Grete's Great Gallop is a NYRR half marathon that is run Central Park every year in October. The course is a simple 2 loops (+ a little more) of Central Park. Not the most exciting course but since it occurs 3 weeks before the NYC marathon, a lot of people use it as a training run. Donna, Kanaka, and I had scheduled to do a 20 mile run that weekend. So we planned to run the race then do an extra loop of the park to get our mileage in.
It is named after the great Grete Waitz from Norway. She was a nine time winner of the NYC marathon, former world record holder, Olympic silver medalist, and World Championship gold medalist. She was good friends with Fred Lebow, the founder of the NYC marathon, and she was always close to NYRR organization when she was alive. She passed away for cancer in 2011.
Packet pickup was the standard NYRR routine. They had packet pickup at there headquarters on E 89th st on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before the race. This year the t-shirt was white tech material.
Morning of the race:
The race started at 9am. I got up at 8. I wanted to get up, pickup a snack at the store before the race, then run to the start for a warm-up. Donna texted me to make sure I was awake and I told her I was running out the door. I went to the CVS looking for powered donuts. I did not find any donuts so I settled for a candy bar. I guess I could have gone to the Dunkin Donuts but I did not want to have to make another stop. I checked the time and it was after 8:30. I was originally hoping to do a loop of reservoir so it would be fewer miles after the race. But I guess I had miscalculated my morning. I did not want to miss the start so I settled for running to 72nd st, the start of the race. I got to the start with a few minutes to spare. I decided to make a quick pit stop at the boathouse so I would not have to use the port-a-potties.
I texted Kanka and Donna. They said that they were in the brown corral, the last corral. This is sore subject for Donna. NYRR made some changes that their website earlier this year. In the process of switching to the new website, some parts of members' race histories did not transfer properly. A few years of Donna's race history are not showing up on her profile. So somehow they had her best time listed as 11 min/mile. That pace puts her at the back of the pack in the last corral. She really should be 4 or 5 corrals higher in the 9 min/mile group. When I founded them I saw that Kanaka was all decked out in Pro O colors.
We got a quick selfie before the race started
The course is your standard double loop of Central Park. Since we all run in the park so often we know every turn and every hill. So it is not the most exciting race. The race started at the 72nd st transverse going clockwise. The bottom loop of the park is relatively flat. Then there are some rolling hills in the west side. Once you pass the 102 st transverse, the Harlem Hills start. It is a steady incline for over half a mile. Then you can catch your breathe on the downhill. But then there is another steep hill. You are almost finished with the hill when you hit the 4 mile marker. Once you finally round the bend, the course levels off for a bit. There is a brief incline before you make it to the reservoir. Then it is smooth sailing for the rest of the loop. There is a nice straightaway from 96th st to 86th st. The course stays flat until you reach Cat Hill. Thankfully, running the loop clockwise means that you get to run down Cat Hill. Running up Cat Hill is rough, I was glad not to have to tackle it that day. Once you make it to the bottom of the hill, you are almost back at the start. The second loop repeats the same course. Once you past the start for the second time, you still have to do the lower loop for again for the last 1.1 miles. The finish is at the NYC marathon finish line. I thing I like about doing a course in Central Park, at least you know once you are pass the 9 mile marker you know it is actually all downhill or flat from there.
Fred Lebow statue
We all started off with a easy pace. I was not trying for a PR. I wanted to conserve energy for the extra miles after the race. I asked Kanaka how her marathon training was going. She said not too good. Donna and her had done a 20 mile 3 bridges run 3 weeks prior. But she had not run much since then. She told me she did not think she wanted to run the marathon because she did not feel like she would be prepared. She had planned to run the Flying Pig marathon and San Francisco marathon earlier this year, but cancelled both because she was too busy with work to train. I decided to give her pep talk and convince her to do the marathon with us. She admitted that this would be the fifth year she was qualified and did not run. She also admitted she was already starting to work on excuses to get out of it again. I decided to give her a little tough love. I told her she had to run it. I informed her she has no more excuses left, no more appeals, no stays of execution, and there will be no call from the governor just before midnight. The time has come, she has to do it. She did not love my execution metaphor but she agreed that she would run. I explained to her about how I have been running a lot of halves this year, which made marathon training not a huge transition. I think I created a monster because she has been emailing me race suggestions for next year non-stop since then.
But chatting with Kanaka definitely helped make the miles go by faster. We lost Donna around 3 mile because she wanted to set her own pace. Kanaka decided to take a quick water break and stretch at the 7 mile mark. I finished the last 6 miles of the race.
I finished with a time of 2:15:43. Kanaka apparently forgot to run over the finisher mat. She finished in the passing lane you are supposed to run in when you are starting your second lap and not on the side with the time mats. So she did not get an official time.
Since I had run about 1.75 miles before the start I figured I could do another 6 and call it a day. I decided to do the lower loop which is 1.7 then run back up the west side and around the Harlem Hills back to 96th st. That way I would be close to home when I was done. That would be about 5 miles and change. I figured I could run out of the park at 96th st and keep running until I hit 6 miles. My tracking app marked 6 miles right when I was a few steps away from my building. Perfect. I did have moment of weaken around the 102nd st transverse and debated cutting across the transverse and only doing 5 extra miles. But I decided to push on. When I was coming down the first of the Harlem Hills I saw Donna running up. She decided to run the loop counter clockwise. She lives on W 88th st and admitted that if she ran past 88th st, it would be too easy to just run home. So running the loop in reverse and stopping at 88th st would be 5 miles instead of only a mile if she had run clockwise. I stopped for a quick hug then pushed on home. Kanaka's hip was bother her so she stopped after finishing the half.
We all went home to shower and rest up. We had planned work on medal boards at my apartment after the race. Our initial plan was for them to come over right after finishing the run. But we were all pretty wiped out. I managed to get in a nap and a few hours later they came over. After ordering a pizza, we got to work on our Pro Oxygen medal boards.