There were only two races in the first quarter of 2018 that I had on my calendar: the Washington Heights 5K and the NYC Half. Since January, it’s only been about training and patiently waiting one week at a time. I did race at the Armory in January, actually, but they were more like workouts rather than goal races. For the Washington Heights 5K and the NYC Half, I was filled with anxiety leading up to the races but it was time to remove the mental roadblocks and run hard.
This blog post is meant to be about the NYC Half but it’s difficult to not talk about the Washington Heights 5K (WH5K) which was the first step towards having a good day at the NYC Half. So, to backtrack a bit, WH5K went tremendously well. Back in January I ran an indoor 5K at the Armory in 17:23 and that helped boost up my confidence for the WH5K. That time was 2 seconds faster than my road personal record (PR) but I don’t count them in the same group (same goes for my outdoor track 17:21 5K). Getting a time in the 17:21 to 17:25 range made me realized how fast I was when I was just starting a new training cycle. On race day, I started off strong and hit my splits exactly on target, though maybe a second slower. I managed to hold on a struggling third mile and came in at 17:05. I couldn’t believe it since I thought I had significantly slowed down for the last mile (even though I picked it up again in the last 800 meters).
An exciting point in the race was mile 2 when Johnathan, from Central Park Track Club, greeted me as I caught up to him. That made me raise my head, take a slight pause, and look around. It was then that I realize that I was running next to fast runners I knew, not personally, on Instagram. It felt surreal because that was a goal I set out to a do years ago. I wanted to be faster and achieve more than what I thought was possible.
I carried that personal best time into the NYC Half. It’s just running a fast 5K four more times and then a little more. But! This year we had a new course which meant we’d be unsure about the course. This would also be the first half I race with actual training leading up to it. Last year I ran the NYC Half and paced my dad after being injured all of January. Then, for the Brooklyn Half, with minimal training I managed to sneaked right under 1:21:00 and very close to my 1:19:58 PR.
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NYC Half. New course. New age group. New PR. Same determination. • I ran a 1:32 half five years ago at the Staten Island Half. I was amazed that a teammate ran a 1:26 and wondered if I would ever run that time. I made it a goal to get faster and be better every day. • I didn’t meet my A or B goals today but still earned a PR in 1:18:22. It took two years for this new personal best but it was well worth it. Huge thanks to my teammates @queensdistance and @coachmedinanyc who have helped me realized what it means to reach a new level with support and respect from those who care. • Still have a lot to work on, like the bad arm swing form that can be seen in the image. The key is patience and hard work. • 📷 @hoezayyy #unitednychalf #queensdistance #edthecalm
When race week came, I couldn’t help but think what I’d be capable of. I was confident about hitting the 1:17s and Marie was confident I’d be able to hit the 1:16s. Realistically—and that’s definitely the wrong word for this occasion—I thought 1:17:30-1:18:00 was the range I’d hit. Why’s that? I had a few great training runs in the past week that made me ready for a good race. I had a great 10K “tempo” run on February 14 where I technically ran a 10K personal best, a 22 mile moderate long run, and a 10 x 1K workout the week of the race with repeats that were much faster than the expected range.
On race day morning I made my usual coffee and packed in a rush (like always), met my teammates, and left right away from Jackson Heights to Prospect Park. Once there, it was slightly frustrating getting ready with the crowd and waiting for about 15 minutes to use the porta-potty. But then, the gun went off and all of that was forgotten.
I started off bumping into Anthony Peña and Eric Morris. Anthony and I made a plan to meet up and run the race together and Eric decided to stay with us. All seemed good but the Manhattan bridge was longer and steeper than I anticipated. The view going up the bridge was amazing and my favorite view from the race. Manhattan’s skyline and the river slowly came into view and it made the run up the bridge pleasant. We had a slow mile going up the bridge but we both knew not to worry about it, we’d be able to make up for it later on the downhill. For the most part, the first 10K went well and I noticed I was only a few seconds off my target 10K split time.
Then we got to mile 7 and everything was tougher. The mile marker was farther than expected so the mile time was off and I wasn’t sure of my pace. I missed the 8th mile marker so I had a longer split and that threw me off, too. Looking back at it, I’m surprised I managed a good pace in the city given how much I was hurting and how slow I felt going up the steady uphill. It was at this point that I saw my mom and brother who cheered for me, as well as Jose who was out there taking pictures.
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Absolutely loved the new NYC Half course. Going over the Manhattan Bridge was beautiful and inspiring. The hills and high winds were hard to deal with. Couldn’t have had the race I had without my teammates; those who ran with me today, like @anthony_santos13 who ran 10 miles with me, those who volunteered at the 15K mark, and those who cheered all along the course. The shouts “Go Ed!” and “Go QDR!” starting from Grand Army Plaza up until the very end put a smile on my face (through all the pain) and helped me push hard. Huge thanks to everyone! • • • 📷 @hoezayyy & @the8amazin8kevin #unitednychalf #queensdistance #teammates #volunteers #fastertogether
Later we passed the 15K mark which meant the Queens Distance Scream Station! Like always, it was amazing to run past all my teammates cheering for us. That went by quick and soon after I was hurting so much more. I wasn’t sure what happened but at mile 10 Anthony told me to just go on ahead. It’s odd but that helped me keep going—sort of thinking that I’d be leading the team.
Those last two miles were awful. I can’t believe I was able to keep it up even though I felt like I would fall on my face because I couldn’t feel my legs. The thought of stopping also crossed my mind multiple times during the last few miles. For the last mile, a runner from CPTC passed me and as she was running past, she said out loud, “You’ve got this. Only one more mile.” I thought she was talking to me but later on she kept repeating it and I realized she was telling herself that. Even so, that helped me a lot to keep going up until the end.
I didn’t hit my original goal. There will be more races to hit sub 1:18, or even sub 1:17. That’s the beauty about racing, there’s always next time to prove yourself. In the end, I slowly and painfully walked away with a nice, new personal best.