As a new runner, achieving continual improvement is perhaps the most rewarding part of my journey. Whether it’s reaching a distance milestone, setting a pace per mile personal record, or sometimes just finishing, there are many ways to measure success. From week to week, or even month to month, truly understanding how far along you’re coming can be difficult. A myriad of factors such as varied race lengths, weather conditions and even injuries can make short-term assessment difficult.
Now that I’ve begun my sophomore year of running, I’m appreciative of the perspective that comes along with having a full year under my belt. Most notably, I’m going to be able to measure my year-over-year performance. That’s why I’m declaring progress as my word of the year. Through “apples to apples” race comparisons, I can see how much I’ve grown as a runner. If the three races already completed this year are a harbinger of what’s to come, it is truly going to be an exciting year.
Joe Kleinerman 10K Classic – This early January 10K, encompassing a full loop of Central Park, kicked off my 2014 race year in erie fashion. The 90% humidity and misty conditions resulted in picturesque fog blanketing parts of the course, particularly along the west side.
Despite it being my first trek of the year through the dreaded Harlem Hills, I finished in 53:03 and managed an average 8:34 pace. By comparison, in 2013 I completed the course in 57:33 with a 9:17 average pace. While I’m excited to be able to mark my 2014 performance down as a distance PR, I’m ecstatic to see my year-over-year progress.
Fred Lebow Manhattan Half – The Manhattan Half has special meaning for me, as last year’s race marked my first half marathon ever completed. It’s a challenging course, to say the least, as it involves two full loops of Central Park including two trips up and down the Harlem Hills, plus an added 1.1 mile just for good measure. Oh, and it was COLD (with wind chills in the single digits, the all caps are deserved). I saw quite a few finishers with icicles clinging to their beards, eyebrows, hats – you name it. Personally, I love winter races such as this – by the second mile I’m warmed up, and the feeling of accomplishment upon finishing simply cannot be equaled.
This year I finished in 1:57:04, averaging an 8:57 pace. Last year I proved to myself I could complete a half marathon, and managed to do it in 2:06:51, equating to a 9:41 average pace. Given the difficulty of the course and the extreme temperature, shaving nearly 10 minutes off my time underscores why my word of the year is progress.
NYRR Gridiron 4M – This year’s “Big Game”-themed race seemed to evoke a particularly exuberant atmosphere due to New York co-hosting the afternoon main event, but I was most appreciative of the 40 degree heatwave. With a four mile course, I hoped to bring down my average pace closer to my 5K best of 8:00. Ultimately, I timed out at 32:39 with an 8:10 average pace – my best for a 4-miler. According to my Garmin, I managed a sub-8 pace for two of the four miles – so I feel as though I’m on track to accomplish my goal of breaking the elusive 8:00 mark in the not-to-distant future.
When I checked my 2013 results, I immediately became quite nostalgic. Last year’s Gridiron race marked my first time averaging a pace of under 9:00 per mile, completing the course in 35:55. I thought back to how happy I was to crack that 9-minute mark, and I wonder how much faster I might get this year. If the Gridiron’s year-to-year contrast doesn’t serve as a gigantic billboard flashing PROGRESS in neon lights, I don’t know what would.
So, with three races under my belt so far in 2014, here’s toasting a glass of lemon-lime Gatorade to a year of continued progress!