The challenge is held over a 2 day period in Central Park - if HSS had been assigned to the second day, I wouldn't have been able to participate at all due to my school schedule, but thankfully, luck was on my side. I had heard from various people that it was more of a crowded mess than a race, but I was curious to experience it firsthand.
My team had a picture taken outside the hospital beforehand, and we then proceeded to the park together as a group. Extra points if you can spot me in the picture! (I'm barely in it)
We arrived at the park and there was an overwhelming amount of people getting ready to race. We set our stuff down at our designated picnic table, and then I lined up for the restroom. Twenty minutes later, I finally got through the line and after we took a couple of more pictures, we headed towards the start line
We were asked to put down our predicted finish times when we signed up, so I assumed that things were more organized than previous years, but boy, was I wrong. To my surprise, I was put in the last corral of runners, even though I indicated that I would be doing under 9 minute miles. The corrals were not enforced, and there was no way for those who should have been in the faster corrals to get up front after a certain point. Also, several walkers were in the running corral, which shouldn't have happened. Apparently organizers enforced the other three running corrals, but didn't care about the last one. Lesson #1: Walk to the start an hour earlier.
After waiting at least ten minutes to start the race, I quickly learned that people overestimated how good shape they're in. I spent almost all of mile one dodging people who had no business starting in front of me. Also, some stupid biker decided to cross the West Drive in front of thousands of people, causing near collisions and possibly hurting people in the process. I spent so much energy trying to get around people that it probably cost me later on. My garmin said I finished mile 1 in 8:40, but thanks to lots of dodging, the splits are not accurate.
Mile two was slightly easier than mile one, although the heat was getting to me. Even though I carried my handheld, it was so warm out that the water was useless. The water tables looked so unorganized that I didn't even bother stopping. Garmin once again says 8:40, but I'm still off in terms of splits.
Mile three was much more difficult. Most of it was uphill and my legs started to feel heavy from the heat. It probably didn't help that I had raced a 10K four days earlier and had been running almost daily since. It was also very humid out, and as a morning runner, I wasn't used to running after a full day at the office. No matter what I did, I kept slowing down, and there wasn't much I could do. I couldn't really blame the crowds by this point as my running path was pretty clear. I think I spent most of that mile wondering why I was doing this. My manager had made his presence known at this point - we started out together, but he had lost me in the crowds. Apparently, he caught up to me 3/10 of a mile earlier, but didn't want to announce himself until he knew he could keep up with me. Mile three time was 9:06.
The last half a mile was all downhill, so I sped up the pace. My manager and I were neck and neck until the last 10 seconds or so, and he sprinted ahead of me. I stopped my watch after the first finish line as people were walking and I couldn't get past them anyways, and it said I finished 0.57 miles in 4:49 (8:31mm pace). My total watch time was 31:17. My official time ended up being 31:18 over 3.5 miles for a 8:57mm pace. To their credit, JPMorgan Chase offered a service that emailed, texted, or facebooked results to you instantly, and it worked!
Here is a funny end to the story - although my manager crossed slightly ahead of me, when the official results came out, we tied at 31:18. Either he didn't start his watch on time, or his bib didn't pick up after the first finish line. Oh well! I ended up being 11/81 females from HSS and tied for 23/115 overall from HSS. I finished 1932/14676 out of all of the females from both nights. Not too shabby!
After we finished, we gathered at our picnic table and had sandwiches. The chicken one was dry, so I took a vegetable and hummus sandwich which was decent. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. Although I did not get the time I could have under better conditions (My best 4 mile time is barely two minutes faster than this), it was nice hanging out with my coworkers. To the left of this is a picture of me, my manager (left) and a few other coworkers before the race began. The HSS shirt was decent, but I should have gotten the extra small. This one was way too big on me, and I look 20 pounds heavier. A tank would have been nice as well, but apparently people complained about that two years ago.
Ultimately, upon reflection, this race was designed more for those who don't take running as seriously (unless you're one of the few people trying to win something). I could see how most people could have fun despite the disorganization. Although I would return again next year, I have a few suggestions for the organizers of the race:
1. People should have to give proof of time from a previous race - either from the challenge from the previous year, or another race within the past year. There should be a chart based on races from 5k - marathon times. If you can't prove your time, you should automatically be placed in the last running corral.
2. Have more than 4 running waves. It should probably be organized like NYRR and have it by minute miles (8-8:59mm would be one corral as an example). Each should have it's own color.
3. Enforce the corrals!!!!!! And keep a path clear so that people don't have to push past the back to get to their own corral (or not get there at all).
I might send an email to the organizers but I don't know how they'll receive it. Oh well! Looking forward to next year! Hopefully I'll get myself a better placement and at least do better than my manager! (Kidding! Mostly.)