A Facebook friend, Ramon, recently discovered the joy of running. He took the next step and signed up for 5K races and asked friends to show some support. He actually did better than me and had his wife and children with him for the first race. That race took place on a Saturday, a work-day for me, so I couldn't make it, but for his second race, on a Sunday, I decided to surprise him by meeting him at the race as a runner.
Ramon's second 5K was the Police Sergeant Keith Ferguson 5K . According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Sarge Ferguson died in the line of duty in 2004 of a heart attack after running to aid a patrolman. Active.com has race results starting 2009 so it is logical to assume that the Memorial 5K Walk/Run started that year. The race started at the fountain in City Hall Park at the foot the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side. Runners would get out of the park at the south end then U-turn to get to the Brooklyn Bridge, bottleneck into the pedestrian bridge in the middle, reach the Brooklyn end just before Tilary Street then make the trip back to City Hall.
In researching about the race the day before, I came across The Epicurious Runner's race recap of the event. 5K is not my preferred distance and the idea of a fun run was not appealing either. I also do not like the Brooklyn Bridge since the pedestrian path shares the road with cyclists so there is little room to move. The tourists don't help either but hey we need their dollars. But I made up my mind to give Ramon some on-course support, if needed, so I went ahead with the plan.
As usual, there was subway track work so I had to go further away to get to a subway line, the N, that would take me into Manhattan. Good thing I am a runner so I jogged there, with some time left to cool down. The train arrived and I tried to take a nap on the trip in. I got to City Hall with plenty of time to spare. It was the first time I signed up on race day, $25, ouch. Based on my bib number, above 900, I did not get a T-shirt after signing up. I would get one after the race, I was told. There was no bag check, but it did not matter to me, as I rarely use bag check anyway.
The few portable johns had locks on them that supposedly no one had the keys for. So what would you do? You flag down some police cruiser and get a lock-cutter and off went the locks, of course. After using the still fresh john I made a loop of City Hall Park. Back at the south end, I found out that the food truck there with water, coffee, snacks, etc. was there for the runners, not some enterprising businessman having a prime location. I have a weak bladder so only took one small cup of water. Then I decided to reach out to Ramon. He was not too far away and shortly later I met him and his wife Dorothy. We took photos together and chit-chatted a bit, runners' shop talk, of course.
Eventually it was time for a slow walk out of City Hall Park via the south side to get to Brooklyn Bridge. During my walk around the park earlier, I saw the ramp to the bridge being closed and wrongly assumed that we would be running on the bridge itself, which would be great. In reality, we milled about on the sidewalk just across from the bridge until about 8:45. Slowly we entered the bottleneck and did not know when we should start our our GPS watches. I am used to see some clear temporary gate to indicate the starting line, with large digital clock. The Epicurious Runner did say that there wasn't net time, just gun time, but I secretly hoped that things may have changed since 2010, the year the E-Runner wrote the blog entry. When the crowd started to run Ramon and I kicked off our watches, but it turned out we were a few steps behind the invisible starting line, supposedly. There was some starting line but in reality the race was measured more in terms of starting time and ending time. Once the starting time kicked in, the race started, whether you are right at the starting line or five minutes back.
I already knew it would be a fun run with kids and people pushing strollers but it still took me some effort to avoid the kids and the strollers, as well as the walkers. I wish there were separate waves for runners, stroller-pushers, and walkers. Sure I am a slow runner but I still want to give my best without having to maneuver around the non-runners. The climb up the Brooklyn Bridge was tough, even though I knew better not to push too hard. At some point during the ascend Ramon ran ahead of me and I decided to catch up with him on the downhill trip on the way back to Manhattan. There was a water station at the first bridge tower but I skipped it. I usually take water only after Mile 2 or so, definitely not so soon after a race started. Near the Brooklyn end of the bridge, where runners would turn around to head back to Manhattan, I started looking for Ramon to give him a high-five and encourage him along. I can always blame my slower finish to my being a few years older than him, I figured. But he was nowhere to be seen. I went on back to Manhattan and stopped for water just before the descend. I picked up speed afterward and actually sailed pass a few people. Just before the U-turn into City Hall Park's south entrance, I sprinted for the finish line. It was nice that the announcer mentioned me as I cross the finish line. Someone already added my name to the database some time after I signed up earlier. Good data entry!
I remembered to ask about the T-shirt but it was all gone. I got to leave them my home address so I suppose they'll mail me one. Later on I met Ramon and his wife. It turned out I passed him at some point before the turnaround in Brooklyn. I don't run with my near-sighted glasses so I don't see that well. Whew, I was afraid he would beat me but this time he didn't. We were separated by just a few minutes, really. Of course, I've been running regularly for a few years whereas Ramon just started a few months back, so I still have a little advantage over him. Hopefully with him in my back-view mirror, I'll train better and run more regularly, not the every-other-day or whenever schedule that I am stuck with lately. Keep up running, Ramon!
|Yay, ramp to the bridge is closed, we will get to run on the road with plenty of elbow room. NOT!|
|The finish line, where there was a clock and mats on the ground.|
|Food-and-drink truck, get your registration fee's worth!|
|The four portable john before their locks were clipped. No wonder there was no line.|