With April just around the corner, the fifth and final March weekend heralded a throw back to NYRR’s Central Park road races of yesteryear with the Spring Meltdown 15K. The aptly titled “classic” series offers a members-only, budget ($10 entry fee), limited field (1,160 finishers), no-frills experience. A committed group of die hard runners coupled with a vocal cadre of volunteers and staff made for quite the energetic outing. Amidst a fog and mist-filled backdrop, I set out to finish my fourth and final March race.
Though I knew the field size for today’s run would likely be a half to a quarter that of a typical Central Park race, I hadn’t considered how that might impact my personal performance. Up until today, I’d of maintained that the smaller size wouldn’t have had any influence. As it turns out, I’d of been wrong.
I’m not sure if it was because today’s field was more “hard core” than a typical race or if it was just the sheer reduction of participants, but throughout the course I was intent on “upping my game.” For the first time, I found myself in a series of mini-races, trading positions with some strong runners. It felt like real racing. This was a new experience for me, as I honestly cannot recall anything similar happening in any other race I’ve run.
Today’s 15K was a tough effort. There were a number of times during the race that I felt extremely spent. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was testing my effort for the duration of the distance, or if my body was a bit tired from two consecutive half marathon weekends. “No excuses” quickly became my mantra. I knew there’d be time for analyzing and assessing once the race was finished, so I just focused on giving it my best.
As I neared the finish, I could hear the race announcer welcoming runners by name as they completed their race. I’ve participated in any number of events where names were called out over the PA, but today was my day. I heard my name announced as I threw up my hands over my head! As cheesy as it may sound, I thought that was so cool. Until taking up running, I had never been an athlete. So hearing my name at an athletic event really felt special.
After gulping a much needed post-finish Gatorade, I checked my Garmin to see how I had done. I felt that I had really pushed myself throughout the race, leaving me with not much left at the end. In that sense, I felt I had left it all on the course. I hoped reality matched my perception. Fortunately, it did.
I finished the 9.3 miles in 1:18:18, which equated to an 8:26 pace per mile. Until today, my 15K best was achieved in December when I ran the distance in 1:20:12, managing an 8:37 pace. I was pleased to have shaved ten seconds a mile over the course of three months.
But there was a more important takeaway than the time results. This outing really provided some lessons in putting in a tough effort through the duration of a moderately longer distance. Mentally feeling as though I had exerted too much, too soon, thereby leaving me feeling as though I was running in slow motion in the later miles turned out to be just that, a mental feeling. My splits proved otherwise. I’m hopeful that by better bridging the gap between perception and reality during the race, I’ll be able to finish more confidently and stronger in the future. If so, that’s a lesson that will will deliver an exponential return on today’s $10 investment!