NYC Half Marathon Race Recap
Wow, it’s over. I can’t believe it’s over.
I went into NYC by train with my youngest son on Saturday to visit the race expo and pick up my race number. It was pouring rain out and we had our overnight bags with us, so I opted for a cab rather than hoof it over there. Lesson number one of NYC: do NOT wait in the cab stand at Grand Central. We waited about twenty minutes there for a cab, and probably could have walked it in that time.
The race expo was very crowded. I had thought of going in during the week, and if I ever get lucky enough to run this race again, that is what I will do. It was impossible to see all of the vendors and my son, being on the spectrum, was very off put by the crowds. I had wanted to get photos in there but the crowds made it impossible. I did get one shot with my race number, but that’s it.
After we were able to check in to our hotel, I took my son for a short walk up to Central Park to see where I would enter for the race. I wanted to be as familiar as possible with everything ahead of time. Fortunately it was about a fifteen minute walk from the hotel, not far.
I went back to the hotel and laid out my race gear for the next day:
From there it was just time to wait. We had a nice meal out after my husband and daughter arrived, where I ate bread and cheese and didn’t worry about the “rules” I have in place. After that it was early to bed.
I was up by six and had my usual power bar meal and a cup of coffee before getting dressed. I had planned two different outfits and opted for the lighter jacket over the race shirt, with a throwaway sweatshirt over that while I waited for the race to begin. I was out of the hotel by 6:45.
As I walked up towards Central Park, there were runners streaming in from all over. I didn’t go more than half a block without seeing the first of them and by the time I got close we were in a long line going up 7th Avenue. We got to the area that I had been at the day before. It was absolutely packed. I’ve never seen anything like it at a race.
It took a full twenty or so minutes to go through security (metal detectors!) to enter Central Park. I had thought I would be super early, but hadn’t counted on that wait. It was chilly and windy so I was glad for my throwaway! I was shocked at how far the entry point was from where the corrals and the toilets were (hundreds of them, but there were 20K runners, so that makes sense).
Before I knew what was happening, I heard the National Anthem from a distance, signaling the start of the first wave of runners, the elites. I started to find my way to where my corral was. I knew I was in the second to last corral, so it took at least another ten minute walk to get there.
I finally found my spot, and settled in. It was twenty minutes to start time. I heard all sorts of conversations around me. I was very nervous. What did I think was doing here? I felt very alone as I heard people talk to the friends or partners they came with. Two guys next to me were speaking German. I honestly thought about walking out right then. I mean, the course is 13 effing miles!
With a race of this many people, go time means you slowly meander up to the start line. It took me eight minutes.
The first two miles were easy downhills, and I tried to go as comfortably fast as I could. I didn’t have my RunKeeper on to save my phone’s battery, so I had no idea how fast I was going. The clocks at each mile marker were set to Wave 1’s start time, so they were not a great gauge. I did note that between mile one and two there it looked like I was at 11 something.
We left the park for a bit and ran up 110th Street outside Central Park to hit mile 3. I started to feel the effects of pushing for speed there, so I slowed down a bit. I realized later that it was also a bit of an uphill, so that made sense.
5K Split: 36:52
Worse than I thought, all things considered. But probably for the best to conserve energy.
Between mile 3 and 5 are the worst hills of the course, Central Park’s famous Cat Hill among them. I pushed myself to run/walk them rather than just walk them, and I had the energy to do so. I took a gel somewhere in the fourth mile, earlier than I’d planned, but I felt very depleted already. I also made a point to take Gatorade at the fluid stations to replace the electrolytes I knew I was sweating off. I removed my light jacket at some point in this section as well.
Once we hit mile 5 the worst of the hills were over and I was feeling OK. I was excited to see what the rest of the course outside the park was, since I’ve already run two races within the park. We finally hit mile 6 and I knew we were going to be exiting soon.
10K Split: 1:15:31
The moment we left the park onto 7th Avenue and you can see Times Square just beckoning you down the way was incredible. I busted out with a huge smile and tried to take a few photos.
My family was waiting for me at 54th and 7th, just a few blocks away, so I stopped for a few photos and high fives. I was feeling great, even though I was easily 6.5 miles in. It was great to see them there, and the course itself was pulling me forward. From there it was a straight downhill into Times Square.
Running through there was amazing. I didn’t even think about how tired I was. The scenery was amazing.
From there we turned right onto 42nd Street and went towards the water. The wind kicked up a lot here, so I had to put back on my jacket. The “fuel stop” was somewhere between mile 7 and 8 here, so I grabbed another gel and pushed on. The ground was sticky from all the gel packets that had just been thrown down. Blech.
We hit the West Side Highway and looped around a bit before heading south. I was still marveling at how good I was feeling here. This was where I hit the wall on my twelve mile run two weeks ago, but I felt OK. Lots of people were starting to walk around me, and it felt good to pass them.
I should have taken more photos on this stretch. I was insane to be running down here, with no cars at all.
15K Split: 1:55:05
Finally we could start to see the World Trade Center looming up ahead. It was beautiful, and as we ran it got bigger and bigger.
After Mile 9 I could feel myself starting to wane again. I took another gel and kept taking Gatorade at the fluid stations. I high fived and cheered every photog I could see, trying to keep moving forward. I didn’t feel bad like I did at my first half at this point, but I was definitely starting to feel tired. I ran more than I walked through Mile 10 and Mile 11, which brought us down near the tip of Manhattan.
It was around Mile 11 that I realized it was almost over and I still wasn’t feeling that wrecked feeling I had at my first half. I knew I could still run more than I needed to walk, and passed even more people. At Mile 12 we hit the Battery Park Tunnel. I couldn’t believe we were going to run through it! I took a few walk breaks but knew we’d hit an uphill at the end, so I wanted to keep moving. We hit the 20K split inside the tunnel.
20K Split: 2:35:00
I knew 20K was 12.4 miles so there was not that much to go. I broke into a grin again as we left the tunnel, trudging up the overpass to get on the other side. The view was incredible. A sign on my left said 800 meters to go….less than a kilometer. I ran/walked until I saw the 400 meters to go sign and jogged a little faster.
Finally we hit the 13 mile marker as we turned onto Water Street. I started to tear up. I couldn’t believe it was nearly over. Even though I was tired, I almost wanted to keep going….to see more amazing things, to be a part of this great day, great event. I had done it. I didn’t even feel like dying. I was going to make it.
I turned the final corner and ran towards the finish. I heard a friend call my name and I gave her a thumbs up. I crossed the finish line at 2:43:37, four minutes faster than my first half.
I grabbed my medal and the heat blanket (really a piece of thermal foil) and moved out of the chute as fast as I could. My family was waiting at the end of the chute and I was ready to see them.
What a great race. My goal had been 2:45 so I beat it. I felt good throughout, even towards the end. I was tired but not dead. After my first half I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to race that distance again, but after this one I would love to do it again. It wasn’t as hard as the first (of course the course and weather were better). I didn’t train as well for this one but still made it through.
I’m thrilled with the outcome. I’m so grateful to have been able to do it.
Here are some photos from New York Road Runners from the race, so much better than the photos I took on my phone. They really give you a sense of the awe and wonder of this event.