Race Recap: Autism Speaks 4 Miles of Hope
Saturday was a beautiful day to run a race. It was an even better day to run a race through New York’s Central Park.
I knew I wanted to run this race since I saw it pop up in my Facebook feed from the New York Road Runners. A new race this year for their schedule, the 4 Miles of Hope was a fundraiser for Autism Speaks. My son is on the spectrum, and while we haven’t worked directly with Autism Speaks for anything we’ve done for him, I have always applauded them for their huge efforts to bring visibility and funding to research this disorder. Back when my son was diagnosed with autism, we didn’t know anything about it. He was misdiagnosed at first, and it took us years to finally get him the help he needed. I remember when Autism Speaks was founded, when we were deep in the throes of trying to figure out what to do to best help my little guy. I hoped that the organization would make people aware of what the symptoms for, what to look for, what to do, so families wouldn’t go through what we’d gone through. And they have. So any time I can help out Autism Speaks, I’m there.
We live about 60 miles northeast of NYC, so we traveled in by train the day before. My dad actually was visiting my grandparents in Delaware, so he took the train up to meet us there. I was excited that my dad was interested in seeing me race. So after we got off the train at Grand Central, my husband and kids went over to the hotel to meet with him, while I hopped on the subway to go get my race bib and shirt. New York Road Runners has their headquarters on East 89th Street, so it’s an easy subway ride up and ten minute walk from the 86th street station.
When I got there they were giving out the numbers, shirts and handed you a clear plastic bag. How nice, I thought; they hadn’t done that in January when I’d run the Joe Kleinerman race. I’d had to stuff my shirt and bib and toe tag in my purse. But later on I realized why the bag: they were for bag drop on race day. The new security measures NYRR had implemented after Boston dictated that you could only drop their clear plastic bags with them, so that everything would be visible. No running with bags, either; they would be confiscated.
I got back on the subway to the hotel, and we had a nice dinner in Hell’s Kitchen. I didn’t even order an entree, intending to share plates with my kids since there was no kids’ menu at the Greek restaurant we went to. Even so, I ate too much, and went to bed feeling kind of lousy. I hoped it would wear off by race time.
Since this race did a staggered men’s/women’s start time, I had plenty of time in the morning. Women didn’t start until 9. I had a granola bar while the family ate at the hotel buffet and then made my way over to Central Park’s 72nd street transverse. I took the subway up from our hotel, and when I transferred trains, I wondered briefly if I would easily find my way from the station to the park. No worries there; the train was full of runners and it was easy to follow the herd over.
I got there just in time to walk over, use the porta potties (ew! normally I am totally fine with them but these were pretty gross), do some stretches and then it was time to line up. I was in the last group of runners, due to my slow pace, but there were plenty of others there with me.
As I stood there in the corral waiting for the race to begin, I got a bit emotional. I thought about my little guy, how far he’s come, how different our hopes and dreams are for him these days. He goes to a regular school, goes to regular classes, is on grade level in most subjects. And while he still has meltdowns and issues from time to time, most people truly don’t realize that there’s anything different about him. Quirky, maybe, but not that he’s on the spectrum. He is often held up in our schools as the poster child for early intervention and how much it can do for children with special needs. At age three, he couldn’t talk, wasn’t potty trained and melted down with any slight change in routine. And now? It’s amazing to think of where we’ve been in this journey. This race was for him, for all the kids like him. It was a humbling experience to see 5,000 people all turning out for kids like my little guy.
The race gun went off and we started. It took me three full minutes to get to the start line. It was a cool morning, upper fifties, low humidity and sunny. The first mile was easy, but since it was sunny, I was still pretty hot. I stopped at the Mile 1 water station and walked long enough to drain the cup. The first mile included a hill, but then it was pretty flat/down hill after that. I remembered a big hill from the 10K, but as we turned towards mile 2, I realized that we were going to miss it; they were routing us across rather than doing the full loop all the way around.
I was feeling pretty good at mile 2, so I skipped the water station. Then a series of what they call “rolling hills” began and I could feel my energy starting to flag. Sure enough, I glanced at my phone and saw 2.5 and knew I was hitting that point where I usually slow down. I allowed myself some walking on the up hills. As we got close to the Mile 3 water station, I knew I’d stop for a drink, so I pushed myself to run fast towards it.
Once I downed the water, I kept telling myself that it was only one more mile. I got in a good pace and went for it. I walked a few more thirty second stretches so that I would have enough energy to finish strong. I wasn’t really thinking about the time. I had hoped to come in under 50, and had a pipe dream of coming in under 48, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I was trying to enjoy the scenery and the feeling of running with people at my pace and not being dead last (love that about a big race…always someone slower than me).
Finally I could see the finish line (it always seems so far). I made that final push and ran as fast as I could for it. I saw 50:10 on the clock as I approached. Knowing it had taken me nearly 3 minutes to get across the start, I was happy. It meant I had come in well under 50, maybe even under 48.
My family met me at the end, and there were sweaty hugs all around. I felt good, strong, and happy. I looked over at my little guy, who still doesn’t know exactly why he feels so different from everyone else, and smiled. He didn’t know this race was for him, but he was here to cheer me on just the same. What an amazing blessing to be there, that day.
My final time, posted later that day, was 47:19, an 11:50 pace. I was thrilled.
Totally stole this photo from the NYRR site but it shows how pretty it was in Central Park that day. I’m not in the photo. LOL.
I am so far back in this shot I probably can’t even be seen. Maybe right near the top, LOL. Either way, that’s the race start.
Me with my dad and my little guy.