Is This Hell?: 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half Race Recap

The 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half was my fourth race in four weeks. As I get to the end of this recap, you will see that this is a lot of races to run in four weeks, and perhaps too many races to run in four weeks.

This fourth race was a good learning experience. I was tired in ways I had never felt. It was by far the hardest race I’ve ever run, including both of my marathons (one of which, by the way, was one of the four races I ran in this four week period).

The day after the Brooklyn Half was slow going but thankfully free of severe aches and pains. Monday morning I woke up feeling borderline sick. Not sick sick, but you know that scratchy, lethargic feeling that creeps up an hour or two before you realize you’re sick for real? I’ve had that for three days. This is actually not a terrible thing: it’s not so bad that I’m confined to bed or anything, but just bad enough for my body to be like “We’re NOT running, bitch” even though I wasn’t planning on running this week anyway. Dumb body.

But let’s back up to last week.

I was excited to run Brooklyn again for a few reasons:

  • It’s a mostly flat course
  • It’s a club points race (go Harriers!)
  • My friend Scott was planning on running it again and would help pace me again
  • Last year’s Brooklyn Half was so fast for me (8:08 pace), it subsequently bumped me up two NYRR corrals: from F to D. I was hoping the results of this year’s race might bump me up to C. (The lower down the alphabet, the faster the runners surrounding you at the start; a 7:58 pace half marathon would get me into C.)

Last year I had a full time job and it was annoying as hell to get to the race expo on the Brooklyn waterfront during the day. This year, I don’t have a full time job so it was a breeze! The expo was open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 10 pm. I arrived Wednesday at 1:30. There were no lines so everything went smoothly.

The only part of the expo worth mentioning is that I went there hungry, thinking that I would do something I rarely do and eat lunch out. I’m super frugal so I don’t normally do this. I never even get takeout. But I thought “What the heck, it’s a special occasion. Indulge!” There were a couple of food trucks inside the expo. The one that interested me the most (Japanese-inspired Mexican food) was selling tacos for $5 each. SMALL tacos. For FIVE dollars EACH. And their small nacho platter was $12. So I thought… no. I considered stopping for a slice of pizza at one of the popular spots between the expo and the train, but they all had lines out the door. So I just went home hungry, making my own tacos at home for a fraction of the cost. Frugality, you’ve won again!

Here are some pics from the expo. This is how empty it is when you show up 90 minutes after they open the doors.

 

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I had taken three days off after the Run for the Health of It 5K because my right shin had been a little sore – probably because I raced that thing like my life depended on it. On Wednesday, I ran 6 miles with 2 miles at half marathon pace in the middle. I was only able to stay between an 8:00 and 8:10 pace for my HMP which worried me as I really wanted to hit a sub 8:00 for the race.

Thursday and Friday, I kept my runs short and easy. Friday was only 2.5 miles with some strides, as has been my pre-race-day custom.

I got everything ready the night before so I’d have little to do race morning. I even pinned my bib to my shirt. I wasn’t planning on bringing a bag to check, so everything I wanted for the race had to fit in my waist belt. I would bring a small plastic bag for my snacks en route (pita chips and a Nuun water). Temps would be in the upper 50s, so I decided that in addition to my race tank and shorts I’d cut up some old long socks and wear those on my arms for the subway ride there and then just throw them away. I set my alarm for 3:15 and went to bed about 9, falling asleep not long after that.

And then I woke up at 1:30 am.

It’s normal for me to wake up in the middle of the night to pee. I always fall back asleep, something that would not be happening tonight. After tossing and turning for an hour, at about 2:30 I thought I might as well get up. So I did.

This turned out to be good, because between eating my oat bran + egg breakfast and walking my dog and making sure he pooped and getting all my shit together, 2+ hours was the perfect amount of time to get ready. I left at 4:50 and headed for the train.

By the way, here’s a race hack: if you think you’ll need sunscreen before and/or after the race and don’t want to carry a gross plastic bag of the stuff, take one of those hotel shampoo bottles that’s been sitting in your medicine cabinet for the past four years, empty it out into your regular shampoo bottle, clean it out, and fill it with sunscreen!

