At first I thought to make last week 10k my “last race” before moving to Amherst, and to just have a fun run today in the Run for Central Park 4-miler. But because of an unplanned … err … Nature-call pause last week, I thought today was the day to challenge and see what, if any, progression I made since I started racing in April.

Today race also closes a chapter quite symmetrically. The course was the same as my first race, Run as One, so on an almost equal ground to make comparisons. Almost, but not exactly identical. Three months ago the weather was almost ideal for running: cool but not cold, and dry. Today instead we were in the middle of a heat wave. I started sweating way before starting running, and it wasn’t the excitation of the race. Runners were all complaining about it, but even though everybody prefers spring and fall races, today we all knew too well times would have not been as good as in a cooler and drier day.

Watch and pace. I thought about it for a while yesterday, and then decided to run watch-less. My point was not to care too much about pace, but more about guts feeling. I starting believing that watches are fundamental in longer races, like Half-Marathons and Marathons, but in shorter races I got the impression that if I were running at an unplanned pace, I’d start to freak out no matter how effortless that pace felt. That’s to say that I didn’t want to start too fast — I know that to be one of the most common mistakes in races — but I didn’t want to start right while believing it to be too fast.

So there I was in my corral and feeling weirdly good. I felt my muscles not in their usual sleepy knot, but elastic and ready. Of course, as I said, I was feeling the heavy hot air around me. But besides that, I was truly feeling ready.
I can’t say I had a runner’s high. I experienced a couple in the past, and today wasn’t the case. The race didn’t feel easy, but it didn’t feel too hard either.
I started at a good easy pace, probably slightly too slow because of the usual traffic, and then started to ease in a comfortable fast pace. Watching the race chronometers I knew I was running around a 7 minutes per mile, maybe sub-7.
I took water at each of the three water stations. I hated that two sprinklers were not aiming for us! The sprinklers are there to cool runner, not to water grass! (Indeed I heard a couple of runners shouting water!)
The last mile is pretty much all down-hill, and tried to sprint for the last 100 yards but couldn’t do. Still I finished in a totally respectable (for me at least) time of 26:40, at a pace of 6:40 per mile.

In my first 4-miler, Run as One, I finished in 30:20 so an improvement is quite evident.
Now it’s only training for the Hartford Marathon in October. I have my 9 qualifying races for 2009 NYC Marathon in my pocket, so to say.