NYC, you don’t disappoint. Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of your never-ending traffic bustle and aging subway rides, but all of these contribute to a unique experience every time I enter your borders. This time, I came for the NYC Half Marathon.
Several teammates and I committed to this race months ago, and showed up on race day at varying levels of fitness, each of us in our own way ready to run the route from Brooklyn to Manhattan. For me, I’d been dealing with ongoing piriformis syndrome (scoliosis issues) and a minor case of shin splints. Both injuries hadn’t prevented me from running, but limited me to low-mileage weeks, supplemented with strength work and a little bit of cross-training. This isn’t ideal for half marathon training, so I didn’t have high standards for the race, but I hoped to run well given the fitness I had.
Fast forward to race day, my teammates and I were up around 4:30am, going through our usual motions of food, coffee, and clothing prep. We were out the door in the pitch dark, walk-jogging to the nearby subway station that would take us near the start line. We arrived at the race entry with thousands of other runners, following the long path to bag check, then corrals, then start line. The next 90 minutes we attempted to keep warm (kudos to the space heater that saved my frozen hands), jog, use bathrooms, the drill.
One tip for running large races like this (and when the weather is COLD) is to bring a large trash bag and cut holes for your head and arms to keep warm! Everything we brought to the start line was either donated or thrown out, so this was a nice way for some extra warmth without giving away more clothing. Thanks to my coach for the idea.
Soon it was race time. In hind sight, I should have planned this part better. In fact, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t start at the front of the start line. Feeling conservative, I placed myself mid-way back in the first corral, thinking this is where I belonged. Unfortunately, this resulted in me starting a minute late, running a slow/choppy first mile, and never running with people at my own pace, instead passing runners the entire race long. I may have paced better had I placed myself alongside runners at a similar pace goal. Classic me, I underestimated my own ability.
Anyway, the race started and I ran. It took 4 miles to really warm up, but then I finally got into a rhythm. I LOVED the hills. Yep, the NYC course was surprisingly hilly. In fact, I am learning that hills are my strength, as this is where I gained an edge on competition.
The course was also beautiful. I heard many people complain about the level of difficulty – wind and hills – resulting in slow times, but other than that I loved the variability in scenery – bridges and water and Times Square in all its glory, and of course finishing in Central Park.
As it turned out, I ran a completely negative split, gaining momentum as the race went on, and never getting passed by a single runner. My paces varied from 6:20 to 6:00 to 5:40 near the end, with a finish time of 1:21:45. No, this isn’t a fast time compared to my PR, but I ended up being pretty proud considering my obstacles. The Half has always been one of my favorite races and this was a confidence builder for what I can do on minimal training. I also have many lessons learned for how to better prepare in the moments prior to a big race like this. (Other than everything I already mentioned, hand warmers!)
My goal now is to rest and get healthy. I have a recovery plan for my piriformis issues and am hoping I can be diligent and patient to let things heal. I have no races planned until May or June, and am getting ready for a dreamy vacation to Colorado in April. <3
I can’t express how grateful I am for my amazing team, Genesee Valley Harriers (GVH) for continuing to support and send me and my teammates to exciting races like this. GVH supports post-collegiate runners who are balancing multiple life demands, including families and full-time jobs, all while trying to run at an elite level. We’ve made so much progress and I have high hopes for the future! Congrats to all my teammates who ran NYC, and special shout out to our men’s team who won the overall NYC team title. Go GVH!