 

The subways were predictably bad that morning – it took forever for them to arrive and then the 3 train stopped running at 42nd and we all had to get out and wait for the next 2/3 to Brooklyn. What should have been a 55-60 minute ride wound up taking about an hour and 20 minutes.

I was worried about time because last year the lines for security took forever. I also remember getting out at the wrong stop last year and having to walk what felt like a mile to get there along with hundreds of other runners who also all got out at the wrong stop (we’re all such sheep). I was determined to get out at the right stop this year.

Thankfully, it all went much better this year. I got out at the correct stop, which was right in front of the security line. Which, by the way, was nowhere near as bad as it was last year. It wasn’t raining, no security staff were yelling at us, and I was through in under 10 minutes.

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I texted my friend Scott that I’d be in Corral F waiting in a porta potty line. (I know I said I’m normally in D but the Brooklyn Half is so big it starts in two waves; hence the corral lettering system is slightly different.) Scott was assigned to F too, which makes sense since we finished last year’s Brooklyn Half at the same time. It was the only NYRR race he’d done so NYRR had no idea he’s actually capable of much more. Scott runs for fun, is fast, and unlike me he’s so cool he doesn’t care about his race times. Just like last year, he agreed to run with me to help get me to my goal finish time. What a friend!

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This is the largest half marathon in the U.S., by the way. Which meant one thing: a very good, high quality rendition of the national anthem. Good job singer, whoever you are! And before 7:00 am too!

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Boy, I was going to crush this thing! I’m absolutely in better shape this year. I could easily take off ten seconds a mile from last year’s pace to run this at a 7:58! First sub 8:00 pace half marathon, here I come! C corral, here I come! One last selfie before we do this! Woo-hoo!

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The first mile in Prospect Park was a little slow-going due to course crowding, but that was to be expected. I thought it’d be a good idea to keep my pace in the low 8’s for the first few miles and then work my way up from there. Scott wasn’t wearing a watch but I was tracking it all on mine – he would run as fast as I wanted and maybe even run up ahead like he did last year, giving me a target to follow.

I felt good in this first mile. We talked a little but I knew that with the pace this year I might not be up for much conversation this time; we had both brought headphones which was just as well. At the end of mile 1 and the start of mile 2, it felt a little hard. I asked “Are we going up a hill?” because it was so subtle, but yes, we were. Funny, I hadn’t remembered this hill last year.

The race can be thought of as being divided into two main parts: the shaded, rolling hills of Prospect Park and the long, unshaded flat/downhill stretch down Ocean Parkway that ends at Coney Island. Last year we had kept our pace on the conservative side until we exited the park and then sped up going down Ocean Parkway for our fastest miles of the race. I was hoping to repeat that this year with slightly faster paces.

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I took the second mile a little faster. Still feeling strong, especially once the hill flattened out. It was fun seeing the other runners coming the other way. Mile 3 was even faster, although I was trying to be careful not to drift into 10K pace territory, which at times I was. It was a fine balance of pushing and holding back.

MILE 1: 8:11
MILE 2: 7:58
MILE 3: 7:46

Mile 4 has us entering the main loop of Prospect Park. There were a lot of spectators around here which was nice. I searched the crowds for Harriers but didn’t see any. I talked to Scott less this year. Every so often Scott would say something and I’d grunt a few words in response. I know I was going faster this year, but I wondered if I was also more tired. I still managed a smile for the cameras.

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I was wearing the same water bottle I’d worn in the NJ Marathon, again with a Nuun tablet. As in the marathon, I planned on having a sip or two every third mile or whenever I felt like it. I really didn’t want to be slowing down for any water stops.

Mile 5 is where the wheels started coming off. I don’t run in Prospect Park so the only other time I’d run here was last year’s race; I remembered knowing there was a hill in this mile but upon reaching it last year, I didn’t think much of it. This year was another story.

Damn, this stretch was hard. Also, for some godforsaken reason the hill(s) seemed about four times steeper and longer this year. Did they make this Prospect Park hill bigger for this year’s race? Is that even possible? Probably not, right?

