Runners Take Your Mark….

5th Ave, New York City

Morning of the race – with a race number in hand (thanks New York Road Runners!) I guess I am ready to go.  We drove up yesterday afternoon, had a nice dinner downtown, then had “family TV night” in our shoebox hotel room where by default everyone pretty much had to do the same thing.  Good night for everyone to go to bed at the same time as the six year-old…

The weather is drizzly overcast but warm.  I don’t know what (if any) affect this will have on the race – can’t see it making it faster, but whatever it is it’ll be the same for all the runners.  When looking forward to this race months ago I had hoped to really run fast, now I have changed my expectations.  The goal is to remain competitive, hit my splits, and hope to be near the front when everyone drops the hammer at the end.

Think the race (Men 40-49) will be streamed live at 11:00am, along with all the others all morning.  The final race is the Men’s Elite, with world class runners such as Bernard Lagat, Nick Symmonds, and many others running sub-4:00 for lots of dough $$$.  If the link doesn’t work I apologize, will post it afterwards for an “instant replay”.  I’ll update this on the drive home, hopefully with good news.  Either way I’m glad I am here, its been a(nother) long, strange trip…


4:24, Fourth Place.  Didn’t think it was a bad race, but still a little disappointed that I didn’t come into this better prepared and more confident.  The course and crowd and setup are awesome, making this in my opinion the best road race I’ve ever done.  Which therefore officially makes it the one I’d most like to tear up and/or win.  Which therefore therefore makes having waited a year to defend my title and then coming in fourth a little hard to swallow.  Which therefore therefore therefore makes this the one I will circle bolder than all others for next season….

I can’t say that I didn’t run almost exactly the way I wanted to run, because I think I did.  With an uphill first 4/10ths of a mile, I wanted to run relaxed – nothing crazy.  I originally thought after seeing the grade that 2:12-2:13 at the half would be a good split.  I would then try to work the downhill and hopefully come in somewhere around where I finished last year (4:22).  On a good year this course definitely has 4:17.0 written all over it, but its easy to say that from behind a desk.  Based on the preparation for this race I thought my best chance was to come down the hill with gas in the tank, then hit the final flat hard and hope for the best.  Plan worked out to a “t”, only the field didn’t play along..

Started on the second row due to their new “first come first serve” policy in the corral – guys started lining up 20 minutes prior to the gun, I was lucky to weasel my way up as far as I did.  I got off just fine though, and settled in to about 5th place after the pack dispersed.  One runner took off like he was shot out of a cannon – I had no intention of aggressively pursuing him to my grave so I got into a rhythm and settled in.  66 at the quarter, 2:14 after navigating the incline.  Not bad, only a second or so off of the game plan….

On the downhill I actually felt pretty strong.  Only problem was I was still in 5th-6th place, about 30 yards behind the still fearless leader.  I hate to admit it, but at that point I was sizing up my potential place upgrades, and I didn’t see him as one of those with “potential”.  I think I passed one guy at about the 3/4 mark when I then got blitzed by Neil Fitzgerald.  I knew he was in the field and right behind me, and saw firsthand in Sacramento how he liked to run and the kick he possessed, so I thought “*%&#^#@!”, here we go again.  After about a second or two of feeling sorry for myself I had a change of heart and decided enough was enough – I eased back up on him and held on for about a hundred meters before actually moving past him.  I think I then got up into a tie for third near the tape (or where the tape was before the winner broke it) before eventually finishing fourth in 4:24.

Thoughts:  1)  I think I was in better shape than I gave myself credit for.  Should have trusted the power of the pool.  2:14 at the half was too slow, too tentative.  Going to the well to try to move into 3rd isn’t the same as trying to move into the lead.  I never gave myself a chance.  2)  As rare as it is, the winner won the race in the first half mile – he got a lead that seemed insurmountable, therefore it was.  3)  The results showed the winner in 4:22, I thought he ran 4:18 or so.  If he really did run 4:22 that means he was coming back to the pack very rapidly, which makes my race go from ok to disappointing.  Will have to review the “photo evidence”…  4) Like I said before, I really want to smoke that course just once, but unlike 16-30 year old guys there isn’t always “next year”.  I had better get my stuff together for next year or before you know it there won’t be one.  5) The best thing to come out of this was the foot has felt pretty good for the past week and showed no signs of discomfort for the race.

Head cold about 80% gone, hope to get in a couple good runs this week before hopefully going up to Syracuse for the USA Masters 5k race next Sunday.   This was supposed to be leg 2 of the fall PR chase, as with 5th Ave I obviously haven’t prepared for this one like I would have hoped to – probably even less so than the mile when you get right down to the lack of road mileage I’ve done in the last 10 weeks.  The leg feels good though and there is a team score in this so I think I’ll give it a shot and at least see what I can do.  Sub 16:00?  I won’t miss because of a wimpy plan, I guarantee you that!


About Nick Berra

I am a 45 year old masters runner from Central Pennsylvania. I have been participating primarily in track events since turning 40 in 2009. This season has produced marks that I have not run in several years, I believe primarily due to starting a strength and flexibility program here at Elite Athletic Performance - I've felt stronger and faster than I have in a long time. That, coupled with lots of underwater running, has kept me healthy and fit - at this age those are things I no longer take for granted... I run USATF events with a team out of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club. They are a great group who have played a big part in making the sport enjoyable for me again. I also run local races for HydroWorx Track Club, supported by HydroWorx here in Harrisburg PA. Their underwater treadmills and training center has proved to be a crucial part of my training, rehabilitation, and recovery programs. I set personal records in the 800m (1:56.06) in 2010 and in the 1500m (4:02:63) and mile (4:23.48) in 2011. Despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I nearly PR'ed recently and set the M45 indoor world record in the 800 meters at the New Balance Armory in New York City. I ran 1:56.10, besting the 9 year old record by less than a second. I feel like there are still more big things to come... I am married and have two daughters. I am an assistant XC coach at my alma mater, Cumberland Valley High School here in Mechanicsburg PA. I am also a 1991 graduate of the US Naval Academy, currently working as a pilot for FedEx after serving 10 years on active duty flying in the Navy. Beat Army! Beat Army!
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