I’ve never entertained the thought of running a virtual race before, but my last race of 2020 was the City of Palms Half Marathon in February, and I have been kind of itching to get out there. So when I saw that my favorite MLB team, the New York Yankees, was holding a virtual 5k (and 10k) for Covid-19 related outreach I knew it was time to reconsider my aversion to the format.
I have been a staunch fan of the Bronx Bombers since I was 11 years old, back in the Horace Clarke and Mike Hegan days when the team took their decade long break from excellence. Like running road races, I have been sorely missing watching Yankees games this summer; so much so that I am even excited to see this jerry-rigged 60 game season commencing next week. While checking up on the schedule I was served an ad for the Yankees Virtually United 5k & 10k, featuring a commemorative T-Shirt and sweet finishers medal embossed with the iconic interlocking NY team logo. It occurred to me that this gear was the perfect way to memorialize this crazy mess of a year called 2020 and I had to have it, even if I always considered virtual races to be a bastardized version of the real thing. Hey, that’s what this whole year has been!
Registration began in June and ends on August 31 (still time to get in!) but today was the first day to submit results. I wanted to make sure I could be among the leaders in my age group, if only for a moment, so I planned to get out there early. I mapped out a route that was as level as I could find in my hilly neighborhood (why make it harder than it has to be?) and downloaded the Asics Runkeeper app, the official timekeeper for the event. You are also permitted to enter results tracked through alternate means.
I got out of the house a little after 5AM when it was still relatively cool and jogged an easy half mile before stopping to fire up Runkeeper and begin the race. The first thing I noticed was how hard it was to gauge how fast I should run without people around me. Not surprisingly I went out too fast and my first mile clocked in at 7:41. My pace this summer has been more in the 8:30 – 9:00 range and although those haven’t been competitive miles 7:41 still felt excessively fast. I had to slow down and I knew I would whether intentionally or not. Mile 2 was a more manageable 8:02 and I pretty much maintained that pace, logging in at 8:01 for the last mile. If I have one complaint about the experience it’s that Runkeeper didn’t tell me when I reached the “finish line” and I ended up running 3.3 miles. However in the official results that extra time/distance seems to have been filtered out. According to those my total time was 24:31 so my pace was 7:54 for the 5k. I think I’d have been happy with anything short of 8:15 so I was really pleased to finish under 8:00.
After the race I jogged the 2 and change miles back to the house at a nice leisurely 9:46. The email with my results was already in my inbox on my arrival, and I was thrilled to see that I was atop the leaderboard of 9 fellow insomniacs who had already completed the virtual race! I’m pretty sure my results will be nowhere to be found by noon today, but it was still fun to see.
Who knows if there will be any more live races for me to run this year? Who knows if this ersatz baseball season will even make it to 60 games? The way things are going I think it’s best to reconsider everything and take what you can get while you can get it. It may be a while before things are back to “normal”