’ll live with that” one of under 2:36. Why more than one? Well we need a goal to stretch us. But then if mid-race we find it beyond our reach we need an anchor to help us get safely ashore. And if that goal is beyond us we need something else that will keep us motivated to finish rather than throw in the towel – in this case catch the Manchester Metrolink to the finish!

The final count-down to race day had gone to plan. Sham and I were in Paris the previous weekend so I spent a few days running there with my final longish run on Sunday on the trails of the Bois de Boulogne, catching some of the Paris Marathon. In the final week I clocked 56 miles and as I tapered, simultaneously reducing the load and intensity, my legs started to feel fresher and the IT band steadily improved. Sham made sure I also stuck to Lee’s fuel plan, gradually moving to a largely carbohydrate diet in the final days.

On the Saturday, the Thompson Clan – my brother Stephen, hoping to run 7 minute miles and smash his PR, his wife, Lynn, and two boys, our parents, and Sham – drove to the Didsbury Travelodge located in a Manchester suburb conveniently located at the end of a Metrolink tram line. That afternoon we did a recce trip in to see the start and finish area, half a mile from a Metrolink station and collect my race number.

Red rose, Lancashire's symbol from the War of Roses, on gate to Emirates Old Trafford, Lancashire County Cricket Club's stadium

Red rose, Lancashire’s symbol from the War of Roses, on gate to Emirates Old Trafford, Lancashire County Cricket Club’s stadium.

Race Day

On Saturday morning, after an early breakfast of oatmeal and banana, Steve, Lynn, Sham and I rode the tram in and made our way to the start. I took a GU caffeine gel 30 minutes before the start. While thousands suddenly started descending on the start area it felt decidedly low key: no fencing in the runners and jostling for a good starting position. Athletes were casual and courteous. Altogether much less stressful than the Marathon Majors. The downside was that it did not have that big race feel. I was proved wrong.

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Runners arriving early at start area.

This was my first race in new club colors. I’d entered using my UK registered club of Kettering Town Harriers but was wearing my new Urban Athletics vest. Ever since settling in the New World in October 2004 I’ve run, through mainly thick and some thin, for Warren Street but it was time for a new chapter in my running. A new club, a stronger vibe, greater ambition, and more resources in form of store base and potential sponsorship. As well as being one of the best teams in the New York area for men and women the UA masters men and women can be the best in the US. But the main thing was that many of my old Warren Street buddies joined me at UA.

In the closing minutes Sham called me over to get a picture with Ron Hill. An athletic icon, famous for breaking all sorts of records, who at 77 is still looking incredibly fit. There’s a campaign to get him a knighthood. No one deserves the accolade more given his accomplishments and what he’s put into the sport.

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Talking to Ron Hill just before the start.

Race Start

Ron saw us off. The first few miles were out and back down a highway. By the second mile I was running with Michael Hargreaves of East Hull Harriers who was hoping to dip under 2:30. We passed the first mile in 5:28 and second in 5:29. As Salford Harrier Josh Tighe joined us I gently applied the brakes. But by 5 miles it was clear I was comfortably running 5:35-40 miles – ahead of my ultimate schedule but perhaps too fast for me to sustain.By this point I’d also come to understand what Lee meant by “Manchester’s roads are hard”. The stones laid down onto the tar are harder than the slick tar roads of the US.

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Trading strides with Michael Hargreaves of East Hull Harriers.

From miles 5-10, through the suburbs of Stretford and Sale, I was isolated but running strong in the 5:40 range. Soon after mile 9, a heavily spectated section,  I took my first GU gel. Suddenly I was slowed by a sharp deep pain in my left calf, similar to a pain I’d experienced a month earlier in training in new training shoes. Within a few hundred meters I’d gone from running at 2:28-29 pace to facing the prospect of an early retirement. My sudden slowing to around 6:00 pace helped a chasing group of four, led by Phill Taylor, catch me.

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Mile 9 with chasing pack of four closing in.

Half Way

I figured if I tough it out the pain might ease. And so it did, soon after settling into the pack of four who had joined me.We worked well as a group running at around 5:40 pace and taking turns leading. But at the half way point in Altrincham – the highest point of the course which the website boasts as one of the fastest in the world, faster even than Berlin and Chicago – passed in 1:13:34, Phill Taylor and James Turner broke away. I let them go as I was concerned I’d run the first half 2 minutes faster than I should have.

