August 17, 2009

2009 NYC Half Marathon

My goal for the NYC Half was basically to "feel strong" the whole course. It wasn't a peak race. I'm training for the NYC full marathon. And, well, it's August in NYC, yo.

On the other hand, I trained, tapered, I bought a nice shirt. Who doesn't want a PR?

I figured that despite the heat I could match my winter half-marathon times, since I'd been training. That would be enough for me.

In the end I got neither a racer's time nor a kick-ass workout, but The City was a circus and I was happy to be there.

Start time was crazy early, but it was already deep in the 70s by 5:30am. There was a soft purple caste to the bridges at dawn as I crossed the East River. Buildings dimly shimmered. I did a short warm-up run on the bridle path, stretched, watched the pro runners do the same, and tried to visit the john enough times.

The 7-mile loop in Central Park was a sunny, verdant blur, but in slow motion. I hit hills that, for once, seemed to hit me back. Nothing was enough to pull speed out of those legs. I had a strategy - start slow, build up. But endless miles oozed by and I found myself slowing.

The race finally spilled into the mirrored channel of Seventh Ave., down through Times Square. No cars, no bike messengers, the road almost to myself. It was like Hancock, but directed by Terry Gilliam, featuring a bunch of "American Idol" hopefuls, and written by a coked-up gazelle.

In Times Square there hovered a suspicious cloud of bacon smell, accompanied by a soul band called "Crispus Attucks". I felt unexpectedly hungry. At least until I nearly stepped on the traditional squished rat in the middle of the street. Moving on.

The cheering was awesome. One woman hollered "Go FDNY!" at a large, handsome guy wearing his FRNY team shirt (Front Runners of New York is the local gay and lesbian track club). There were lots of cowbells. "More cowbell," I yelled back. My speed had slowed to my training pace, but I was waving too much to feel bad about it. I love a parade.

Then, 4 miles straight down the West Side Highway, with the Financial District towering like a mirage at the end of the course. Having been stuck in traffic on this stretch on countless holiday weekends, I can tell you it was a thrill to be moving fast and running red lights.

I had hit a hard training pace by now, though certainly not a race pace, when suddenly, at the 20k point, I heard someone shout my name. There, on a traffic barrier from which he was watching the race, was teammate Gregg, hollering encouragements. This totally jazzed me. I hooted and waved and took off. I finally put together a decent race pace, gradually accelerating and passing people for the last kilometer.

I full-on sprinted the last 100 meters, and really enjoyed the finish.

Volunteers were handing out iced towels and apples. That was the best apple anyone's ever tasted.

I picked up my finisher's medal and rested on a bench on the Battery, looking out at the Statue of Liberty and drinking a bottle of water. Had the heat slowed me down? Should I have started faster? Did I try hard enough? Whatever. I was distracted from my post-race analysis to watch a bunch of bees exploiting a lovely patch of echinacea in the park.

But I wasn't done. I needed to pick myself back up and run the 4-1/2 miles home to get my full training mileage for the day. As I approached the Brooklyn Bridge a biker saw my race number and yelled, "Haven't you had enough?"


My denoument for the day was an afternoon playing with the baby in Prospect Park while my wife ran. I hadn't really achieved my goals. But it was a good day for nothing to be enough in NYC.


  1. Love the Hancock as directed by Terry Gilliam image in paragraph seven--I can see it man, and it's crazy and fun.

    Big props for running in this heat. I'm embarrassed to say that as soon as temps went over ninety it killed my drive. And to think, it's not even been *that* hot as most summers in NYC go. And that, my friend, is why I've never been able to transcend running the Prospect Park circle...

  2. Nice account of the environment - was another good (if not hot & muggy) NYC race day.

  3. Great write up. This was definitely not a race to focus on P.R.'s. Even if we had, it wouldn't have happened with that overwhelming heat. Sounds like you had the right idea taking advantage of the day and enjoying the run.