After 11 weeks of summer training, the shortened daylight and relentless humidity had finally given way to fall. As I awaited the start of Sunday’s Bronx 10 Miler the chill of Sunday morning’s mid 50 temperatures was a shock to my system. The cool down could not have come at a better time, as I was running out of adjectives to describe just how insufferable I’d found the summer to be. Either the season needed to change, or I would need a new thesaurus!
With just a little over a month until marathon Sunday, my weekend long runs were nearing their peak. Each of the previous two weekends I had logged 18 miles, and though I knew I should trust my training, doubts were creeping in. Those runs had been tough, and I wasn’t pleased with my pacing. I’d initially attributed my frustration to the 70 degree weather and above average humidity, but I was beginning to conflate perception and reality. A mental summer fog had set in.
Needing to complete 20 miles on Sunday, I planned to run – not race – the Bronx leg of NYRR’s five-borough race series, then tack on an additional 10 miles by running from the Bronx to Central Park and eventually finishing at my doorstep on the Upper East Side. But as the old saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Whether it was the cool weather, the festive atmosphere of more than 9000 runners, or all of the above, my legs refused to settle into a steady long run pace once the congestion of the first mile gave way. As the initial miles ticked by, my splits progressively dropped. By miles 5 and 6 I practically gasped when I saw I was clocking sub 8:00 miles. Physically, I didn’t feel as though I was expending much effort, but mentally I was worried that I’d pay the price in post-race miles.
As I passed the mile 5 marker, I just decided to go with the flow. If I suffered during my route to Manhattan, so be it. Maintaining a steady effort-based pace, I continued on toward the finish, completing the 10 mile route in 1:21:23 (8:09 pace). In terms of effort, I’d consider it a “semi-race” push, landing somewhere between an all-out and a long training endeavor. As I crossed the finish mat, I felt like I’d struck the right balance.
Grabbing a bottle of water and sucking down a vanilla orange GU, I was more than a little apprehensive about my jaunt back to Manhattan. My confidence had been a bit stirred after my two prior weekend 18-milers had been more difficult than they should have been. I wanted to believe those runs had been challenged by the heat and humidity, but perhaps my fitness hadn’t progressed as much I’d wanted to believe. Where did perception end and reality begin?
For a few minutes I thought about bailing on the additional miles and instead taking the 4 train back to the Upper East Side. But after running into an acquaintance I knew from some of the group runs I’d taken part in during the winter and spring months, I found myself inquiring whether he was planning to run back as well. He wasn’t. Though after verbalizing my intentions, I knew there was no way I’d be hopping on the subway. Feeling as though my words had just sealed a fully enforceable international treaty, I bid farewell and headed south.
Following Grand Concourse, I headed to 138th Street to join the marathon course and follow the route I’ll take again come November. The route provides a nice opportunity to take on the seemingly never ending climb up the 5th Avenue hill, which is by far my least favorite incline – whether I’m running 26.2, 20, or just a handful of miles. I made my way into Central Park continuing on to the famed Tavern on the Green finish. I paused a couple of times for GU and water, and took humor in a few funny looks from some who must have noticed the Bronx emblazoned bib- I imagined some must have wondered exactly how many wrong turns I must have taken to arrive in Central Park. But I was in good company, as I there was a small army of Bronx 10 mile run finishers easily recognizable with their race bibs still pinned to their chests.
After 18 miles, I headed toward home to finish up my mileage on the far eastern side of the island. Tired and ready for food, a shower and a nap, I wrapped up the second 10 miles at an 8:38 pace, giving way to an overall pace of 8:20 for the 20 miles.
Some long runs are better than others, and this had been one of the better ones. 10 plus 10 may equal 20, but on a day like this, the sum of this simple equation restored a much needed sense of confidence. A result far more meaningful than basic math might let on.