I struggled to keep up with Scott, who ran 20-50 feet in front of me for a lot of this portion, a decision I was thankful for because it gave me a target. In fact, the back of his red shirt had what kind of looked like a bulls eye. I kept my focus on it, trying desperately to keep up. But it was really hard staying below 8:00.

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My bulls eye, taken after the end of the race (spoiler: I didn’t die!)

I’d brought two Gu gels with me and ate one of them around here, which slowed me down even more. I never ate the other one.

Thankfully the road flattened out in mile 7 and I finally caught up to Scott. “Rough patch,” I said, not wanting to waste any more breath. I sped up to try and make up for my slow miles, hoping I would be able to push the pace even more once on Ocean Parkway. Like a good friend, Scott pulled ahead again, encouraging me to come with him. I tried.

MILE 4: 7:51
MILE 5: 8:10
(hills)
MILE 6: 8:11 (Jesus, more hills?)
MILE 7: 7:39

Phew, here we were on a nice, flat stretch that would lead all the way to the beach. Last year we’d had light rain and overcast skies the whole race and it was freezing at the end. Up until this point, I’d been happy it wasn’t raining this year.

Unfortunately, this also meant it was sunny.

I’d forgotten about the advice I’d received (from where I forget) that the left side of Ocean Parkway was in the shade for a few miles. So I ran down the middle of the road in the direct sun, which made the upper 50s/low 60s temps feel about 20 degrees warmer. I actually missed last year’s rain.

This was an incredibly hard part of the race. I had to do everything in my mental power to keep moving. My playlist helped a bit but the songs also felt… far away. I kept my eyes on Scott’s bulls eye back.

I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? and one of the things I’ve taken away from it so far is the idea of taking your mind off of your body and placing it somewhere external in order to get through the pain of a race. So I tried this. Anytime I thought about how bad I felt I looked around, up ahead, anywhere but inside my head. But my mind kept returning to me. I wondered what was the worst that could happen, outside of dying (which I had not fully ruled out). I’ve never thrown up on a run before, and I imagined what it would be like to do it today. Would I just pull over, puke, and keep going with a vomit-soaked shirt the rest of the way? It wasn’t out of the question.

At times I wondered if this was actual hell. If not, I thought it would make a good hell. I wondered if the devil had ever run a half marathon in the sun before.

I think I was borderline delirious. At one point, while looking at all of the bobbing heads stretched out in front of me, I thought, “Is this real life?” I thought about the idea of spirits on the other side. If the other side exists (I’ve no solid proof, although that does not make it any less likely), is that the real reality? Are we the ghosts? What is real? Why do we do this? Why do we choose to come to Earth, enter a human body, and punish it with pain? Why do we suffer? Is this really happening? Why I am here? And why, why am I doing this?

Every time my watched beeped with the start of a new mile, I felt that much closer to relief. Four miles to go. Three miles to go. This hell would soon be over.

MILE 8: 7:54
MILE 9: 7:54
MILE 10: 8:00
MILE 11: 8:03

Toward the end of the race, my right arm stopped working. Not sure why, but I was suddenly too tired to bend my elbow and my wrist started just… flapping. I had a normally functioning left arm and a floppy right arm. I saw my shadow. It was lopsided. What the hell.

My eyes crossed and everything in front of me doubled. It felt good to cross my eyes. Easier. I wondered if I could just run the rest of the race like that. Or maybe even asleep. Maybe I could finish the race asleep. Has anyone ever done that? Maybe I could be the first.

I suddenly found myself approaching Coney Island, Scott was now running beside me. I hadn’t even seen him backtrack. “I feel like I’m going to faint,” I said. I still couldn’t bend my right arm. Flop, flop, flop.

“You’re not going to faint,” he assured me. “Use your breath. Always go back to your breath. Your breath is your friend.” I tried doing what he said and used my breath. My friend, Breath. Okay, this was working. I felt about 5% stronger. But not strong enough – my pace here was the slowest of the entire race, almost where it was during the exhausting final miles of the NJ Marathon. I could not move any faster. My body had had enough.

