Running in the USA – Rock and Roll 10K, Brooklyn

After two weeks of travel around the USA and Canada, miles and miles of walking around Brooklyn and Manhattan, then three days of conference attending what would be top of your to do list? If “running a 10K” is your answer then I’m very happy to find a kindred spirit!

I like to run in the cities I am visiting, so when I looked for routes in Brooklyn I was very pleased to find the route around Prospect Park. I wish we had routes like this in the UK. The park has a wide road looping around the inner perimeter. The road has a one-way lane for cars, then another lane for bikes and another for runners and walkers. The circuit is just over three miles of uninterrupted tarmac – brilliant for anyone running or cycle training – as the crazy New York traffic seems to stay put in it’s own lane.

While out for a run before the conference I saw posters for the Rock and Roll 10K to be held on the following Saturday. My first thought was that I should probably find somewhere else to run that day, followed almost immediately by wondering if it would still be possible to enter. That thought led to me walking up to Prospect Park on Friday in order to register and get my pack for the race the following morning. It gave me a chance to see the similarities and differences between organised races in the UK and the USA.

The first difference was that this race started at 7.30am. I’m an early riser but actually being at the start line for that time was a bit of a shock. I was at the start line in good time, however I was surprised at how many people were still ambling up to the start even after the race had begun. It was chip timed, so your recorded time was from crossing the start to crossing the finish, but I’ve not seen that happen at a race in the UK.

When registering I had to give an estimated finish time. I’m not especially fast but my time put me in “corral 2”. We were assigned a start corral based on estimated time, in the UK I would expect to be fairly far back in the field, yet here I was near the front in the second group – the first group containing the elite runners. The first 2 miles of the race were an out and back stretch and as I came to the two mile point there were lots of people walk/running still early in the first mile so it did appear that there were a lot more entrants who were not really running the race than I’d seen in similar size UK races.

The race began with the American National Anthem. I can still remember our National Anthem being played in the theatre before a performance but have never heard it at a race. We then set off in fairly small waves, one corral at a time. This wave start, plus the nice wide roads meant that despite the numbers we were always fairly well spaced out so there was no problem of bunching at the start and it was easy to pass slower runners who had got into the wrong start group.

I was very impressed with the water stations, there were four en route and after each station there were large bins spread out for maybe 200 metres either side of the road. This meant it was really easy to lob your cup into a bin and so there was not the issue that we often have at races where cups and bottles are posing a trip hazard around the water stations as people have thrown them to the side and they then roll back underfoot.

I was running without my Garmin as I tend not to bring it with me when traveling, so only had my iPhone with the Runkeeper app plus my new Pebble watch which hooked up with the app to show my pace. I do seem to have become a lot better at pacing however and didn’t really miss having the Garmin announcing split times at me and kept a fairly steady pace throughout. Given how tired I was and the amount of walking I had done over the days previously I was very happy to come in at 57 minutes.

The medal is the heaviest medal I have ever been given – perfect for adding to my hand luggage weight on the way home. I also got a nice technical t-shirt when registering. After the race I didn’t have enough hands to hold all of the things I was handed. They really went to town with bottles of water, Gatorade, sports jelly beans and bars, bananas and even chocolate milk. No chance of anyone being unable to find something to refuel after this race.

One thing that was the same as in the UK was how friendly the other runners and race organisers were. They made it a fun morning for this Brit abroad, and it was an enjoyable way to end my trip to America.

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