A year in running, looking back and ahead

At the beginning of this year, I listed out a set of running goals for 2013.
My goals were pretty straight forward:

  1. complete at least 2 half marathons
  2. run some smaller non-NYRR races
  3. hit 60% age grade percentage in a race longer than 3 miles
  4. finish top 10% for my age group in at least 1 race (and if possible place in my age group)
  5. finish the New York City Marathon in under 5.5 hours
  6. log 1000 miles (training runs and races combined)

Here's a quick tour of how I managed to hit them all.

complete at least 2 half marathons
This one was fun and easy. The Manhattan Half in January was the coldest race I've ever run. By the time we were done, the cups of water at the aid stations had turned into solid ice. Luckily Gatorade has so much sugar that it does not freeze as fast -- energy drink slushies, yum!

The Brooklyn Half was a little more moderate in temp but still really cold at the finish -- and NYRR after pushing hard to get people to not check bags, decided to save themselves the effort of giving out heat sheets at the end. I'm amazed people did not end up in the hospital. Grimaldi's pizza on Coney Island is a wonderful post-race meal.

I also ran a silly little "virtual half marathon" in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who. It was a fundraiser for some charity. The finisher medal they sent out to everyone that participated is my favorite.

run some smaller non-NYRR races
I love the races that the NYRR puts on, but as an organization they leave so much be desired. They have the worst communications staff and so little respect for the membership, I wanted to spend some time this year running non-nyrr races in order to keep from giving NYRR too much of my money and implied support.

While I consider this goal achieved, I wish I had run a few more small races. They are so much more fun than the giant NYRR stampedes. I ran an 8k in New Jersey put on by CGI racing, my new favorite race organizer (good post-race food and free race photos) and returned to my old home town for a 5k to benefit the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corp. When running as a kid, I saw the inside of more than one of their ambulances as I traveled from a race to the hospital after yet another stupid running injury so it felt good to return and give them some support all these years later.

hit 60% age grade percentage in a race longer than 3 miles
In 2012 I managed to hit 64.6% in the 5th Ave Mile, but for longer races I had been stuck in the mid to high 50s. 60% is the line that defines what they call "local class" which is supposed to mean that you are good enough to place (be one of the first 3 finishers) in your age group at local races (but my local races are full of local, regional, national and world class runners).

This year, I broke past 60% in two 5k races and an 8k. I came really close in a 10k as well (59.31%). Mission accomplished.

finish top 10% for my age group in at least 1 race (and if possible place in my age group)
This goal sorta went in hand with the 60% age grade goal and the plan to run smaller races. Races in the City are so full of world class runners that I don't stand a chance of seeing the front of the pack.

It was an amazing thrill to be in the front of the pack at the Unite 8k in New Brunswick. I finished 29th out of 681 runners -- 2nd of 21 in my age group! I managed to also finish 2nd in my age group in the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corp 5k but that one was less dramatic/smaller crowd. The Commack race was also the last time I ran fast this year. The rest of the year was completely consumed with a focus on long slow runs leading up to the NYC Marathon.

finish the New York City Marathon in under 5.5 hours.
I really wanted to finish in under 4 hours, I really thought I could finish in about 4:20. The reality of race-day was a different story. It was so cold and so very very windy that everyone was off their goal pace, even the elite runners. We ran into a strong gusty headwind for the first 20 miles!

It was brutal, painful, exhilarating and completely amazing. My 4:49:44 finish is nothing spectacular but I could not be more happy. I actually did it.

log 1000 miles (training runs and races combined)
With training for the marathon on my schedule, I was pretty sure this one would be simple. I had no idea just how hard it would be. When I finished the marathon, I was at 930 miles. Almost 2 months to put in the final 70 miles seemed like it should be a breeze. Wrong! After the marathon, running was nearly impossible. It took me weeks to be able to run more than a mile; 6 weeks before I could get back to double digit distances. But, it's done.

What a year!

I've never actually managed to do this before -- set goals at the beginning of a year and stick to it and complete them all. I feel great, but I certainly neglected other important things in my life in order to get this done. So, this year my goals are going to be very different.

I'm scheduled to run a marathon next weekend. Once that's done, I'm finished with these long distance races for a while. I might run some half marathons for fun, but nothing longer and none with hard to meet goal times in mind. It is not going to be a year of long distance PR's for me.

My running goals for 2014 are simple:
1: keep running. After how hard it has been to recover from the marathon, my primary goal is to make sure I keep running. Give myself time to heal and recover and get back out there. Just run.
2: finish the Lets Go Haiti Marathon on January 5th. No goal time, just finish.
3: finish the 5th Avenue Mile race (or another similar 1 mile road race, not on a track -- I hate running in circles) in under 6 minutes. I might not be able to pull this one off. It's going to be more difficult than all of last year's goals combined. But, this year is going to be my year of short distances. 2013 was all about endurance and distance, of giving up months of my life to training for the marathon; 2014 is going to have a much different focus.