A Race to Fight Brain Cancer

Join the Voices Against Brain Cancer’s mission to find a cure 5 Mile Race

My last race was my 9th qualifying race for the NYRR 9+1 program last Sunday and it was a great race. The race was dedicated to support Voices Against Brain Cancer, a not-for-profit public charity organization which raises funds to research a cure for brain cancer. Knowing people who have suffered or people who have watched their friends and family suffer, this definitely was a cause I wanted to support.

IMG_5432And I also wanted to do well! I set myself a goal of under 36 minutes, which would mean the slowest average pace would have to be about my 10K time during the Rock ‘N Roll race. However, I was skeptical because I felt I did awesome at that race (I even got an award in the mail for winning 1st in my division just last week!) and wasn’t sure if it was reasonable to expect a replication of it. Anyway, anything between my 6’59” 4 mile pace of two weeks ago and my 10K pace was going to be my goal.

Central Park races used to be the bane of my running existance. Races in the park would mean I had to wake up at 5:30am and get out on the subway by 6am for a 8:30am race from where I used to live in Brooklyn. But now, being a Harlem gal, it’s a mere 2 miles from the usual start line. Fernando and I walked to the park and warmed up from there. Being a little late again, we ran a bit more than intended but it was chilly anyway. This time we got to the start before the corrals were totally packed. I squeezed into my corral, waved bye bye and Good Luck to Fernando (who’s only one corral away now!) and did a mini stretch in my small cramped little space. I got a good calf stretch and I like to stretch my arms, shoulders, and back to prevent upper body cramping.

Right before the start, a marathoner came to speak to us about his experience suffering from brain cancer. It was such a touching story. He was doing the 9+1 program two years ago and last year he ran the NY Marathon. However, shortly after, he had a massive seizure and was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now he is trying to regain his life. A brain surgeon also spoke to us, telling us he will perform 2 surguries on Monday to take out brain tumors. He said his patients are all scared and wondering what will happen afterwards and he asked us to run for them, to give them strength in the knowledge that people care about what happens to them. It was the most moving pre-race speeches I have heard to date.

The race itself was rather uneventful in comparisson to other shovy snotty races. I got cornered in a few times but my “Excuse me!” in a kind tone was always enough to obtain a friendly passing. The first mile was downhill followed by a long but not very steep uphill. I was a bit concerned about my time because by the time I got to the Mile 1 marker, it said 7:38. I didn’t remember the time I started so I wasn’t sure how many seconds off I was. My GPS watch said 7:05 for the elapsed time and so to be conservative I told myself I was probably somewhere between that to allow myself not to get discouraged.


Mile 2 was my slowest mile. I don’t know what happened but I know that Panther Hill (aka Cat Hill according to NYRR) is long and steep and followed by another short hill before the east side straightaway but I couldn’t have been that tired by the time I hit it. I was about 12 seconds slower that my first mile, which also included the crowd. I got a bit anxious again and tried to find my groove. The diesel engine needed to get going. But I waited until I hit the part of the park I liked to pick it up again so I wouldn’t lose steam. I know that loop pretty darn well by now so I have my ‘sweet spots’ where I can pick up speed. Mile 3 ended back on track.

And then came the ‘rolling hills’ of Mile 4. I slowed down on these a bit, again my pace was about 12 seconds slower than the previous mile. I had a little help from some club runner girls who were up ahead. I am sure I saw one of them before at another race and I said to myself “maybe they’re the ones who beat me by a few seconds” (which had robbed me of saying I was in the top 10 of my division – I was 11th!!!). I noticed they were going slower on the 2nd hill so I clawed my way towards them and eventually passed one from Hellgate RR (with the slogan “Run Like Hell). Then on the 3rd and last hill of the race, I powered up it, knowing there was a mile of sweet downhill and flatness ahead and passed the other IMG-20121202-00308girl. I ended up running just behind a guy from North Brooklyn Runners whose team was cheering him by screaming “MOVE YOUR ASS!!!!” I tried to steal some energy off of them and I made a pass. Then he passed me. I almost passed him again at the final turn into the traverse but we both sprinted and he beat me by a second or two.

IMG-20121202-00305After gasping and getting water, that guy turned to me and said “Thanks.” “What for?” I asked him. His response: “For keeping me real.” He said he was dying but the fact that I passed him and was almost passing him again  made him really move faster. I guess he told himself he had to beat me! So I stole some energy and he stole some back. He also told me that was the worst he had ever done at this race…last year he was almost 5 minutes faster! Well, buddy, that was the best one I ever done! 😀 I had forgotten to look at the finishing time but GPS said it was 34:52. Yay!!!

The next thing to do was go back to the finish line on the spectator side and find Fernando. So img-20121202-00303many times I have tried to watch his end sprint and I’ve always missed him. I found a spot on the side right before the first set of finishing mats and waited. The clock was at 42 minutes when I spotted him! He was in full sprint glory with a concentrated look. I thought for a second that perhaps I shouldn’t distract him but I couldn’t help but shout “FERNANDO!!! GO!!!!!” He saw me and put a big smile on his face despite his exhaustion. He powered down the race course and blasted over the finish line in under 43 minutes! Considering he was in the 3rd corral, I was sure he PR’d!

I found him again after he apparently sat down away from some vomit but then was told to move on or go to the medical tent. He was tired but he was happy. All he could tell me was that he didn’t stop at all until after Mile 4. We both were beaming with our arms full of bagel. We went home quickly to avoid getting too cold (but not so quickly that we succeeded), ran into an awesome Xmas tree shop for a silly photo on the way, and waited for the official results, me with some liquor de vino from Uruguay and him with his scotchy whiskey.

IMG-20121202-00306       IMG-20121202-00309


Fernando: 40:51  (8’11” pace – new NYRR record pace!)
Blackfoot: 34:50  (6’58” pace – new NYRR record pace!)

One second faster than my 4 mile pace, and three seconds faster for Fernando!! Drink at 11am? Don’t mind if I do!!!



2 thoughts on “A Race to Fight Brain Cancer

    • Thanks!

      Ohhh nice, you’re coming to my neighborhood! 😀 It looks a little drizzly this weekend but it hasn’t been cold enough to make it miserable so def. come out to the park, it sure beats street running! Also, there is an Ekiden (Japanese relay race) on Sunday at 9am if you come run in the park then, you might be able to see some of it!

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