By mile 14 I found myself once again running solo. I slowed slightly and downed my second gel. I was now running 5:50 miles. Pacing was starting to prove difficult: tiredness makes basic maths a challenge and I’d also inadvertently stopped the Garmin for a few minutes. At around mile 18 I found myself gently accelerating and through 21 maintained 5:40-45 miles. I overtook Phil Taylor who had got away from me exiting Altrincham. And a lady on the roadside shouted “Good run young man”. The best cheer of the race even if inaccurate.

Closing Stages

For the first time in my marathon running career I found myself enjoying it and confident of a strong finish. It did not last. At 21 I was again struck by sharp pain in my calf, only this time the left one. This forced a slowing in my pace as I again focused on running through it. I did  only this time there was no increase in pace. Deep fatigue was setting in and it was now a case of hanging on. The final few miles felt like hard labor. There was a head wind. My pace gradually slowed to 6:00 then 6:10 then 6:20. I was back in that zone – surviving as opposed to competing. I guessed I was on track for 2:33-35 but was almost past caring.

With less than a mile to go I got overtaken by a fast finishing Joel Jameson, a triathlete debuting at the marathon, but caught Michael Hargreaves (who would clock a PR but was clearly paying for a 1:12:30 first half). A spectator called out “you still have good form” which roughly translates to “you’re slowing down but at least still looking good.”And then Old Trafford football stadium,  home of Manchester United, and Emirates Old Trafford, home of the Lancashire County Cricket Club (LCCC), came into view.

That final mile, a long straight ending right outside the LCCC, seemed to take a little longer, actually a lot longer, than forever. Eventually I passed under the finishing gantry with the clock reading 2:32:02. I was very happy, at least as happy as you can be after a marathon which leaves you so completely exhausted that there’s little if any energy left to celebrate with. Steve, pictured gallery here, went even better clocking 3:11:56, several minutes inside his previous best.

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The end is nigh.

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Steve approaching the finish line.

Race Analysis

I finished 14th of the 9,500 starters, the fastest M35 upwards. My time placed me top of the UK 2016 M50 marathon rankings, just seconds shy of the leading time from 2015 of 2:31:56 by Graham Green. Manchester put on a great show – super fast course, enthusiastic spectators, relaxed atmosphere and even dry weather. Unfortunately there were baggage issues leaving some disgruntled.

Here’s the official review, race video, my official race picturesmy official results, the Garmin data (missing segment near mile 16 of 0.2-3 miles and forgot to stop the watch at the finish line), and Strava data (again missing segment but edited out the failure to stop the watch). My heart was unusually high in the first 10 miles but then moderated.

This is my last marathon. At least it might be. Somehow I need to trump Manchester. But maybe I’ll wait until Donald is behind us all. Either way I’ve ticked off one of my 2016 goals. Steve (pictures here) meanwhile said “there’s unfinished business”: he’ll likely aim to go sub-3 hours in 2017.

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Replacing calories and discussing with brother Steve what went right and wrong.

Race Report: 2016 Gridiron 4M, New York, February 7, 2016

by Paul Thompson

Today was my first race as a M50. It was also the first time ever, or at least as far as I can remember, that I was on the start line having not adjusted my training in preparation for a race. Quite the reverse. I did a long easy, or as easy as I could make it, 18 miles the day before. And it was the first time I completed a race having wished New York Road Runners (NYRR) operated a double dipping awards program. I’ll come back to that later.

This race was not on my bucket list for 2016. The USATF Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon (the M50 title I coveted was won by Carl Combs) was but the logistics – 5 hour flight then 3 hour drive – together with flight and hotel costs ruled that out. So with Bend out of the reckoning I had no viable excuse when team mate Carlo Agostinetto started press ganging his Warren Street team mates into running this race in the hope of picking up some team prize money. His methods proved very effective. Pretty much the entire racing team towed the line having gone to great lengths, and no doubt great ‘cost’, to get ‘leave’ from partners.

I explained to coach Lee Troop that I’d like to do this one “for the team”. He said OK. But there was a catch. First he suggested I make it part of a long run but eventually he settled on my running at least 1:45 the day before. In the early miles I thought about not racing but imagined Carlo’s disappointment so I focused on putting as much easy into that long easy run as I could and worked on managing expectations. My slowest time for 4 miles in the part was 21:11 on a hot September’s day back in 2014. A personal worst was on the cards.

