If you follow my work, you may remember that in four months last summer, I went on to lose 12 pounds, cut 1:21 from my mile time and [spoiler alert] run a 5:34 in the 2012 Fifth Avenue Mile, a time that surprised me most of all as I tell in my story, The Mulligan Mile.
I knew this year’s result would be slower due to a litany of excuses I had registered in advance with my readers when I signed up for the 2013 race. I mean, I could have just blamed Obama, since the car crash I got into on election night 2012 was clearly his fault. But that was the easy way out. You deserve a better explanation than such an obvious scapegoat.
Yet perhaps I didn’t need to create such a long list of reasons. It all may boil down to one variable that, for me, encapsulated all the other, related excuses in one neat number, 10. As in ten pounds heavier this year than I was last year. Of course a big reason for that is that I didn’t train as much or as hard as last year. But with that in mind, my weight may have been the best measurement of just how much training I had done this year and my prospects for success.
I did my best to try and find a reliable source to tell me definitively the relationship between weight and speed. I know that every pound lost is speed gained, but how much? I found this article in Runners World that plausibly suggested that losing 10 pounds would net you 20 seconds per mile, within some undefined reasonable range.
So that would mean this year’s time, with everything else being equal, would come in at around 5:54, reflecting the additional burden I had to carry for those 20 hallowed blocks along Central Park East.
I’d be thrilled to take that, given that I still hadn’t broken 7 minutes in the little training that I had done this year.
The race this year started out similar to last year’s in that I scorched the first quarter mile and was only a couple seconds behind last year’s pace at the first split. After that, I completely lost track of the clock until I looked up in the final 40 yards before the finish line. Last year, I checked my half-mile split (what i reported as 2:59, but afterward I realized that my real, chip time, was probably 6 seconds faster than that due to the time it took me to get to the start line).
But I didn’t need a clock to tell me this year was different. I tried the same racing technique– zero in on the back of someone ahead of me and try to pass him. Last year, it worked, I was passing people left, right and center. This year, not so much. Turns out that setting the intention of passing someone isn’t the same as actually passing him.
You still need the legs– and the lungs. I had neither in the same capacity any longer and the backs of the guys in front of me just kept going and in fact, were joined by more and more backs of guys passing me in the final 600 yards. No one seemed to pass me last year. But this year, I was passed over more times than celery sticks on a buffet table. I kept pushing as best I could, but at one point I caught myself thinking about the finish, just wishing it were upon me. And it wasn’t.
My lungs were clenched, my legs kinked. I was moving backward. But somehow when I looked up at the clock at finish line, there was still a 5 in the first position. As I drew near it and with that auspicious number drawing me in, I staggered home just before it turned over to 6.
Which of these authors is David and which is Goliath? Malcolm Gladwell ran a blistering 5:03 in this year’s Fifth Avenue MIle.
My lungs immediately seized up and I could barely talk above my cough for the next 30 minutes, even when I stopped to chat with fellow writer and age 50 – 59 competitor Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and the new David and Goliath. Gladwell kicked my mulligan ass with an incredible 5:03 befitting the former Canadian champion runner interviewed in the same September 2013 Issue that my story ran.
So I ended up officially with a 5:56, plus 22 seconds from last year– almost to the second what was predicted by my 10-pound weight gain. (Since he ran about a minute faster than me, does that mean Gladwell must weigh about 150 lbs?) Now I have to eat my pretzels.
You can keep your Yasso 800s to predict your marathon times. I’ll just use the Cinquino Scale to let you know what I plan on running in my next competitive mile.
Congratulations to three fellow running friends from the Lehigh Valley on their fine races that day, too. Megan Hetzel (@megrunnergirl) who won the women’s media race. Pictured below are Jamie Gottschall, who ran strong coming off a series of troublesome injuries, and my running coach Budd Coates, who placed second in the men’s media race with a time that would have won our age heat if he had chosen to compete against Malcolm and I. Maybe next year, coach.