NYRR Poland Spring 5M – Learning my running pace

This weekend brought in the NYRR Poland Spring 5M in Central Park to kick off the NYC Marathon festivities.   The weather was wet but not too cold, the crowds were in good spirits and I was pumped up to run a good race.

I arrived early in order to find street parking (I’m a New Jersey local and pretty awful at city parking), giving myself extra time for bib pickup and baggage check.  There was a band playing as I arrived which was fun, and since the race was sponsored by Poland Spring there were plenty of opportunities to grab a drink of water before heading to the starting corrals!  Someone grabbed a snap of me at this point, I don’t remember having my photo taken and so got quite a surprise when I saw myself on the NYRR website race highlights!

Not my most flattering photo, but who cares when you’re NYRR famous!

This is my 6th race in Central Park this year, and for all previous runs I have had the same amateur strategy: try and run fast on the downhills because you’re going to die and start walking on the uphills.  I was also still wary of Wednesday’s 2.5M run which wasn’t exactly successful, and on Friday I ran a few miles on the dreadmill which were challenging too.

I wanted to try something different.  

I decided to lower my running pace to 12 minute miles and try to stay consistent throughout, instead of my usual yo-yo between “good” miles (under 11 minutes) and “bad” miles (13 minutes+).  Luckily 12 is an easy number to divide up too, I knew to keep pace I had to run a quarter mile every 3 minutes.

Milling around before race start
Milling around before race start

Mile 1 went by uneventfully, but straight off the bat I felt more comfortable, my breathing was more regular and I didn’t feel the need to walk at all.  Normally I stop once or twice per mile for a 10/15 second break and catch my breath, but I reached the water station at 1 mile and still hadn’t stopped yet.

Mile 2 loomed ahead, and I remembered from the France Run that there was a big-ass hill waiting for me.  This run started on the West Side so I had a bit longer to wait, but trust me, it was there.  However, as I started running up the hill I found it MUCH easier than I expected.  Like, barely a challenge.  This is very unusual for me as hills are a killer and I almost always have to partly walk up them.  I was buzzing when I realised I was at the top and hadn’t stopped running at all.  I felt amazing!

Miles 3 and 4 were much of the same, a few nice downhills and some minor uphills but mainly flat.  I really made an effort to stay on pace, slowing down when I felt I was going too fast.  It is difficult to run slower than you think you’re capable of, but I kept me going through the uphills in a way that I’ve never been able to do before.

Until mile 4 it had been raining heavily, which was awesome.  Seriously.  I felt lovely and cool, no overheating at all.   If it’s not raining, it’s not training! 

(Euch, generic motivational tripe.  Vomit!)

Obligatory 'look at me I'm running' selfie
Obligatory ‘look at me I’m running’ selfie

The rain was starting to die off, and I was amazed at how well I was holding up.  By mile 4 of a 5 mile run, I’m usually comfortably in the ‘WWWWHHHHYYYY AM I DOOOOIINNGG THIIIISSS????” mindset, needing to stop every 5 minutes to walk and catch my breath, and force myself to start running again despite my better judgement.

Not this time.  Now, with my slower pace, I’m rocking it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not winning any races with 12 minute miles.  It’s that slow-run, the shuffle-run, the people-are-walking-faster-than-I’m-running run.  But who cares really, I felt strong!

After 57 minutes, I was at 4.9 miles on my GPS.  Technically I had ~0.2 miles to go to the finish line as races are always slightly over what you expect and  I started thinking, rather ambitiously, that I could up my pace at this point and get over that line within an hour.   I gave it my all, I sprinted as fast as I could and I hauled my ass over that finisher mat.   Mission accomplished!

More importantly, the only time I stopped was to drink water.  Other than those 5/10 second stops to grab a cup, I ran the whole way.  

Even up all the hills!

I’m not enough of a runner (yet) to really know what runner’s high is.  But on this race, I decided it was the feeling at the end of the race where you deliberately ran slower but managed to finish quicker than your last 5 miler.

Splits are much more consistent than usual, although I couldnt help speeding up at the end
Splits are much more consistent than usual

My official time was 59:34, with 11:55 minute mile average, so exactly what I aimed for.

Post-race high
Post-race high

I can’t believe how much easier it was to run consistently, even up and down hills, just by slowing down my running pace a little.  This week I have a 3M, a 4M and a 5k in my training plan and I’m going to keep the same strategy, aiming for consistency rather than speed.

Have a great week everyone!  Stay motivated!




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