I rode the train in to Harlem 125th Street from Peekskill. My driver, manager, cheer leader, bag carrier and photographer (hence no pictures for this post except for MarathonFoto!) wife Sham was in Singapore with family seeing in the Lunar New Year following a work trip to Bangkok. I then ran over to the Upper West Side to drop my bag and collect team mate Aaron Mendelsohn. We ran to the start picking up team mates en route.

The weather was near perfect. Still, bright sunshine and a few degrees above freezing, quite unusual for early February in these parts. Standing waiting in the starting corral for the gun I tried to seek some place in the sun. I only had a vest, shorts and gloves. And then we were off.

My new Garmin got to tell the story and passed it onto Strava. Three runners stole a big lead within the first quarter of a mile. Meanwhile team mates Carlo and Sebastien Baret and I chased 4th and 5th placed Bobby Asher and Tesfaye Girma. We caught them during the undulating first mile heading south down the West Side Drive. I passed mile one with Carlo in 5:21. We traded places – we may be team mates but we typically compete hard against each other – in the gently descending second mile. We passed the second mile marker in 10:34.

As we crested the high point of the 72nd Street Transverse I opted for the Denver Broncos channel owing to my liking for Boulder (for those that did not run please see the NYRR race report for an explanation). As did Carlo. And as we ascended Cat Hill Carlo started to edge away. I was running strong but I had no gears or speed to respond with. I covered the third mile in 5:29 and Carlo stole 5 seconds. He went on to rob me of another 4 seconds by the finish line. He posted 21:15, close to a PR, while I breasted the tape in 21:24, a PW.

In the finishing channel Carlo and I waited for the team. They all followed in quick succession – Sebastien Baret (21:38), Fabio Casadio (22:20), Aaron Mendelsohn (22:23) and Alex Lorton (22:37). All six of us either won our age group or else were in the top 5. But more importantly we were top team and NYRR owed us $500.

Now back to the double dipping. Were NYRR to permit double dipping my net worth (can’t you tell I’m an accountant) would have increased $425 ($100 for 5th overall, $150 for 1st 40+, $75 for 1st M50 AG and $100 for my share of the $500 team prize) in 21 minutes. That’s a great hourly rate. Unfortunately NYRR applies the following rule: “Unless otherwise noted, runners with multiple eligibility will be awarded the highest prize money amount only.” So I’ll have to settle for $250 – or $150 as likely the whole team will get to blow the $500 on beer.

The big consolation of the day, after a warm down, was being treated to a slice of chocolate brioche by Aaron and his fiancee Aviva. We might spend our $500 on these.

 

Race Report: NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K, New York, December 12, 2015

by Paul Thompson

In the penultimate race of 2015, and of my 40s, I fell just shy of my goal of 50 minutes. Spring had come to New York and many of us were able to make hay. The race also marked the end of the NYRR season-long club points championship and Warren Street managed to end on a high with 3rd in the open men’s race and 2nd in the men’s masters. That was enough in the final reckoning of the 2015 season overall, to finish 4th in the open men’s competition and 3rd in the men’s masters (assuming my math holds water). We’ll take that.

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Runners heading towards the starting area

While I may have had a lofty target of 50 minutes I had little idea how fit I was. In my two previous races – Bronx 10 and Grete’s Half Marathon in back to back weeks in early fall – I’d hit a real high with highest ever age grade (AG) performances (us masters runners rarely get in the mix at the sharp end so AG is a nice consolation). But in the 4 week period ending November 23rd I’d logged 120 hours of flying. And I’m not a pilot.

The business travel took me to Seoul, Geneva, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (twice!). While I enjoy traveling, and seeing new places like Seoul which was a pleasant surprise for running (see here for a sample run in Strava), my running routine that hangs around long runs and repetition workouts got bent out of shape. But somehow I got in 70 mile weeks. In a future article I’ll share how with the help of expert time management!

Lining up in the front corral it was clear that West Side Runners (WSX) and New York Athletic Club (NYAC) would be duking this one out for the top team (see the NYRR race report here). Barely 400 meters into the race I found myself in the mid teens with 5 or so runners from each of these teams ahead of me. I passed the first mile in around 5:20, the second in 10:40, and then settled into 5:25-30 miles.

