When I had first signed up for this race back in December, I was super excited for the new course. I’ve run the NYC Half a few times, and while it is the big headliner half marathon in the city, I had often found it a bit over-rated, since so few miles were in the streets. When NYRR announced the race would feature a brand new course that actually took place in the streets of city, I was so ecstatic that NYC was finally getting a half marathon it deserved. Yes, the course did look to be a little more challenging, but I would gladly take on the extra hills in order to enjoy the party in the streets.
I headed into the city Saturday afternoon, and went straight the expo to pick up my bib. Fairly uneventful. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t many actual vendors to buy from (just the New Balance race merch and a small stand from Paragon, a local sporting goods shop) but it was probably a good thing as I’m heading to Boston in a few weeks and I will surely be buying #allthethings there. Met up with a friend for lunch, and then went straight to my mom’s to relax, have dinner, and try to get a decent night’s sleep.
My original plan for the race was to run it at a quicker than normal training pace, but not full out race, and then cool down by running an additional 7 miles to get in 20 for the day. However, race day ended up very different then what I had planned.
When my alarm went off, my stomach was in knots, and I was exhausted from hardly being able to sleep the night before. “Five more minutes” in my head turned into “I don’t really need that long to get ready” turned into falling asleep for almost an extra hour. Yikes. I hopped out of bed and started to get ready, but I felt incredibly nauseous. I will spare you the details, but it was not a fun morning. I highly considered a DNS, but remember how much money I paid for this race, how many other races I had to do for guaranteed entry, and how excited I was for the new course. I made a deal with myself – if I was able to keep something in my stomach, I would head to the start, and see how it goes. Besides, the race was taking place in the middle of Manhattan – if I needed to bail, it’s not like I was stranded in the middle of nowhere. I was finally able to manage a banana and some bagel, but by the time I got dressed and settled, there was absolutely no way I was making my start in Wave 1. Plus side of a ginormous race – there was still a Wave 2 I could catch with time I could make.
The race start was in Brooklyn. Since I was running so late, I was considering hopping a cab – but I was worried race day traffic would make the Manhattan to Brooklyn traffic terrible. I ended up taking a car to one of the subway stops that as far south as I could easily get to Manhattan, and then it was only a 10 min ride or so the start I needed. Once I got off the train, walked over to the race start, and cleared security it was already 8:12. Wave 2 was starting at 8:15, so while I wouldn’t make the first corral, I would still be able to run. I walked up as far as I could to the front, hopped into the corrals, hit the bathroom, and was able to start running by the 3th or 4th corral that was released. Phew! It was quite cold and windy at the start, so even though I do not necessarily recommend showing up at the last possible second, the silver lining was that I avoided lots of waiting in cold weather!
Miles 1-3ish were around the streets of Brooklyn, before we headed over to the Manhattan Bridge to take us into lower Manhattan. The early miles were downhill, and I was a little optimistic that I would be able to still run my goal despite my stomach issues, and I may even be able to run the full 20 miles. Ha! You would think by now I would learn never judge a long race by the first mile or two, right? By the time I hit the uphill of the Manhattan Bridge around the 5K mark, I was already not happy. My legs were feeling very sluggish, my stomach was bothering me, and the overall lack of food I had in my system was obviously impacting my energy. But I was determined to get through this race.
We got off the bridge in Chinatown, and we were greeted by some cheering crowds. While the crowd support was not anywhere near the New York Marathon (which I attribute to the new racer, early start, and freezing cold temps) it was still fun to run through the city and not circles in the park for a change. After a mile or so, we ended up on the FDR for a straight shot up to 42nd straight. This was one of the most difficult stretches for me. There was no crowd support or entertainment on the highway, and by miles 5-6ish, I was really starting to hurt and be over it. I tried to take in a little extra fuel and Gatorade, and just sort of suck it up, and play mind games with myself. Besides, the highlight of the race was coming up!
Once we got off the FDR at 42nd, we started heading west towards Times Square. We passed Grand Central (Yes – I did think about those trains waiting to take me home to my own bed!) and I started looking for my old tri training partner who I knew was out cheering. I found her with her newly-wedded husband around mile 7.5 or so, and it gave me the mental boost that I needed. Not too long after I hit Times Square, which is just so much fun to run through. It was only about 2 more miles up 7th Ave to 57th street, and then just a shorter loop of the park. Four miles in the park. How many times have I done that? I got this!
Those last four miles were rough, not going to lie. I felt like I was running so hard, but in reality, my watch was saying another story. It was sort of one foot in front of the other. I didn’t really look at the course map beforehand (runner fail, I know.) so as we were going up Cat Hill (one of the larger hills in the park), I had assumed we were going to have to run up to Harlem Hill (the steepest hill in the park.) When I heard another runner say to her friend that we are skipping Harlem Hill and cutting across at 104th street, I thought I could kiss her. Best news all morning!
Once we cut across and started headed down to the finish, I knew I was in the home stretch. One of the nice things about ending a race in a place you know so well, you know exactly where you are, and can use to that your mental advantage. Finally, I started seeing the signs that let you know the end really is near – “800m to go”, “400m to go” “200m to go” mile 13 – and finally – FINISH!
I ended up finishing the race is 2:15:11. Although this is one of the slowest times I have run in quite some time, it is by no means a personal worst, and I was really proud I pushed through. In some ways running a horrible, slow race when you aren’t feeling well is tougher than pushing through a race at a fast pace when you know you are flying. And despite how horrible I felt, I did find ways to find joy in the course, and do my best to enjoy the sights and sounds of my favorite city.
I collected my medal and food bag, and started the shuffle out of the park and back to my mom’s apartment. Clearly, 20 miles would have to be run another day. While this means I really only have time to get in one 20 mile run before Boston, that is okay. Training plans on paper don’t always translate to actual real life. This has not been an easy training cycle, but I know no matter what, I will find my way to that famous finish in Boylston street.
Tell me – have you ever had a race plan get completely derailed?