It’s official. I’m no longer a resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I moved across two rivers to New Jersey, but before I left, I made sure to leave my mark at the McCarren Park 5K.
As my fiancé and I were packing up our lives in Brooklyn, I was feeling pretty nostalgic. Then, as I was taking a break from the mountains of boxes I saw something on Facebook – the McCarren Park 5k was coming up that weekend! I was surprised, because I ran this race last year, and it was the last weekend of May. With the new date, I could run the race.
I immediately signed up because it seemed like a great way to say good bye to a neighborhood, and because someone had recommended a race as a way to try to counter my recent running blues.
I didn’t go into the race with any expectations. It was less than three weeks after the Boston Marathon, and I had barely run in that time. My one goal was to beat my time from last year (21:10), when the race was my first after recovering from a stress fracture, and to have fun. The race was a big loop around my neighborhood – traversing roads I run almost every day, but rarely have a chance to race on.
One benefit of a neighborhood race is that they allow you to sleep in. I was definitely pumped about that. And my warm up was just a quick jog to the start line.
At the start, I ran into someone I know through the internet world of running who also had a disappointing race in Boston, and we chatted a bit about our desire for redemption. Somehow, as we were chatting, we ended up on the starting line. I’ve never been right on the starting line at the beginning of a race, so that was a little terrifying.
When the gun went off, I was (unsurprisingly) swallowed up by a bunch of fast guys, but I just ignored that and kept a strong, but comfortable pace, and avoided looking at my watch in the first mile. During my last 5K in October, I know I looked at my watch way too much, and that ruined me because the race (through Midtown Manhattan) was not conducive to good GPS signals. I wanted to learn from that, and avoid making the same mistake.
About a half mile in, I notice a race official on a bicycle looking around at me. I was confused at first, but then I realized that that was because I was the first female! That was kind of a shock, but exciting. I figured I had to try to hang on to that lead as long as possible to justify starting on the line.
Knowing that I was in first helped motivate me to start kicking past some guys who started the race too fast. I hit the first mile in 6:15, still in the lead, but I was convinced I’d be passed by another lady any second.
There was another woman running who I follow on Strava and I know to be a pretty fast. I was surprised when at the half way point she still hadn’t passed me. I was really tempted to look over my shoulder, but I was afraid then I’d just trip and fall, so I kept my eyes ahead of me. I knew there was a short out-and-back section ahead, so I would just wait for that to judge my lead.
As it turns out, the next lady was about 20 seconds back, with the third and fourth women hot on her heals. That helped give me a much-needed mid-race boost. I hit the second mile in 6:16.
The first half of the third mile my pace slipped as we had an uphill segment, but I just thought, “At least this isn’t as bad as the hills in Boston,” and as I turned a corner into the final 0.5 mile I tried to pick it up again as we switched to downhill. I was tired, but determined to hold on to my lead.
The final half mile of a 5K always seems to be a blur, and this was no different. I just kept my eyes ahead and kept pushing, hitting the third mile in 6:32. Then, just a few seconds later, I saw the finish—and a finish tape!—and surged ahead to claim first place in a time of 19:10.
That was my first ever outright win in a race, so my first time “breaking the tape” and I have to say it was pretty exciting. My Garmin came up a little short, but I think even if I account for that, I would have beaten my prior PR (19:34). But given that this race was so soon after Boston (and Boston sucked), I’m putting that in the PR column no matter what J
I obviously had to stick around for the post-race awards ceremony, and was rewarded with a pretty awesome back of swag, complete with a $25 gift card to the local running store, and a “Run Brooklyn” bag and hat. I will use both proudly in my new neighborhood.
All in, the McCarren Park 5K was a great, fun race (and not just because I won). I would recommend it to anyone in the Williamsburg area.