Is greed good? I don't think so, but for today's Grete's Great Gallop Half-Marathon I wished that I would further break the new P.R. achieved in Staten Island just a week ago. The route consisted of two big loops of NYC's crown jewel Central Park, clockwise. Before the race, a friend from PPTC told me that the Central Park course was tougher than Staten Island Half's. That didn't stop me from wanting to break the one-week old P.R. of 2:14:39.
The Great Gallop is probably one of the few, if not only one, NYRR races that does not start early, say 8 AM. It was a family event with the Great Gallop being the third of three events so it started at 10:30 AM. I still prepared everything the night before and left the house in the morning at 8ish. Getting bagel and coffee for breakfast put me in the subway station near my house around 8:30. In Manhattan, the D train ran on 8th Avenue instead of its usual 6th Avenue route. I was going to get off at Columbus Circle anyway and walk the mile or so to the race area, us runners don't mind walking. However, since the D ran on the A train's route, making all local stops, it dropped me right at 72nd Street and Central Park West, perfect. Another good thing with having another race before the race I registered for is that there was a whole bank of portable johns with no lines. To make sure I won't need to go during the race, I visited the much less crowded bank of johns on the West Drive a few times during the down time before the race.
At the Great Gallop in 2011, I had a compression pants and perhaps two layers of shirts. I recall some runner remarked to me, somewhere between Mile 12 and 13.1, "You must be burning in all those clothes." I already used bag check that day to shed a sweater but was still wearing more than necessary. After all the races in the past two years, it finally dawned on me that I get hot easily and don't need anything more than a singlet and a running shorts. It helped in Staten Island and I hoped it would too in Central Park.
As usual, I was in the last corral, labeled 9000+. I think the race was not sold-out so during the singing of the national anthem the runners in the back were able to move up to the 6000 corral. It still took me about ten minutes to cross the starting line. Funny thing is during the wait I found myself standing right next to a man I stood next to at the Bronx 10-Miler in early September. We had a brief chat then and today, too. Small world, eh? Not only that, I also recognized two other people I photographed at the NYCRUNS.COM Narrows Half in late September. One of them had the clever writing on his yellow shirt that read "Here's my number", right above his bib. Admit it, you were thinking, "Call me, maybe", were you not? The other person I recalled well because at check-in for the Narrows Half, he said loudly that he was never that late. Sure enough, he was the few late-runners after most people already passed the start mat. In these races with thousands of people, what's the chance of seeing three people I saw before, eh? Actually, make that four, as I saw the 74-year-old Mr. James Lu while chatting with other PPTC members before the race, but he has his unique looks that cannot be missed.
So off we went round and round Central Park, which has only Harlem Hill and Cat Hill, no? Or so I thought. Even right off at the beginning, at Mile 1, which would be Miles 7 and 13 as well, there was a hill. Then there was some other hills before we got to Harlem Hill. I did take full advantage of the down-hills to speed up. Around Mile 4, the lead runners started to pass us slow runners. I think around that time I had my first Gu, too, without water. I already had the urge to go early in the race so to be safe I only had a sip or two of water at two of the stations. It worked out that I had two more Gu's, one at Mile 8 and another at Mile 11. Having the third Gu helped me run faster for the finish line. However, with the finish line in sight, I actually felt something in my chest and had to slow down. Maybe I should have brought along the chest monitor that I rarely used. I still resumed sprinting once the finish mat came into view and luckily didn't have any discomfort. 2:15:28. Not better than Staten Island's 2:14:39, but certainly better than the 2:27:56 at last year's Great Gallop, same course, of course.