We were almost at the boardwalk. As a photographer myself, I’m quick to notice them on the course and saw a couple right around here. I forced a smile and tried making my body look like it wasn’t dying. I found these pics where I’m honestly not sure if I’m aware of the camera and smiling, or unaware of the camera and grimacing. Chances are good it’s the latter.

 

Finally, we ran up the ramp leading to the boardwalk. Well, the other runners ran. I hobbled.

Once on the boardwalk, I saw a sign: 200 METERS. Sweet relief. The finish was right up ahead. I found I could push a little. So close, so close. Almost done, and then I wouldn’t have to run anymore. Scott gallantly ran beside me across the finish. I tried looking strong for all of the strangers watching what I assume was me, and only me.

MILE 12: 8:11
MILE 13: 8:22
(slowest mile of the race, just like the pros!)
MILE 0.24: 8:08 pace

Garmin Total Distance: 13.24 miles
Garmin Total Time: 1:46:05
Garmin Average Pace: 8:01

I was done. Bliss. I immediately noticed some very nice, empty boardwalk to my right, next to the barrier separating the runners from the spectators. I thought it would feel nice to kneel down on it, so I did. I held my thumb up so Scott knew I was okay, just resting. I just needed to do something different with my legs for a moment. It felt so good to stretch my thighs out. I was probably there 30 seconds.

After that, I felt better. The best part was I was no longer running. How nice that was, not to be running anymore.

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We got our medals and I grabbed a couple of water cups. Damn, I was thirsty. I noticed I hadn’t finished my Nuun bottle. I wondered if I’d been dehydrated.

We made our way to the swag bag section where I chose a bag with the Glacier Cherry Gatorade because that’s the only flavor I really like. Scott met up with his brother-in-law who took a couple post-race pics for us.

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I found a group of Harriers! We commiserated about the heat and someone took our pic.

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Scott’s sister Sabrina also ran the race. She’s super fast (I guess it runs in the family, pun totally intended) so she’d already finished and was in the “after party” stadium, so we headed there next.

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In the stadium, I took my shoes and socks off, refreshed the sunblock layer on my face and arms, and ate everything I had in front of me.

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Here’s the good news: I PR’d. I can’t believe this. I felt like HELL. I’d run a 4 miler a month earlier, a marathon three weeks earlier, a 5K a week earlier, was absolutely not rested enough for this race, yet I still PR’d. Granted, I only PR’d by 31 seconds. But still. I finished in 1:46:03 – an 8:06 average pace. It wasn’t the 7:58 I’d hoped for. Corral C would have to wait.

Scott reminded me that a PR was a PR – no sense it being disappointed that it wasn’t a PR by a certain amount. He was right. I was happy with my time. Hell, I was happy I didn’t throw up, stop, walk, or die. There would be other half marathons, other races, and more opportunities to advance up the NYRR corral system.

We wanted Nathan’s hot dogs again this year and instead of going to the crowded one on the boardwalk, we found a Nathan’s right there in the stadium. There was a line and it took a while, but it was nowhere as long as last year.

Unfortunately the Nathan’s condiments were inexplicably halfway around the damn stadium, so instead of using our legs even more than we already had that morning, we just ate the hot dogs plain. I was still excited for this meal.

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Scott headed back to the train but I wanted to walk around a bit more. I’d gotten a dog walker for my pup so I felt like I might as well take advantage and take it all in. I decided I wanted ice cream. Apparently, pretzels, an apple, a chocolate Honey Stinger bar, a Nathan’s hot dog, and fries were not enough food for me before 10:30 am.

I walked down to the boardwalk and found exactly what I wanted: Coney’s Cones!

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I cheered on some wave 2 finishers as I ate my ice cream. As I like to do, I also took some pics.

 

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I realized that my friend Kiki was going to finish soon so I waited for her, watched her finish, and then met up with her back in the stadium. She met her friend and the three of us hung out for a while. In the meantime, I was getting a nice li’l sunburn on my back.

We eventually decided to head to the subways. Kiki and I got on a train at noon. By 1:30, I was home.

