Thursday, August 11, 2011

Small Town Race in the Big City

Although I raced a 5K in Prospect Park last week, this weekend's Sgt. Keith Anderson Brooklyn Bridge 5K was the first race I signed up for after moving to New York City. The race was appealing for a number of reasons. First and foremost, my training plan had me racing this weekend anyways. It was designed when I had the Blue Points 5K in Charlotte on my schedule. Secondly, as a tourist masquerading as a local, this was a good way to explore the Brooklyn Bridge and blend in with the city folk. The course is over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back. Good way to check that landmark off the list. And third, it's the same weekend as the New York Road Runners Club Championship race in Central Park, which I wasn't eligible to run in and the Nautica New York City Triathlon which I had no desire to compete in (Swimming is bad enough, but swimming in the Hudson River? I think I'll pass).

It is the third reason that gives this blog entry its title. With two other marquee events in town, this was definitely destined to be as low key as it gets for Manhattan. Even in New York, there are only so many runners to toe the line at various races...even if they do offer breathtaking views of the island. I arrived at New York City Hall Park via cab roughly 90 minutes before the start of the race. Although, I was pretty certain it would be a small race, I wasn't positive and wanted to give myself plenty of time. I was, however, one of the first people there. The race is put on by the NYPD in memory of an officer who collapsed and died in 2004 while chasing a suspect down the street. While the police force here is the best of the best, they are not, understandably, race directors. I had to laugh as I stretched on a park bench listening to two officers try to determine how they would operate the bag check. When one came up with the idea of handing all the runners raffle tickets to carry with them, I felt compelled to go from observer to advisor. With the dew point about 2 degrees lower than the air temperature it would be mere seconds before those tiny tickets disintegrated into something unrecognizeable. I showed the guys the tear off section of the race bib and viola...we have a bag check. They were very grateful.

I was drenched following my warm up which took me around Lower Manhattan, past Ground Zero and through the Financial District. No doubt about it, it was a sticky day. About 10 minutes before the start, everyone started to make their way toward the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. As the crowd congregated, I surveyed the possible competition and noticed that I might be on my own for this one. Even though there were about 800 people in the race, I didn't see many people in short shorts, flats and a singlet (not that they guy in basketball shorts and Asics Kayanos hasn't come out of nowhere in the past). In fact, a couple of guys came up to me and told me I would probably win. Of course, I never take anything like that for granted, and as we followed an NYPD bagpiper to the official starting line, the trim, shirtless chap next to me had me wondering if there might be some competition after all.

When the horn sounded, the other runner was matching me stride-for-stride on the uphill start. I was feeling the incline of the bridge immediately, and though it was keeping me from going out too fast, I was worried I might be doing the opposite and going out too slow. As we crested the hill, I threw in a surge and the other runner couldn't hang. From that point on, it would be me and my thoughts. I didn't see another soul as I made my way over the wooden walkway. Just after crossing over a slab of concrete that says "Welcome to Brooklyn", there is a nice downhill and then two cops waiting at the turn around. This turn around was reminiscent of the old China Grove barrel and I slowed significantly.

Going back toward Manhattan, I was running against the oncoming crowd. They were all very supportive and I tried my best to cheer for all of them while taking in the stunning view of lower Manhattan from high above the traffic on the bridge. It's a fairly narrow walkway, so I had to really do some maneuvering. Just after the mile two mark, a kid, maybe no older than 8, suddenly shifted right into my path. I didn't even have time to realize what was happening and I went down hard. I banged my knee on the bridge and scraped my hand. I was shaken, but got back up and tried to regain the time I had lost. It took a good 30 seconds to get my stride back and I temporarily had a little limp.

After that mishap, it was smooth sailing. I came off the bridge and into city hall park where the announcer called my name and lots of NYPD officers cheered. Following a three mile cool down, I got a lovely trophy and took my picture with Sgt. Ferguson's mother and a couple of detectives. I'll keep that picture in my wallet lest I ever get caught for public urination.

I am definitely satisfied with the race. Although I ran 16:26, that does include a slow up at the turn-around (because I wasn't sure it actually was the turn-around), and of course the fall. Not to mention, I ran it with no one to push me at all. The race is a good confidence builder as I ramp up for the half-marathon. I need to find a good 10k to run in between now and September 25th, but so far, nothing is popping up on the schedule.

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