Galloping Back to Speed at Grete’s Great Gallop

Name of the race: Grete’s Great Gallop

Where: Central Park, Manhattan, NYC, NY

Date: Oct 5, 2014

Time: 9:00 am

Distance: 13.1

Terrain: Two loops in Central Park, small rolling hills

Entry fee: $30

Swag: Cotton t-shirt

Post-race Food: Bananas, bagels, water, & Gatorade

Time: 1:54:10

Performance:Overall 2280/5973; Gender 706/2947; Age (35-39) 113/445

Weather: 46 degrees, 56% humidity

Grete’s Great Gallop is named after Grete Waitz, a Norwegian marathoner who was the first woman to run a marathon under 2:30 and won the NYC marathon 9 times (and was an extremely dear friend to Fred LeBow, race director and founder of the NYC marathon).

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this half. The heat and humidity just killed any desire for speed at September’s Bird-in-Hand HM. Though I had been running, I really hadn’t done much half marathon specific training. A few failed tempos. My first long run that was longer than 13.1 miles. Some speed work. I registered for the Trenton HM in November some weeks ago as my test to see what I truly do. I wanted to use Grete’s Great Gallop was another long training run. My vague plan was an 8:45 pace, depending upon how I felt. Run faster if I felt good. Run slower if I felt bad.

NYRR very kindly provided pace groups and luckily for me there was a pace group for a 1:55 HM, which is an 8:46 pace. Perfect! I met Harry, the pace leader and chatted with him a bit. I liked his pacing philosophy of starting slow and slowly getting faster so we could negative split. I have a tendency to start off too fast, so this was good practice for me to slow down in the beginning. Harry announced that the first mile would be at a 9:00 min mile and that the time would be made up eventually throughout the miles and on the downhill portions of the course.

Like every NYRR race, the race was really congested. More so in the first few miles, but it never really cleared up until Mile 8, which is a long time. I stayed with Harry for the first few miles, which was hard work. Not because of the pace, but because of the congestion. Harry gamely fought his way through packs of runners and politely requested those runners to move aside for us. Many of those runners were hearing headphones so they couldn’t hear anything. I tried to run behind Harry, but gave up after a short while because there was a husky guy who was bulldoggedly determined to run with Harry. While I admired his game effort, I didn’t think it was a good idea on his part. After one mile he was breathing really heavily – the same way I do after I run a mile and a half – when I’m running a 5K. We lost him after the second mile. He never had a chance.

I followed Harry for about 3.5 miles. Harry was a great pace leader. He’s really cheerful and a real rah-rah-rah kind of guy. Several people knew him and cheered for him (and us) as we ran past. He was unfailingly polite and thanked all the volunteers, not just the ones at the water stations. He soothed the anxious nerves of runners. He asked me a few questions that I answered. Then I said, “Sorry, but I’m not a talker while I’m running.” He immediately got it and stopped. In short, he did everything he could to be the sort of pace leader you needed him to be. If you wanted lots of cheering and encouraging, he gave it to you. If you wanted to be left in peace (me), he did that too. I really enjoyed the few miles I ran with him.

I felt good, so I decided to pick up the pace a bit. Gradually I left the pace group behind me. Around Mile 4 I noticed Ben sitting on sideline. I yelled hi and before I questioned WHY he was sitting, Ben hopped up and joined me. He explained that he wasn’t feeling well enough to run fast and wanted to run with me instead. I was really happy to have Ben join me because it’s just nice to have someone with you.

Usually we run around Central Park counterclockwise and most of the race courses run that way too. But every once in a while, the course is clockwise. Let me tell you, that it really does make a difference. While I don’t claim to know Central Park like the back of my hand, I feel I know it fairly well. But running the familiar route clockwise suddenly turned it unfamiliar to me. I had no idea when to expect certain landmarks. It was a funny feeling of “I have no idea where I am. Hmmm . . . there are a bunch of hills now . . . I guess this is Harlem Hills . . .”

The best part of the race was being near the finish line when the first overall male runner was coming through. Ben and I were at Mile 12 marker (it was Mile 6 for us), when he flew right past us. A few seconds later, the 2nd and 3rd place runners came through. I got excited and ran faster. It was quite thrilling. Everyone else thought so too. Despite our growing fatigue, we clapped and cheered loudly for the elites who lapped us.

Now it was the second and final lap for us. I think of half marathons as 10-mile races with an addition 5K that I need to “just hold it together.” While I felt fine for 10 miles, the last 3.1 miles are mentally a bit though on me. I kept thinking that I needed to “just hold it together” and “don’t fall apart.” I repeated those two phrases to myself over and over again. I rejoiced when I saw the Mile 13 marker. The finish line was seconds away.

I pumped my legs to the finish line. Done.

I was pleased with my time – 1:54:10. A solid time.

My splits were pretty good too.

Mile splits

  1. 9:06
  2. 8:44
  3. 8:33
  4. 8:30
  5. 8:49
  6. 8:20
  7. 8:26
  8. 8:42
  9. 8:33
  10. 8:37
  11. 9:04
  12. 8:37
  13. 8:39
  14. 8:04 (for .1)

Sometimes I think the photographers for NYRR hate me and love Ben. Inevitably Ben has a million photos taken of me and I barely get any. My best photo of me on the course came from Ben’s photos (it wasn’t attributed to me because a part of my bib was cut off). I only got a couple photos of me crossing the finish line. And those shots were from far off so I’m small in the photo. I supposed I should be happy that I even got those. There have been NYRR races where they got 0 photos of me. Seriously. None. So here’s the best photo I found of me. But it’s mostly all Ben.

Ben and me at the finish line

Ben and me at the finish line

8 thoughts on “Galloping Back to Speed at Grete’s Great Gallop

  1. Those hills heading to the Harlem are killers!
    Seems like you had a great run, as for the pics, I rarely find myself, I know the feeling.

    • At one race, I didn’t have a single photo. NOT even one of me at the finish line and they had TWO photographers there, not to mention I had seen a bunch all along the course. Statistically speaking it’s just about impossible that I would have been completely missed like that.

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