Sunday, April 22, 2007

In a word....Surreal...

Going into today's race, All I kept thinking about was how happy I was to do a race that I had not done in 21 years and 337 days (May 18th, 1985 to save you on the math).

The "Run on the Runway" is sponsored by the JFK Rotary Club. Funds raised from the race are used for scholarships, and to sponsor terminally ill children from countries with limited medical and technological services.

The first race was run in April 1972, but my first time running it was on May 20th, 1984. Until 2000 it was a 10K race which started at the Ramada Plaza JFK Hotel parking lot and to the runway and back to the hotel.

Pictures from 1984:

In that first race, I did my 10K in 41:17. A few years later, I would still be trying to break 40 minutes for a 10k (which never happened). It is my 10K PR.

In 1985, the race length, due to problems with traffic congestion, was reduced to 5 miles. That year I ran the race in 31:04 for an average, blistering speed of 6:13 per mile (one of my fastest ever). It was the only time I ever came in 1st place for a long distance race (in my division) and I came in 25th overall out of 350 runners.

Since then, traffic congestion had gotten a lot worse in the area, and the race was changed to a 5K. However, the race directors got it right. They eliminated the public roads portion of the run, and made the entire race on the longest runway of JFK International Airport, Runway 13. It is actually the longest Runway at JFK which is almost 14,000 feet, although only a short portion of the main runway is used for the 5K race.

I didn't sleep as much on Friday night as I would have liked to. I had a stressful day at work, and I had to get my children this weekend too. Usually, when they come over, I relish them for as long as I can. They usually fall asleep on me first before I ever have to tell them it's "Night Night" lol.

Last night, I also did not sleep too much, but I also decided not to run. It would mean sacrificing a chance at posting my 5th consecutive 30+ mile week, but given the speed that 5K demands, I was actaully more concerned about reserving energy for this race, more than for my Half Marathon last week.

The climate completely cooperated today. It was about 60 degrees, pure sunshine, and low humidity (10%). Even then, I was holding on to my prediction that I would finish somewhere between 23:30 & 23:37, which would easily have beaten my mark of 23:51 posted at the Coogan's Shamrock race in Washington Heights last year.

Remembering the article I read from Runner's World, I decided to go out faster than norm on the first mile, regress on the 2nd, and let it all fly on the last. Even then, I figured to finish no better than 23:30. But what happened, is a miracle.

With a field of about 300 runners, I lined up near the front. We were at the end of the runway, next to a humongous airplane hanger. Ileana filmed my "takeoff" and as the horn blew, I immediately exploded. One of the bad things about lining up to close to the front of the pack, is that you will die if you even try to keep up with them. The other thing is that eventually, your governing pace will take over, and anyone who was behind you with a better pace, will naturally overtake you later on. This can be a psychological letdown, especially towards the end of a grueling, fast run.

Lately, I've been measuring my mile splits manually, pressing the lap button after passing each "Mile" flag. Unfortunately today, there were no flags to be found. Not even an overhead clock at the start/finish! I had to rely on accurately starting my stopwatch as soon as my "Champion Ankle Chip" crossed the starting mats.

Anyhow, I never collapsed from trying to keep up with leaders, and only a few people passed me (although I actually passed a few people as well too!) Anywhow, I never really competed for the top spot. I had no chance. In fact, the winner, was this 19 year old out of West Point. He blew everyone away (take a look at the difference between him and #2 on the bottom of this blog). But I managed to see the winner almost the whole way.

Leaving the hangar area, we ran down the longest runway of Kennedy. Ahead in the distance was a parked 747! It was there to signify the turnaround point. Some marker!!

When I looked at my watch and saw that it said 10:00 minutes flat, I almost thought my watch had broke! I had to stare at it a bit longer to see that the numbers were still moving. Just then someone passed me! At this point, I was yelling to myself; "Forget about the damn watch, and the time.....Focus on your race!!!"

Anyway, I hustled it back. I don't even think I slowed down during the second mile, although I must've since my second half was done in 10:43.

Running back, I can see the leader, further and further away. I kept thinking to myself that I was losing ground, and that eventually other people would pass me by. But no one did. I kept thinking to look back, but wisely chose not to.

During the whole race, I clutched in my left hand a picture of me of when I ran my race back in '84. I must say the visual reinforcements coupled with the trance-techno music on my iPod, was all I needed to finish in good form.

With less than a half mile to go, all I kept hearing through my electronic beats, were the sound of me grunting, "Ayyyyiii, Ayyyiiii, Ayyyyyiii". I kept expecting to die, but I did not. And when I finished, I didn't even puke.

However, I did walk past my kids and past Ileana to the shade, and had to quickly get down on the ground or else collapse to it.

I still cannot believe my time. But my watch and the race clocks concur (within a second or two).


This week I will concentrate on getting up early to do my runs outdoors. I got up at 5:30am today (good), to post this blog and tomorrow it will be to run. Legs feel great today, but I must keep a constant vigilance against injury...

1 comment:

Mike said...


Can't wait for the video and photos...