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With the Warren Street men at the start

For most of the race I found myself isolated. From 2 through 5 miles I traded strides and places with someone new to the local running scene who I was unfamiliar. Passing  the 5 mile mark in 27:02, I got a gap on this guy and found myself running alone until John Davies of NYAC breezed passed in the 7th mile. John quickly opened up a gap on me. It was a timely kick up the backside as one often needs three quarters into a race when one is prone to losing concentration.

In the closing stages I could see a sub-50, equivalent to my Bronx 10 performance albeit that was on a flatter course (this one took in the middle 4 mile loop and the bottom 5 mile loop, missing the northern hills but still taking in Cat Hill twice) was off the charts so I reconciled on running 50:30. Which I did with 5 seconds in hand.

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Heading to the five mile mark

My 50:25 was good 10th overall, 1st place masters and top AG of 92.04 (once NYRR have corrected for 9th place  Michele Giangaspro, a 47 year old 23 minute 5K runner who posted 3 PRs back to back). I got to hang out in the finishers area to see team mates finish – Carlo Agostinetto (2nd M35-39 and a PR in 51:25), Sebastien Baret (3rd M35-39 in 52:03), Danny Tateo (1st M50 in 55:37), Alex Lorton (final scorer in 5 man open team with 55:48), Antonio Nebres (2nd man in 3 man masters team with 56:59) and Fabio Casadio (57:21).

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Sebatian B. looking good at five miles.

So with December 28 closing in fast I now have one race left as a M40-49 runner – next Saturday’s 2015 USATF New York 10 km Championships in Central Park, a place that is my second home. I will soon reach my goal of 50 – years rather than minutes.

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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: Philadelphia (Half) Marathon, November 17

by Paul Thompson

Last weekend I started the Philly Marathon with Mo’ath Alkawaldeh. Mo completed his in a little over 2:37, a great debut. I meanwhile DNF. Or more precisely I took ‘advantage’ of the option to bail out at half way. This option, open to all marathon entrants, gets you timed and scored as though you had started the half that’s run simultaneously.

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Mo and I just before the start.

My game plan all along had been to pace Mo through half way. Approaching 13 miles the course does the splits – turn left for another 13 miles or turn right for a 100 metre dash across the finish line. As I turned right course officials, spotting my marathon bib, gestured me to turn left. I almost had to run over them. I had mixed feelings crossing the line. I felt relieved not to be in Mo’s shoes with 13 miles left. I felt great for having logged 1:13:20 after weeks of battling sciatica. But I felt a bit of a fraud with the marathon bib – a job half complete. Was it a DNF? And, soon after crossing the line just ahead of me, Eric Shafer turned to announce he was a masters runner. That left me in second place for the masters, a one second deficit costing me $500.

Mo followed his first half 1:17 with a solid 1:20 second half. Mo and I used to train together when he lived in New York. Keen to run a fast debut marathon in the 2:30s he flew to New York from Jordan to stay with us for the week leading up to the race. We drove to Philly where we stayed, with Mo’s friend Osama Al Qattan (who PR’ed with 3:26) at a hotel in the city’s suburbs.

I had offered to pace Mo to half way at around 2:30 pace. We set out at 5:45 pace but after 2 miles he was a few seconds adrift. I felt ‘up for it’, my sciatica lost without trace. Pre race he suggested I race it. So I did. My pace making days were over before they even started.

As 6 miles approached, in the spectator packed Downtown area, I decided to step on the gas and, hopefully, do enough to take first masters and the $500 prize. My 10k split of 35:23 (5:41 average) compared with 5:30 average for the latter 11k which took in the two hills in West Philly.

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Racing to the finish

Philly is a great race. Some 23,000 ran the half and full combined. The course was pretty fast and varied – city center, riverside, park ‘an all. Spectators came out in their thousands to bellow their support. In the Drexel University area this extended to students completing a marathon night of revelry with beers on the sidewalk.

Mo and I enjoyed elite entry status. This meant we had the ‘luxury’ of hanging out in the elite tent pre- and post-race.  And a designated restroom with no line. The elite tent gave us the opportunity to study the pre- and post-race routine of real elite athletes.

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Chatting to some Kenyans post race

One standout was the heightened security, a legacy of the Boston bombing. This extended to clear only baggage and restrictions on spectator access. But what was clear was that New York and Philly have overcome the restrictions and put on even better marathons than before.

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UPS vans ready to take the clear bags to the finish area