The Fifth Avenue Mile grew from elite men’s and women’s races into a mass spectacle and one that runners of all ages and abilities savor. So there are men’s and women’s elite races, fast-local men and women, and age groups, all starting at different times. I’ve never done it, but it is a club race this year so I signed up.

The forecast was for lots of rain. In the event, though, it was a bit muggy and quite cloudy but dry. The races are in age order, except for the fast-folk, so my 50-59 was at 11:15. I was far less enthusiastic about this after my recent quad issue and have not tried to do anything fast in the past two weeks. Would my earlier speed work save me? Would I feel a sharp pain early and have to stop? I had no idea.

I drove down and then jogged to the start. The women’s 40-49 had yet to begin. (The races are single-sex until those for 50 and over.) I got my number and shirt and headed south. The course: Starts just south of the Metropolitan Museum and finishes a mile to the south. A straight shot.

I pulled out my phone and shot the following video of that 40-49 race. You will see Julie T in fifth pace (she would meet her objective of breaking 6). The video gives a flavor of the race. Police escort, straight shot down Fifth.

I meet Sebastian B, who was fourth in his race, and then Paul T at the front of the men’s 40-49, and I waved to him. His group was off. Our group would start 15 minutes later.

I saw a number of other club racers I know, and got to the front. I feared that it would be tricky doing that, that people would plant themselves on the front, but it was easy. Guys near me asked whether they were alright based upon what they expected to run. For Warren Street, it was only Jim Stemm and me. Jonathan S is training for the Houston Marathon and John N is injured. So although it was a club race, we wouldn’t score. Strangely, though, many other teams had two but not three runners in the front.

As I said, I did not know what to expect. Countdown to the start and a gun. (It was strange to hear a gun and not a horn.) We were off. There are clocks at each 1/4 mile and there are about 20 blocks to the mile. Still, I missed the 1/4 mile clock. With a clock atop the lead vehicle, I could see it and started to worry that I was running really slowly. I was tired, trying to relax, but tired. This was not good. No aches, no pains, but I feared slipping back through the group. I was somewhere between 10 and 20.

With a small group of relatively comparable runners, it’s fun to be able to see the whole race in front of you. I wasn’t falling off the back, just maintaining my relative position. I then saw the 1/2 clock: 2:35. Plus it’s downhill (slightly) from there. I had no strategy except to run relaxed and go really hard with 200 to go. Passing the half left me feeling much better. I don’t know what the 3/4 clock said and then, before I had to worry about where the 200-to-go was there was a sign that said “200 meters”. In workouts, I sometimes do the last 200 of a late 400 all out. The idea is to work on a kick, and that’s what I did. I don’t think that I passed more than one or two, but I finished strongly. The time was 5:17 (16th, with an 83.16 AG (the course, though, is faster than a track)), which was surprisingly fast.

It was fun. No aches or pains throughout. During the race a number of people shouted out my name, which I greatly appreciated, but I don’t know who they were. Afterward, I saw Julie and Jonathan immediately afterward (Julie took the shot of Jonathan and me) and she was pumped about the prospect of getting on the lead vehicle for the elite races (which she ended up getting). I did about 5-miles in the park with Jim Stemm.

I then heard “Joe” and saw Robert and Helen between 71st and 72nd. They’re young, so they had finished long ago. He’s now working for Runner’s (or Runners’ (they couldn’t agree)) near the third largest city in Pennsylvania do some web stuff, so it was great to see him. (Helen noted the serendipity of blogging: his blog got Tavia’s attention which got him an invite to the Green Mountain Relay, where he met Helen and met the guy who got him the job at Runner’s (or Runners’) World. When I bitched about NYRR sucking up to RW (that not being RunWestchester, to which NYRR has never sucked up (note the sentence-structure please)) Robert said NYRR doesn’t suck-up that much.

One thing I noted in the local fast-men race was how much upper-body strength some of the runners had. Many were spindly creatures. Many were not.

I retrieved my bag, at which point I lost Robert and Helen, and saw several Warren Street mates awaiting the women elite. I watched that race right at the 1500 mark. I thought I videotaped it, but it turns out that my phone has a forward-facing lens and I hit it so the video is me staring at my phone trying to take a video of the race. It’s has not been posted.

Jenny B was just starting her move and seemed quite determined and animated. She won.

Jim and I then headed north to watch the men’s race. I had been looking for several blogger friends who had run (and one who couldn’t but who I knew would be there) without success. Then I again heard my name called. There were Michelle and Tavia and Amy and other bloggers (I did not recognize them all). So I hung with them for the elite men.

I found the elite men disturbing. They look like they’re jogging and they’re running sub-60 quarters. This is disturbing.