And exhausted.

I decided to make myself a special dinner that night so I bought salmon and asparagus. And a large peanut butter cup cookie for dessert. Take that, frugality!

As of this writing, I haven’t run since the race. I plan on taking the rest of the week off. Maybe even the weekend. For the first time maybe ever, I feel like I need a hard reset. And while it was kind of fun spending this last month seeing what my body was capable of and challenging it in ways I never before have, I don’t think I will be repeating this schedule next year. I’ve already decided that if I run the Run for the Health of It 5K next year, I’m not going to race it. I’ll jog it with my nephews instead. Someone else can have the second place age group award. I’ll save my energy in May for the 2020 Brooklyn Half.

Sub 8:00 half marathon pace, you will be mine.

OFFICIAL RESULTS:

– Time: 1:46:03
– Pace: 8:06/m
– Age Group: 109/1610
– Women: 1162/13137
– Overall: 5364/26829

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Caution to the Wind: 2019 Run for the Health of It 5K Race Recap

I would not normally suggest racing a 5K only 13 days after one has run a marathon, unless the 5K is very special, and this one was, so I did. I wrote a whole post about why the 5K was important to me so I won’t rehash the whole thing here, only to say that it takes place in my hometown of Northport, Long Island and I had wanted to run it for the past two years but didn’t get to until this year.

The Run for the Health of It 5K was to take place on Mother’s Day weekend (good, mothers should get an entire weekend) through the streets I had so fondly run on during the year and a half I lived in Northport helping to take care of my mom Joan, and then, after she died, her dogs and her house. My sister’s family still lives there; my dad was planning to be at the race; I knew some people running it. Plus, the chance to meet 1970s NYC Marathon winners Nina Kuscsik and Gary Muhrcke – who would be honored at the race – was too good an opportunity to pass up.

I trained lightly for this race. On the Saturday after the New Jersey Marathon I felt good enough to run again. For the next week, I kept my runs on the short and slow side with the exception of Wednesday when I went to the track for an intervals workout to remind the old legs how to turn over. I kept it short and easy Thursday and Friday. By Saturday morning, I was ready for the 5K.

The race start was at 9 am. Since I was coming in from the city, I had my oat bran + egg breakfast and a cup of coffee at 4:15 so I could make a 5:55 train. I brought a thermos of Nuun water for the train ride out so I could get some electrolytes. I wanted just one more thing to eat so at Penn Station I went to Au Bon Pain (thankfully open at 5:45 am on a Saturday) and after looking over the tempting pastries I opted for just a banana and black coffee. I didn’t want a load of bread in my stomach, just some easy-to-digest calories. And more caffeine couldn’t hurt.

I finished everything by 7. The more I race, the more I’m learning about what works best for me, and I’ve decided I like to be done eating and drinking two hours before a race. I don’t want to be sipping water right up until the start. I’d honestly rather be slightly under-hydrated than feel the urge to pee.

My dad picked me up at the station and we went to my sister’s house where I got changed and did some warm ups. The kids’ fun run was to start at 8:30 and my two nephews were preparing to run that for the first time.

I had a strategy for this race, which was unusual because normally my 5K strategy is just “run fast but not too fast but also fast.” I have probably run more 5K races than any other distance and, for some reason, it is the distance I still haven’t truly learned how to race. Sometimes I start out too slow and then run a much faster second and third mile, or there’s some big hill that throws me off, or maybe it’s not entirely my fault because the course has too many icy potholes. There’s not a lot of room for error. You mess up a mile, that’s a whole third of your race.

I think I have yet to run a great 5K, despite my times improving over the last two years. I always seem to finish them with a feeling of regret or wish that I had done something differently.

Anyway, my strategy was to see if I could maintain a pace in the low 7:20s for 3.1 miles. The last 5K I ran (in 23:31) was an average 7:34 pace but included two miles in the 7:20s. Here was my shot at seeing if I could run a race with three of them.

