Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fun Run


I ran President Bollinger's Ninth Annual Fun Run 5K on Friday morning. Woooo!


I started thinking about the Fun Run at Columbia back in July. There was a big question in my mind about what state my injured foot would be in by September, but I was hoping it would recover by then.

The reason the Fun Run was a big deal for me is that I never run with people. I hardly even run where people can see me. Obviously a few people do, but not many are on the road when I am out, at dawn. There's only one of them I have spoken with: Joe the ticket agent at South Orange station mentioned to me that he saw me sometimes when he was driving to work. There are a few other runners I've seen more than once, but we're going different ways, and in semi darkness.

I was self-conscious about it. At the very beginning I was huffing and puffing and probably did look ridiculous, but seriously, I knew by June that I was cruising nicely at my eleven minute mile pace, and I should not have worried about it. But still.

Anyway as I began to be able to run again in August I started to think I could do the Fun Run. I was holding myself back to two separate miles, not three. In mid month I measured out kilometers instead of miles on my usual route, using Gmap Pedometer. Two kilometers is about a mile and 1300 feet, so I decided to switch to two separate 2K runs. I figured that was what I could do. Run the first and last 2K and walk the middle one.

The first day I tried, I did it. I started the first 2K where I usually started the first mile. It felt strange not stopping when I got to my familiar finish line (the word SCHOOL painted in the road), but I kept rolling another 1300 feet a new finish line. It was tiring but OK. I walked forward about 0.8K to the usual second mile starting line, and ran 2K again, slightly different course than the mile, because right after the second mile end point is a dark uneven footpath that I did not want to hit running.

It was OK, but I really felt it in my thighs as I walked home. It's that feeling that is not pain or soreness but that tells me I have used those muscles. It's a nice feeling. I realized I had not felt it for a while. Maybe I was going too easy doing the same run every time, and needed the extra challenge. And my foot held out.


There were a lot of unknowns. I both like and dislike unknowns. Unknowns are annoying. But it's good to conquer some once in a while. I registered for the run online. I went to the check-in last Wednesday and gave them the release form stating that I and my heirs (!) would hold Columbia harmless for any injuries or death that would occur from doing this ill-conceived thing I was about to do. I told almost no one I was going to run. It would be easier to weasel out. On the other hand I left my race number on top of my desk at work. Ambiguity.

When I got out of the subway Friday morning there was a misty rain in the air. This was good. It would be cool and not sunny. The rain stopped by race time but it still was cool.

I stopped by my office and picked up the number, and went off to the gym to get a locker and change. I could see people setting up for the run on College Walk. So I had the right day, and I wasn't imagining the whole thing. You can see the state my mind was getting into.

I was out on Low Plaza by 8:00, for the 8:30 start. Lots of people were gathering. Not many older than 30, as I expected. There were several hundred of of us. I had not realized how big a thing this was.

I would not be able to walk my usual half mile to warm up, so I kept walking around on the plaza and ran a few sprints. I tried the foot stretch to loosen up, a little too well, because the foot started to feel sore from doing the stretch. Damn. But I was not going to stop now unless I had to.

Lee Bollinger walked into the crowd. He's a runner. As start time approached an announcer suggested "serious runners" assemble at the front, but be sure to leave room for President Bollinger. I found myself in the middle of the crowd.


We were off. It was slow going in the crowd on College Walk. Police stopped traffic on Broadway and Riverside Drive for us. I deliberately took it easy down 116th St hill and the park path hill because of the impact of each step being lower than the one before. Going slow here was not a problem though. Most people were not going any faster than I wanted to go.

It turned out to be great running with people. I have to do it again some time. Many were going at about my pace.

Members of the track and field team were standing along the course cheering us on. That was a great idea. Between that and the human tide I was in, I think I was running a little faster and, as it turned out, a little more than I had planned.

There's a long straight flat section in the park, the roof over the railroad, that gives an impression from either end of limitless perspective. I thought that was going to be tough to face. None of the roads in town are like that. But having all the other people around prevented me ever getting a good look at how far it extended.

I had measured out the K points on the course. In the official map on the right— corrected to show the course we actually ran— circles mark the beginning and end of the middle 1K. It's from where I would reach the tennis courts next to the river (running south), around the courts, back north under the highway, up to the main park level, and on to the fork in the path near the Dinosaur Playground.

I was going to stop running at 2K but I did not. I went past the tennis courts to the far turn at about 2.2K. From there I planned to walk the rest of the middle K but I did not do that either. I walked only a short distance to the back of the courts and then ran another 0.4K to the bottom of the only steep uphill. I walked the hill and a little more for about 0.3K, and then ran the rest. So I think I ran 4.5K.

I passed other people in the last half K. Clearly my brain was getting addled. I was starting to feel weird. The finish line. I sprinted the last fifty feet. Then I could stop. They did not announce time, so I don't know when I finished.

Note: I was not last.

Now all I had to do was walk back up the grade to College Walk. I always walk uphill fast, and did so, passing many people. On College Walk, I grabbed a water bottle and waited on line to to pick up the official race T shirt. Off to the gym, shower, change. I took my time.

A clock showed 9:30 when I left the gym. I was surprised, because it seemed like a lot of time had elapsed since we finished the run. Back track... if I maintained my usual 11 minutes per mile running and 16 minutes walking, which I think I did do, calculate... ((2.8*11) + (0.3*16)) ...that would be about 36 minutes. I had predicted to myself about 40 minutes. Nice.

Later on my foot hurt.


I'm surprised I was not able to find photos on the web, two days later. I saw people taking pictures along the way. Nobody shared? Anyway there are four pictures from the Seventh Annual run here. It looked the same this year.


In other news, not much happened on the subway diagram. Busy week. There should be some developments by next time.


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