Yesterday morning Esther and I trekked up to Northern Manhattan for the most unique race on New York Road Runners calendar, the Washington Heights Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K. This race through Washington Heights’s streets is more than a race—it’s an event. Known for green bagels, live bands playing salsa, blues, jazz and classic rock along the course and a kid’s races showcasing the next generation of young runners.
The race may have a new name but runners still call it Coogan’s the same way New Yorkers still call the RFK Bridge the Triborough Bridge. Although the name is new the course is the same tight hilly out and back that’s both challenging and beautiful. Starting near the armory runners head up Washington Height’s narrow streets heading uphill towards Fort Tryon Park passing the cloisters and looping around the park and then it’s down the rolling hills to the finish.
Yesterday’s race was the first race in NYRR’s Club Series and although I had a cranky knee from last Sunday’s Central Park Marathon there was no way I wasn’t running. I planned running slow or maybe pacing a teammate. I also planned on taking a few pictures along the course as I ran.
Starting in a cramped corral, snapping random pictures as I went, my fellow racers pulled me out fast—but not too fast. Watching NYRR’s volunteers frantically trying to keep outbound runners from spreading out into the incoming lane—in a field of about 6000 it seemed as futile as herding cats. Passing the first-mile marker I looked up and saw the lead runners heading towards the finish. I wasn’t running for a p.r. but seeing that still gets in your head a little bit.
Heading into Fort Tryon Park I ran an 8:08 first mile surprised at how well my knee was behaving. Soaking up atmosphere and moving forward along Northern Manhattan’s rolling hills I ran a 7:56 second mile. Hmmm.
Passing bands playing classic 80’s tunes I headed towards the finish. There was one hill left at about 2.5 miles and then it’s all downhill. Picking up the pace I saw teammates Rohan and Dred cheering as I passed them. Passing the last hill my pack of runners opened up running downhill towards the finish. I finished in 24:23 good for third overall on the Quicksilver Striders. Not bad for a guy who wanted to take things easy. After the race, Esther and I munched on green bagels and watched the kids races with teammates. Regardless of the name, the race experience didn’t disappoint.