17 December 2011

Mr. 23 and Me at the Ted15

In the excitement of having a Personal Record with the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog, I wrongly concluded that the next P.R. to beat would be the Manhattan Half Marathon.  I did not realize that this weekend I could also take a crack at the 15K P.R., in particular the NYRR Ted Corbitt 15K (Ted15).

The subway trip to the race, in Central Park, was as messy as the typical New York weekend.  I already knew that the D train runs on the N line toward Manhattan, but I forgot to check #4 train, which I would need to take to get to the NYRR office to pick up the bib and time chip.  Upon transferring for the #4 at Pacific Street Station, I noticed the stair opposite the elevator had a red tape stretched across it.  However, in another nearby stair the red tape was broken and there were people in running clothes heading up it, so I followed them up.  As us New Yorkers often do, I and the few runners quickly started up a chat about the lousy weekend subway service.  I had a long chat with one particular elderly man, who I shall refer to as Mr. 23.  A #4 train heading further into Brooklyn stopped at one side of the middle platform where we were and people got off.  On the Manhattan side, a #4 arrived but it stopped on the far side of the platform, where the #2 and #3 usually stops.  Shouting the classic "Hold the doors!" we ran down the stair then up again the other side.  Someone actually held the door and we all thanked him profusely.  It was horrible mismanagement.  There was no sign whatsoever to tell the riders that the #4 train would not stop at its usual place right next to the platform.  It was a good thing that we were runners - and somehow held the door.

I continued chatting with Mr. 23.  I learned that he started running late in life, like 49, and has been running 29 years!  He is in his 78!  His memory is not so good and his eyesight is bad, but he sure can run, from what he told me, and he looked the part.  He ran a total of 23 NYC Marathons.  Yup, he's one of those automatic entrants - no need for 9+1, lottery with the non-refundable $11 fee, or qualification time.  He told me he qualified for Boston Marathon so he is probably good enough for NYC Marathon, given his age.  Very impressive, Mr. 23.  I would be happy if I still can walk when I reach 70.  There is hope of course.  I am not even 45 yet and already have a few years of running under my belt.

At last year's Ted15, I arrived late and just joined the race as people thinned out.  As long as you do not arrive so late that the start line got totally dismantled, your race does not start until you and your time chip cross the start mat.  Technology at work!  For today's race, even with the side trip to the NYRR office to pick up bib and chip, I still had some time to walk to the start line to get the T-shirt, use the john, wolf down one pack of GU, and stretched a bit before the race began.  My bib number was in the 7000 but perhaps because fewer people signed up for winter races, the 7000 people were moved up to the 6000s corral and then 5000s, or maybe even further up.  Soon someone sang the National Anthem.  Is it still general practice to stand still and place one's right hand over the chest during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner"?  I have the image of that Norman Rockwell painting and still do that.  I got my Garmin ready and pressed Start as I crossed the start mat.  Off we went!

At the first mile, my pace was more than 10:07, that wonderful minute per mile number which I just achieved at the Jingle Bell Jog.  I worried that I would not be able to keep that pace.  Silly me! I was comparing a 6K race to a 15K one.  Much as I would like to, my body will not be able to maintain the same speed for a longer distance.  It helps to be realistic.  A few more miles and I came up with another crazy idea.  Somehow I thought my P.R. for a 15K race at the time was 1:21 plus some seconds.  It was already 21 minutes into the race (net time per my Garmin) and I still had so much to cover, there was no way I would beat the 1:21 time.  Again, I was off the mark, as the real time was 1:41:28, at the Cancer Colon Challenge in March 2011.  Luckily I corrected my mind and pressed on with a more achievable goal in mind.

I think for the Ted15 in '10 I stopped for water only once.  I did the same today, around Mile #5, except this time I also had a pack of GU to take.  There was no Gatorade so I took two cups of water.  My hands were so cold I could not open the pack of GU and had to bite it open.  It seemed like forever while I walked to drink the water and eat the GU.  People were passing me left and right, but once I had the GU consumed I ran past many people.  When Mile #9 came up, I mistakenly thought the finish line was just a tad beyond.  I started to sprint for it but it was still far off, or 0.3 miles (0.52K) to be exact.  Luckily, I did not lose too much steam and, thanks to the Garmin, knew very well that I would finish less than 1:41:28.  But by how much?  As I crossed the finish line, the Garmin said 1:36:20.  A day or two earlier, NYRR announced that the office had some upgrade to be done the day before the race and may affect posting of the race result.  Thankfully result posting was not affected and I soon learned that officially my time was 1:36:15, which made it an improvement of 5 minutes and 13 second!  Woohoo for a new P.R.!!!

In case you wonder, Ted Corbitt was the founding president of the New York Road Runners club.  He was also the first African-American to compete in the Olympic Marathon, in Helsinki (1952).  According to Wikipedia, he was an active runner into his 80s.  Amazing!

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