Colon Cancer 15K, or Why NYC Isn’t as Bad as You Think

If, like me, you grew up in a town other than New York and had access to a household TV, you probably internalized a pretty negative view of the Big Apple from an early age. And why wouldn’t we? From the comfort of our parents’ sofas, we watched Saturday morning after Saturday morning as Gotham City fell into ruin at the hands of its selfish residents, with even good kid Danny Pennington unable to avoid the lure of the Foot Clan.

Portrayed as dirty, self-indulgent and perhaps a bit maniacal, New York City has gotten a bad rap in American culture. To quote Liz Lemon quoting Jay-Z: “Concrete bunghole where dreams are made up; there’s nothing you can do.”

Of course, as a resident of this city for more than three years now, I can recall countless examples to counteract that negative stereotype, and this morning during the New York Colon Cancer Challenge 15K in Central Park, I witnessed one more.

Let me backtrack a bit. This morning’s race – which started at the remarkably humane hour of 10:15 a.m. – took 3,014 runners around two partial loops of the park, including two drives up Cat Hill, before concluding at the Bethesda Fountain.

Never having run a timed 15K before, I knew I’d PR regardless, but I was nonetheless targeting an ambitious race pace of about 8:20 for a total running time of 1:17. Well-rested from the weirdly normal start time and carbed-up on entirely too many pancakes, I imagined my goal – though challenging – was an achievable one. I met up with my friend Leigh-Ann for a pre-race photo shoot, double-knotted my Aiscs and high-tailed it over to the starting line.

Like all NYRR events, the first mile was a cluster-duck of bodies, but Cat Hill successfully dispersed the masses, allowing plenty of room to maneuver without all the elbow-throwing friendly jostling I’ve come to expect in Central Park races. As I made my away around the first loop, I felt strong and fast and – although I wasn’t wearing a GPS watch because I cheaply haven’t bought one  yet – knew from the mile clocks that I was maintaining an 8:10 or so pace. Life was good.

And that’s when I heard the clink of something hitting the pavement beside me. I initially thought the runner in front of me had just shot back an energy gel and was simply discarding the empty casing in his wake, but a closer look revealed he had actually – and quite unwittingly – dropped his American Express card.

Well, damn it. I thought to myself as I saw him obliviously charge ahead. I’m going to need to go back and get it for this big dummy. I was prepared to kiss my race goal goodbye.

As I turned around to dart back to the card, I was shocked to see at least a dozen other runners doing the same exact thing. We were all out there racing for our own PRs, but when we saw that poor guy’s card tumble to the ground, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that helping out was more important than slicing off a few extra seconds of our own. Another runner was closer than I, so while he swooped down to retrieve it, I turned forward again and sprinted ahead with all the speed I could muster in order to catch up with Mr. Amex. It took about 20 meters of balls-to-the-wall power, but I caught him, tapped his shoulder and quickly filled him in on the situation while the runner with the card caught up. As he handed it off in true relay fashion, the cardless wonder turned to us all and yelled “Good people!”

That’s right, sir. New York is full of ’em.

Call it karma or maybe the promise of a French-fry-filled post-race brunch, but I ended up making up for those lost seconds in the final miles, crossing the finish line at 1:16:26 and maintaining a solid 8:14 pace. And I’m not the only one who PRed today (albeit at non-New York races.) A big shout out to my girls Meredith and Z-Z for logging their own new race records today – and for being good people.  New York would be lucky to have you both.

Tell me about your weekend run/good deed/best April Fools joke. Gmail tap, anyone?

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