We were fortunate to have a great weather day for running: low 60s, partly cloudy, hardly any wind. I wore an old tank top, a new pair of shorts, and my NJ Marathon Saucony Kinvara 10s. I felt really good. No weird muscle issues or anything. I was ready to destroy this 5K (meaning, perhaps place second in my age group).

I love racing in the crowds of NYC but I think I love small town races even more – you don’t need to show up an hour early, there’s no need for bag check, no long lines for the bathroom or the free coffee provided. I miss being able to race more frequently on Long Island and was so happy to be here today.

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The kids’ fun run went off a little after 8:30. It was maybe a quarter of a mile, just down one block and then a left turn and through the finish line of the 5K.

Here’s a nice look at my nephews’ stellar running form. I think I could take some lessons from them.

Logan Dylan running form

They had a blast and were two of the top three kids who crossed the finish. I think they could easily run the entire 5K next year.

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After a three-quarter-mile warm up jog, a quick stop in the indoor bathroom (ah, yet another reason to love small town races), I made my way to the start. I noticed there wasn’t a starting mat, which immediately made me a little anxious because that meant we’d all be timed from the gun, not our chips. Luckily, the field wasn’t that big so I could easily start near the front.

2019RFTHOI5K IMG_57492019RFTHOI5K IMG_5750I’m definitely not in a place where I feel comfortable starting right up front, but I think in a field of about 300 I’ve earned my place in the 6th or 7th row. I was never sure exactly where the start line was (there was no mark on the road, I think it was probably lined up with a telephone pole or something). I figured if anything, not starting via chip might have thrown off my time by a second or two. I wasn’t going to stress too much about it.

After all, I reminded myself that this was a fun race, and one of the reasons I had wanted to run it was so I could help raise money for Visiting Nurse Service’s Hospice House. This race wasn’t going to determine which NYRR corral I would be placed in or be a time qualifier for a marathon. I wanted to run a respectable time for me, but that wasn’t the only reason I was there.

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After a music playlist helped get me through the NJ Marathon, I decided to do the same today. Looking back, I probably could have done without it and eliminated the need for my phone and headphones, but at the time I wanted the mental boost.

With my playlist on and just two fields showing on my Garmin – pace and distance – I started the race.

Although I hadn’t run this 5K before, I knew the course well. I’d looked it up online weeks ago and had it memorized. When I lived in Northport, many of my morning runs took me down Waterside (relatively flat), then up Norwood (an incline for the first half) and a left on Main. This race would have us going in the other direction: down Norwood for the first mile and a right on Waterside. In this direction, Norwood had a lovely downhill in mile 1, but we’d be coming back up that same hill in mile 3.

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After rounding the crowded corner onto Norwood, I found my groove. There was a slight uphill here, but my legs were so fresh I easily crested it. I decided not to look at my watch too much. This might have been a mistake. Remember my strategy? I had planned on running in the 7:20s the whole time. I knew I was running much faster than that here. Maybe around a 7:00. At one point, I peeked at my watch: 6:50. Okay, yep, too fast. Did I slow down? Not yet. In the heat of the moment, I decided to throw my plan out the window. To hell with it. I was going to see just how long I could hold onto this pace.

The answer came soon: not long.

MILE 1: 6:55

This was very fast.

Just how fast is this for me? With the exception of the 5th Avenue Mile (a race that, as evident from its name, is only one mile long), this was the fastest mile I had ever run in a race. Ever. I had never run a faster mile in a race longer than a mile. In my life.

This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Because, you see – and I absolutely knew this as fact – this was not a pace I would be able to sustain for the entirety of the race. In fact, this pace was going to make me feel very tired, very soon.

Mile 2 took us along the stretch of Waterside that looks flat but is deceptively not flat. In fact, from my stats I can see that the second part of Waterside goes uphill, slowly, about 100 feet. This stretch of Waterside is also part of mile 5 in the Cow Harbor 10K, and one of the most tiring parts of that race.

There were a few spectators out watching and a water table along the road, but I kept my eyes fixed ahead. I could see a few runners up ahead of me who had been closer at one point – they were getting farther and farther away. I knew I was up front relative to the whole field, but there were definitely at least ten women in front of me. A few runners passed me on this road, and I passed a few others with great effort. My legs were not feeling so fresh anymore.

