15000 through Times Square

The NYC Half marathon race took place on Sunday; a race that I unfortunately didn’t enter because of my bad luck with lotteries. However, if you volunteer in the race, you get a guaranteed entry to the following year’s race, and that’s what I did.


The race consists of a Central Park loop, exit on 7th avenue, through Times Square, west bound to the West Side Highway then head down to Battery Park. My post was mile 5; Central Park. The mile 5 course Marshall volunteers had to be in Central Park at 5:45AM to begin setting up for this 15,000 runner race. My job: to make sure the course was clear, be on stand-by for anything abnormal, and to stay warm. There I was at 7AM just standing at the mile 5 marker waiting for the mob. This is the first time I actually had the opportunity to see 15,000 people run toward me. This is the quiet before the storm.



It took an hour and a half for everyone to pass mile 5. After this experience, I was able to draw some conclusions. The pace distribution is displayed below:


A slightly skewed normal distribution, with an average finish time of 123 minutes and standard deviation of 22 minutes. Assuming normality, approximately 2/3 of the population finished within one standard deviation of the mean; between 100 and 145 minutes. Due to the skew, the top 10% finish faster than 100 minutes and the last 20% take more than 145 minutes. I made up my own classification system.

Elite men (Top 0.1%): These guys are super-human. The best of the best. They run at a pace for an hour which is faster than people can run for their lives for a few minutes, its true. 25 minutes after the race started, the elites made the journey to mile 5. The van headed down the hill while filming the elites. Even up close, these guys make it look easy. I know they’re running for that juicy money prize and for the glory. And zoom, they were gone. Then there was silence for a few minutes.

Elite women and almost elite men (0.1-1%): The 6:00 pacers; a pace that I can maintain for a minute or 2. You can just feel the speed. The sound of the feet pounding the earth, the serious/angry-looking faces, no conversations between anyone. I noticed that they lift their legs and feet higher than the average runner. There is a split second when neither foot touches the ground. They land on the front of their feet instead of their heels as if there is no time for the heels to contact the ground. Are these the secrets to awesomeness or have optimal genes?

Insane fast runners (1%-5%): The 6:00-7:00 pacers; faster than my 5K pace. The road started to become lively with runners now. The running style and face expressions are quite similar to the previous group, except that there is harder breathing and spitting. Maybe one or two St. Patrick’s day costumes and a crazy shirtless guy. This is the crowd that finishes the race in 90 minutes or less; the Boston Marathon qualifiers (men). Could I ever reach this level?

Really fast runners (5%-10%): The 7:00-7:30 pacers. This is what I call my huff-n-puff pace. I saw James (fellow wolf-pack runner) in this crowd. Running in place seemed like a good idea for warming up, and so I did for a whole hour. I recall a runner inviting me to run with him, lol. One guy looked at the clock by the mile 5 marker and shouted “we’re right on target, let’s keep it up”. Finally, they are running slow enough to say something to each other. I still can’t believe runners are wearing shorts and tank tops. Maybe the faster you run, the warmer you feel?

Fast runners (10%-20%): The 7:30-8:00 pacers. This is my goal pace for a race like this. Everyone is looking strong after 30 minutes of running and looking forward to getting out of Central Park in into the streets of Times Square. Much more green costumes now with shamrocks everywhere. The faces started to look neutral and less stressed. I was starting to feel jealous by now. Like a kid looking out his window watching the other kids play at the park, 😦

Intermediate runners (20%-30%): The 8:00-8:30 pacers. That’s me! I suppose this makes me a runner according to my made up classification system. The crowds are filling up the road; one guy almost ran right into me. I understand the need to go around the cones to pass the slower runners, but at mile 5, cmon. Runners started throwing random clothing on the ground. Guess who has to pick it up. The crazy costumes start appearing by now, the conversations become more frequent, and I see quite a few smiles. Some more high fives for me. This group will finish between 1:45-1:51.

Novice runners (30%-50%): The 8:30-9:15 pacers. This was me last year and occasionally me still. Now here is a lively and happy group; also the most dense mob of runners, around 4,000 people. I remember how it felt to enjoy a run session without worrying about my pace. When it was all about running the distance. When you can have a conversation with someone during the entire journey. This crowd will finish this race in 2 hours or less.

Fast joggers (50%-70%): The 9:15-10:00 pacers. I’ll draw the line of runner/jogger at the average of the distribution. Everyone looks great. This is a good comfortable pace to run with friends. That is what I saw. Groups of people within the crowd enjoying their 13.1 mile journey. A few more high fives for me, but all I wanted was to run with them.

Intermediate joggers (70%-80%): The 10:00-10:45 pacers. 10,000 people have already passed the mile 5 marker. The crowds are becoming less dense. This group will be running for more than 2 hours and 10 minutes, but at least they are enjoying the journey unlike the insane/really fast runner groups who look they were suffering. I thought it would be a good time to cheer people on. I shouted “Mile 5, Mile 5, you’re gonna leave Central Park now, Yeaaaa”!

Novice joggers (80%-90%): The 10:45-11:45 pacers. Perhaps about 2,000 in this crowd. I know this pace very well, this was me in Central Park in November at mile 25 – oh the pain, but I love the pain. I realize that most of the runners have passed mile 5 by now. Our volunteer team had to just pick up the remaining clothes and dump them in the charity bin. The remaining joggers were the walk-joggers. It might take them 3 hours to complete the journey, but they’re still awesome for not giving up. A half marathon is tough whether you do it in an hour or 3. Speaking of an hour, Wilson Kipsang won first place, one hour and 1 minute, whoa.

