Percy Sutton Harlem 5k

After running this race in 2012 and having a positive experience (with near death feelings after the finish line), I never thought to include this event in the calendar for 2013, since it was not part of the team races.

Michelle decided to run it to collect an extra point in the 9+1, just in case for next year and was almost undecided whether to run it or not till last-minute, given her persistent leg problems that never went away this summer; I decided to tag along and try to help Warren Street collect a decent overall place and maybe bring home some money for the team budget. In fact, NYRR had a small prize money for the first few teams.
It was not ideal racing conditions for me since I did not want to modify the weekly training schedule and ended up running very hard tempo repetitions the evening before the race.

Quite tired Michelle and I drove to Harlem early in the morning for packet pick up and immediately spotted Paul. We started running along the course to warm up and refresh our memories of those steep hills that we would tackle in the first mile. Paul was wise enough to review the garmin data from his previous years and told me that my perception of the course been all up for one mile and then basically all down from there on was wrong: the highest point was going to be just after the 2 mile marker. Not fully convinced of his data, I still trusted Paul and revised my plan for the race.

First, I was not fresh, so I needed to start conservative. Second, with hills coming till the second mile, the conservative approach made sense.

As we took off I probably had almost 100 runners in front of me. They were sprinting like maniacs trying to make it in first place at the bottom of the first hill. I did not quite understand the reason, since after the turn they all disappeared back.
I saw Aaron just ahead of me and knowing he was in great shape, I tried to catch up to him slowly on the first hill. I did and I locked myself behind a tall tall dude from Central Park. He was great: large shoulder, maybe 6′-5″ and a great device to break the wind in front of us. A couple of other runners lined up with me behind him and together reached the northern point of the course to make the 180 degree turn onto St Nicholas.

Here I could take a breath for a sec, since we went downhill slightly for a couple of blocks. I realized that I would have lost to all those guys next to me had we finished together in the final long stretch, so the only way to pull away was to wear them down slowly with a faster pace from that point.
I tried to get away, but Mr tall tall Dude kept following me and sprinting to catch up. Every time I glanced back he was responding to my “attacks”, so I stopped trying to open a gap and kept the pace more constant. I saw Aaron was following close, and I was happy to hang at that pace.
In this part of the race I also lost sight of Paul, a good sign that he was going to fight and be close to his sub 16 goal.

Around mile 2, I saw Sham that encouraged us and took some nice (even if I look like cr#p) shots. Now after a quarter of a mile downhill the race was all flat along the final long tricky straight stretch.
I say tricky because from far away you can see the start line. Problem is: the start line IS NOT the finish line. I knew that very well, because I did that mistake two years ago.

This time I kept myself in check and did not sprint after the last left turn, as other did. I let them go and caught up with them with just 100 meters to go: they were gassed out too early. I did not feel my sprint was anything fast, but it was effective. I passed just a few runners, and one two pulled away from me. Thankfully this time the chip system worked fine and those two runners that out-sprinted me, actually ended up behind since they started well ahead of me.

Of course Paul was just after the finish line, already grabbing some food, and he welcomed me and Aaron (just on my tail).
Paul told us he was feeling left out from the group since we all got a PR on the course that day, while he barely missed his sub 16 goal by mare seconds.

True, Aaron and I got PRs, (finally a decent one for me…still just a few decimals short of that 80% AG). However, how would I describe the magnificent race that Paul put together? 7th overall, once again beyond 90%, first master and more importantly the passion and the commitment that he put into training. That is the magic behind Paul: the dedication and the relationship he has with running. He simply inspires others to run more, better and harder.

But why would one run? why are we running? Why am I running?

That is the question that uncle Pascal asked me about a year ago during a long cold run in Central Park. That question never found an answer and I have focused more recently on finding an answer as well as learning why others do it.

One more thing: Paul beat me by half a minute in a race (yes, I am improving slightly) but I publish this more than a month after he published his report.
Total domination from his end.

Second thing: even Michelle had a good race, much better than expected given the initial conditions and our total lack of speedwork in the last 6 months.

Montana awaits for us, and we will be present and ready


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