Tag Archives: Washingston Heights

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: 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.


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%.


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.


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


John and Mike Guastella running hard to the finish.


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.

Watching from the Sidelines is Harder than Racing

by Paul Thompson

This morning I was in northern Manhattan watching the Coogan’s Salsa Blues and Shamrocks 5K. It was one of those rare occasions when I was watching from the sidelines rather than competing. And I learned it was not only harder to watch than race, as I did last year, I am also less good at it.


The leaders make there way up the first hill

My spectating was forced on me by injury. I am three weeks into an injury which has gotten progressively worse, dragging my fitness and spirit down with it. Fortunately, since my last blog post, I am one step closer to getting over it. Thanks to Facebook friends I think I now know what I have and how to treat it.

The problem seems to be piriformis syndrome. A complex sounding condition which boils down to something very simple: a ‘pain in the butt’, literally not just figuratively. My physician confirmed it on Friday and at noon tomorrow I will be at New York Physical Therapy.

Self treatment started last week. As I write I am sitting on a baseball: I would not know how to throw one (I come from a country that plays cricket) but I sure know how to sit on one to get some relief. Another series of stretches I found useful were on Youtube. And yesterday I found myself rolling my feet on small balls (!) with five women. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Hence, with injury here I was standing roadside cheering on team mates, watching and listening to this colorful part of Manhattan. I found it colder, much colder, standing around in several layers than racing in singlet and shorts. Watching also reminded me of my problem: I just wanted to be running.


On course entertainment

I am just plain out of practice when it comes to spectating: many of my Warren Street clubmates I came to cheer along went by without me noticing. I ‘practice’ running 20 hours week but I only spectate once in a blue moon. My wife, Shamala, a veteran of most of my races, is far better at it. I now know why she complains about ‘hanging about’ trying to catch a glimpse of me running

Though injured life has its consolations. Having entered the race and gotten a number I was able to share in the free post race refeshments, a curious combination of Guinness, shepherd’s pie and sesame seed micro muffins, at Coogan’s Restaurant, at 9:30am Sunday.


An unused number but at least it got me two free drinks coupons