Magic Mile down 5th Ave

Name of the race: 5th Avenue Mile

Where: Upper East Side, 5th Ave from 80th St to 60th St

Date: Sept 13, 2014

Time: 1st wave starts at 8:45 am, women 35-39 (my wave) 9:55 am

Distance: 1 mile

Terrain: Slight downhill

Entry fee: $30

Swag: Cotton t-shirt

Post-race Food: Pretzel bread, apple, water

Time: 6:37

Performance:Overall 2434/5610; Gender 454/2600 Age (F 35-39) 58/429

Weather: 68 degrees, 63% humidity, overcast

BOOM!!!!! I flew past the starting line and roared past several runners like cannonball.

The 5th Ave Mile is one of NYRR’s premiere races. World-renown middle distance runners come to race a mile down 5th Ave. A couple years ago I got to see Leo Manzano race just a few months after his silver medal Olympic run.

I’ve wanted to do a mile road race for a long time, but there were different reasons why I haven’t. This distance is a little harder to find compared to the plethora of 5Ks that are available here. It’s a little hard to justify the cost to do a mile race, when the race fee will pay for a longer race. But I really really really wanted to do the 5th Ave Mile after watching the festivities for the past couple of years. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to run a sub-7 min mile. I figured if everything worked out, I may be able to run a 6:50, but I would have been happy with being just under 7 min.

The waiting was the hard part. Ben and Bandit came with me to pick up my bib and keep me company until I entered my corral. We ran into a couple of friends that we always see at races. I was glad to run into Aya because she’s in my age group and faster than me. I use her pacing to inform my own.

DA-dum! DA-dum! DA-dum! I could barely hear anything else over the hard thumps from my own heart. I was nervous. I wanted to run well, but aside from a short speed workout, I hadn’t ran since last week’s half marathon (race report coming!). I also wasn’t sure how I should pace myself. I know how I’m supposed for feel in the longer races because I’ve had plenty of experience, but I had no idea how a mile should feel. I do mile work outs all the time on the treadmill, but on a treadmill I merely set the how fast I want to go and then I go on cruise control. I don’t have to worry about pushing myself if I slow down on a treadmill because if I slow down, I’ll fly off. Self-preservation does a lot to ensure that I run at a steady fast clip.

Finally the sharp crack from the starting pistol released us.

One of my concerns was being caught behind slower runners. A mile is a short race and you need to make sure that you don’t start out too slow because there’s not enough distance to make it up. I flew past several runners with minimal weaving. The first quarter mile I ran at a pace that I thought was fast. It was. TOO FAST. I was keeping up with Aya, which shouldn’t happen because she’s much faster than me. I knew I couldn’t keep up this pace and if I tried, I would crash and burn. I purposefully slowed myself down despite the anxious feeling that I wasn’t going fast enough. I had to use Aya as a cue that I was running too quickly, despite feeling for the first 100 meters that I was feeling great at that breakneck pace.

The second quarter mile has a slight uphill. It was good for slowing me down. Once I crested over the hill I could faintly see the blue finish line arch off in the distance. I glanced at my watch to see what I pace was. 7:30. Oops! Too slow. I quickened my pace until the Garmin read 7:00. At that point, I ran hard to maintain the pace.

Running straight down 5th Ave is magical. There are no turns. Just a pure hard run all the way down. The roar of the crowds got louder the closer you are to the finish line. Right before I crossed the finish line, the sound was deafening.

I don’t remember much of the third quarter mile, except it felt easy because of the gentle decline. This section flew by. The final quarter was tough. When I felt like I had enough and I just wanted the mile to be over, I glanced at my Garmin again to see how much I had left. It read .8, so I had .2 left to go. At this point, I knew I just had to hold it together. I ran abreast with two other runners. We ran as hard as we could. The moment one of us tried to surge, the other two matched. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone outkick me. There was nothing I could do. I was sprinting as fast as I could and I had nothing left to give. I don’t remember what happened to the other two runners. We might have crossed together. They might have left me. I might have left them. I don’t know. I was so focused on running that aside from the finish line, I didn’t perceive anything.

The clock over the finish line was ticking away. I was thrilled to see that I was so much under 6:50. The clock ticked down 6:37, 6:38, 6:39. At that point I desperately wanted a sub 6:40. I was a few rows behind the start line, so I knew I had a few seconds leeway. One last furious kick to propel myself across the finish line.

I was done!

What was my time? I wasn’t quite sure. Though I had my Garmin, I started and stopped before and after the start and finish line. In a short distance race, those few seconds make a huge difference. Later in the afternoon when I looked up my time online, elation filled me when I saw 6:37!!!!! I couldn’t believe how fast I ran that mile.

Ben and Bandit found me after the finish line. We picked up our bibs for the 18-mile tune-up in the Central Park the next day and hung around to watch the elites. It was really cool to see in person the athletes that we see on TV and read about. I was excited to see Will Leer, Jenny Simpson, and Mary Cain. Afterward we got some lunch and went home.

The 5th Ave Mile was a tremendously fun experience. There’s a lighthearted excited feel to the race. People are eager to see how fast they could run, but it didn’t have the same high stakes of weeks and months of training that a half marathon or marathon entailed. I had an incredible time, both in terms of running and the experience. I never experience such a thundering roar of cheer and applause and I raced down to the finish line. Though it’s a bit pricey, I really think the 5th Ave Mile is worth experiencing at least once in your life.

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8 thoughts on “Magic Mile down 5th Ave

  1. Nice finish! This sounds like SO MUCH FUN. I did a mile “race” once but it was sponsored by a brewery and I didn’t take it too seriously (ie, drank a pint before the start).

    • I’ve heard of beer runs, but I can’t imagine doing one myself. I have a hard time running right after anything is in my stomach.

      The 5th Ave Mile is an iconic race to do, especially since so many people stick around afterward to cheer on other runners and to wait for the elites. Watching the elites run is amazing. It’s like watching gazelles, rather than humans.

    • Thanks!

      It was so much fun, more so than I had imagined. Before doing it, I had a hard time justifying the race fee. But now that I’ve done it, the atmosphere and everything makes it all worth it. Plus the elites usually hang around a bit, so you can snag an autograph if you’re quick. I got Leo Manzano’s one year.

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