Training Report:

RunDate Distance Pace Comments
Mar 5 Tuesday 6.01 8:12 I went out for an easy run and ended up running hard.
Mar 10 Sunday 12.89 8:14 Did I just PR on an almost 13.1 run session?! I think so. Victory!
Mar 14 Thursday 6.21 8:37 I ran the Forest Park route. I need to practice hills again, ugh.
Mar 18 Monday 12.75 8:40 I didn’t care if it was a snow storm, I had to run after watching
15,000 people run without me. Not my best performance but decent
considering the conditions outside. Photo finish below:


Random Thoughts
Where is spring?

Running to stay warm

The previous post left off on the topic of Chinese New Year. Our kung-fu school put on a good show as usual. For the first time, I didn’t demo anything. It was good to finally be a spectator and be worry-free from falling on my face or flinging a weapon into the crowd by accident. But in the end, I kind of regretted not performing. So next year’s show, prepare for the return of the fire-cracker (nickname given to me). Here are some lion dance ceremony pics (yes, we train/perform at an elementary school cafeteria):



Other than that, it’s just been 2-3 run sessions per week. My 10K speed is slowly improving, but my 13.1 miler speed isn’t yet. Whenever you feel like you aren’t improving and getting nowhere, you just have to look back farther. So I just look back to a year ago and certainly notice a difference, and feel better right away. Most importantly, I don’t beat myself up for falling short in a training session, I shrug my shoulders and just try again next time. On the bright side, you get to eat whatever you want (Smiley Face). My rage face now shows up in recent candid race pics; like I’m actually racing:



Also, my bib number has been getting smaller throughout these races; a good sign of improvement. I finally started getting the green and yellow bibs (the best is usually blue, then red/yellow, then green, then the rest). I was so tired of getting pink and purple bibs last year; not the manliest colors to wear. Speaking of races, there is a 5K race story to share.

Off to the races:

Coogan’s Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K @ Uptown Manhattan (168th st. and above)

March 3rd, 2013. 5,825 finishers. 29 degrees (brrr).

I can’t believe how people dress for races like its 92 degrees instead of 29 degrees. Anyway, its most likely because they are so freakin fast. I had my usual 4 body layers, hat, gloves, shorts over my tights. Was I going to set a record and beat my 7:32 (5K) pace record, let’s see.


Ready set go! Passed him, passed her, runners everywhere, can’t pass, grrr… stuck between slow people, oops… almost stepped on a little kid, yikes… slow group in front of me, must calculate how to get around them, hmph… too many runners around me, nooooo… bumping elbows with him/her, gimmie space! So yea, it was a bit overcrowded at first. Races tend to start out out slow since everyone is bunched up in the beginning, but not a short race like this, cmon!

Nevertheless, I should be grateful for the runners blocking me and controlling my urge to speed run, because the hills were endless and non-stop. Just when you caught your breath from the previous hill, another one appeared. Conserving energy was key but I burned all of it by mile 2; foolish Jon. Fifteen minutes through, and my chest couldn’t expand large enough for the air it needed. That last mile… sooo hard to breathe. Even 7:30-8:00 pace runners were taking walk breaks here and there. They said to take advantage of the downhill at the end of the race, yea right. How could I after all the previous hills burned me out? Did I beat my 7:32 (5K) pace record? Nope. But I came damn close with a 7:35 pace. BY 10 SECONDS, LOL! Overall I was 1236th place, 78% percentile, I get a C+, yay.



At the finish line, I bumped into a wolf pack runner (Chris, who killed it with a 7:25 pace) who is training for the Vancouver marathon and was about to start an 18-miler. What a great idea, lets turn this race into a weekend long run. After all, I was more than a half marathon away from home, perfect. So we started running; “running to stay warm”. From 168th st Riverside all the way to 59th st. It’s always cool to run with a pack even its just 2. We split up at 59th st. and I headed home to through Queens. With 3 miles left, feeling beat up from the race, exhausted, and starving, I just took the train home. Almost 16 miles covered that day.

Training Report:

And the weekly summary.

RunDate Distance Pace Comments
Feb 18 Monday 13.11 8:39 Grrr, must shave off 4 minutes for a Half somehow
Feb 22 Thursday 6.20 8:10 Almost a 10K PR, I had the rage!
Feb 24 Sunday 13.10 8:39 Exactly the same pace as 6 days ago.
Feb 28 Thursday 6.21 8:05 10K PR!!! This includes traffic light stops, YES!
Mar 3 Sunday 12.54 9:08 After an all-out 5K race, this was a decent effort.

Speed Jams (tunes to run that sub 8 min/mile pace):

Some 90s dance classics:

    Gonna make you sweat – C&C music factory
    Rythm is a dancer – Snap
    Pump up the jam – technotronic
    More and more – captain hollywood

Random Thoughts
Not much on mind lately, its been BAU (Business as usual). March 17th is the NYC Half marathon, and guess who didn’t make the lottery twice in a row, (me). However, if you volunteer in this race, you get guaranteed entry for 2014 (and 9+1 credit for the NYC marathon). So, I’m in, as a race course marshall. This will be a new experience for me and might make a good post too. Now to get some dinner…