Every so often I would focus on my form, and that usually helped propel me a bit until I got winded and had to slow down. I glanced at my watch here and there, mostly seeing paces between 7:05 and 7:15. Still faster than I had anticipated running this. Apparently this would not be the day to stick to a plan.

Predictably, my pace slowed in the last part of mile 2 when we made a right onto Main. This is an uphill. It’s not super long, but at this point in the race, especially after the way I had gone out, it was painful. I slowed to what felt like a crawl – by the time we made a right onto Burr, I was running in the 8s, more along the lines of my half marathon pace. Oof.

MILE 2: 7:30

Burr started with a nice downhill and then what seemed mostly flat, but I couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough. What the hell had I been thinking going out at what was basically a mile pace? I took solace in the fact that we only had a mile to go. I was barely paying attention to my music. Looking back now, I’m thinking music might be more suited to half and full marathons, when you can kind of relax into a groove as opposed to going all out into heart attack territory.

A left onto Doris led to a steep downhill I had to be careful not to blast down, and then: the dreaded left onto Norwood. The hill.

I’d normally not even call this a “hill” but an incline. Jogging up it, it’s not much of anything – certainly not anything near the steepness of Harlem Hill or Cat Hill of Central Park. But in mile 3 of a 5K when you went out too fast? It was hell. It was hill hell.

I noticed no one was around me here. I was pretty much running alone. The leaders were up ahead and the rest of the pack was behind me. I wonder if I could have sped up if I’d had a competitor in sight.

My pace was firmly in the 8s here, slower than I ran my last two half marathons. Honestly, I’m not sure I could have done much better had I paced myself better in the beginning. I doubt I could have maintained a 7:20 on this stretch. I guess I’ll never know.

MILE 3: 7:53

The incline only lasted a quarter of a mile but felt like an eternity. Finally, it leveled out and we were flat. A beautiful downhill would lead to the finish.

At this point, I would have been happy with an average 7:30 pace.

Strangely, just as when I approached the NJ Marathon finish, a guy in a gray t-shirt on my left raced alongside me for a bit until he surged ahead. I sped up to my fastest pace of the race but still, I was too tired to catch him.

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As the finish line grew closer, I saw a “22” on the clock. Would I actually finish a 5K in under 23 minutes?! I gave it all I had.

LAST 0.12 MILE: 6:15 pace

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The answer would come from ubiquitous race announcer Terry Bisogno, who proclaimed “Ari Scott, New York City, at twenty-three.” So, 23 minutes. I had a quick flashback to last summer when I PR’d in a 5K in exactly 24 minutes. Here I was now, on a similar precipice, but a full minute faster.

My official finish time was actually 23:02. Average pace: 7:25 min/mile. Not the steady 7:20s pace I’d set out to achieve, but I got there in my own dumb way. That’s the fastest I’ve ever run a 5K and my fastest race pace ever outside of the 5th Avenue Mile. I’m pretty happy with it, even if I got it by being reckless in the beginning.

After I caught my breath, got a bottle of water, found my family and bitched to them about that last mile, my goal was to find Gary Muhrcke and Nina Kuscsik. I quickly found Gary, who had finished the race a few minutes after I had. (Gary finished the inaugural NYC Marathon in 1970 in first place with a time of 2:31:39, so I think we can all agree that he’ll always be faster than I am.)

Gary was SO NICE. Holy cow. So friendly and sweet. As my dad took our picture, Gary asked me how I did in the NYC Marathon, as I had told him I’d run my first last fall. I told him my goal had been to break 4 hours but I’d finished in 4:00:07. When his daughter heard me say that, she gasped. See? I knew it was a funny finish time. I assured Gary that I’d finished another marathon two weeks ago in 3:48:05 and he seemed happy about that.

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Gary also talked to my dad and made my nephew laugh. Did I mention he also started Super Runners Shop? I’ve shopped there a bunch, but now I want to always shop there. In fact, I have to buy more Gu soon and I think that’s where I’ll go because last time they let me buy it in bulk. (By the way, I’d forgotten to bring my Gu to the race and didn’t take any before the start as planned. I wonder if that would have made a difference.)

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Next, I wanted to meet Nina Kuscsik, but she was still running the race. At 80, Nina is a running legend: she was the first woman to officially win the Boston Marathon (after women were formally accepted as participants) and the co-founder with Kathrine Switzer of the Mini 10K, the oldest all-female road race in the country. Another thing I only recently learned: I knew that a sole female runner dropped out of that first NYC Marathon in 1970. I hadn’t known it was Nina. Her luck turned around two years later: she returned to win the race in both 1972 and 1973.

As they began the awards ceremony, I met Nina and talked with her a bit. What a sweetheart! I couldn’t believe I was standing next to such a legend. (And as a bonus, there’s Gary in the background.)

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I also love this pic I snapped when they announced Nina’s name because she’s making almost the same expression as when she crossed the NYC Marathon finish in 1972. HOW CUTE IS THIS?

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I won second place in my age group, and they awarded us Amazon gift cards which was super nice. Actually, I prefer that to a medal. Here is a pic my dad took of the top three 40-44 ladies. For some reason it looks like I am trying to shield my belly button with the envelope.

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Despite my terrible race strategy, this was such a fun race and great morning. I’m so glad I was able to be there. I’m already looking forward to next year’s race. Maybe I’ll have learned how to run a 5K by then.

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OFFICIAL RESULTS:

– Time: 23:02
– Pace: 7:25/m
– Age Group: 2/16
– Women: 13/140
– Overall: 57/285

 

A Tale of Two Marathons: How I PR’d by 12 Minutes (with a BQ!)

Now that I have run two (2) whole marathons, I am a qualified marathon expert. Or at least, somewhat knowledgeable. Okay, I am still an idiot who doesn’t know anything. But now that I have run two marathons, I can at least compare them. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to run an Olympic qualifying marathon. Also, if you’re looking to run an Olympic qualifying marathon, you are very much on the wrong blog.

In this post, I’m going to take a close look at the two 26.2-mile races I’ve run in my very short life as a marathon runner: the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon and the 2019 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon. I’m kind of a numbers nerd, and I thought this could be a fun way of comparing the two training cycles and races – examining what I did better, what I could still do better, and how luck and life circumstances played a role. Let’s have some fun! Or maybe it’ll just be me who has fun!

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Marathons: How I PR’d by 12 Minutes (with a BQ!)”

Run the ‘Run for the Health of It’ 5K on 5.11.19

Hello! This morning I ran for the first time since Sunday’s NJ Marathon: 4.72 miles at an eeeasy pace. I’m back, baby! I’ve been feeling eager to get back into it since Wednesday but wanted to give myself a solid five days off.

Monday was the only day I was too sore to run – I spent most of the day limping and avoiding stairs. By Tuesday the limp was gone. I’ve had a bit of a tight left hamstring, but not much else to complain about. I’m kind of shocked at how good I feel.

Now that I’m done with the NJ Marathon, I’m putting my focus on my next race: the Run for the Health of It 5K in Northport, NY (my hometown!) on Saturday, May 11th. Northport is a lovely, quaint, nautical village on the north shore of Long Island. It is also where I spent much of my childhood. I lived there again from December 2016 to May 2018 to help take care of my mom at the end of her life.

Continue reading “Run the ‘Run for the Health of It’ 5K on 5.11.19”

A Matter of Trust: 2019 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon Race Recap

Girl, where do you think you’re going?
Where do you think you’re going, girl?

-Lady Gaga, “Joanne”

This is just two slow half marathons, I told myself. It’s just a long tempo run was another mind trick. Only ten miles left? Easy. Anything to convince myself that this wasn’t one of the hardest things I had ever fought for in my life. But a little voice inside me kept returning to one word: Trust. Saying it calmed me and kept me focused. I repeated it every so often, whispering it to myself on the exhales. Trust. Trust. Trust.

Continue reading “A Matter of Trust: 2019 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon Race Recap”