Of all the half marathons I’ve raced, the New York City Half is by far and away my favorite.
This year was my third go at it, and while the course changed ever so slightly from my previous attempts, it still lived up to my expectations.
Prior to the race, I texted my comrades (and father) about my race goals:
C: Don’t shit self.
Truth be told, these were all lofty goals. Here’s why:
In late September, I left my job to pursue something different.
In early December, I found out I got into the NYC Half lottery.
I decided to divide my mental focus between training and job searching, and told myself I would sign up for spring full marathon once I landed a job.
Many weeks went by and I still had no job.
Due to my unemployment stress, running wasn’t very exciting: speed workouts were less than ideal and I would count any runs between 6-8 miles as my “long runs.”
Though I really wanted that sub-1:40 i’ve been eyeing for three years, I knew my chances were slim to none.
(Five months of unemployment takes a toll at your ego and your mental state.)
After countless interviews and rejections, I finally (and happily!) accepted a sales job offer at the end of February.
My stress level started returning to normal and my panic attacks became fewer and fewer.
After my first week on the job, His Lordship suggested I run with a friend who is much speedier than I.
I thought that perhaps if I couldn’t pull off my A+ goal, I could PR.
The night before the race was low-key and involved vacation planning, a pasta dinner, and a Goonies viewing.
We heard it was supposed to be cold.
I was fairly calm about how to dress as I’ve made mental notes throughout the season of what the temperature was when I overdressed.
Danika and I slowly jogged to the start where, for the first time ever, I would check a bag with warm clothes, my wallet, my phone, and compression socks for our post-race funtivities.
We commented on how it wasn’t that cold.
After bag check, we threw on our heat sheets (also known as “trash bags”) and waited by our respective corrals.
And then it got cold.
Whatever sweat we accumulated was now completely dry and bone-chilling.
We waited for more friends (hi, Bri!), huddled together, and waited ever so patiently for 30 minutes for the race to start.
And then we were off.
The hardest part of the race is in the park: up Cat Hill, up Harlem hill, and up and down the West Side rollers.
I told myself to keep it somewhat easy in the park, so to not over-extend my efforts in the first half and bottom out in the second. (Which is precisely what I did in 2012.)
I also decided to do what I did in Paris: manually lap my splits to know exactly what pace I was hitting. I also realized I had to pee.
Shortly after mile 1, my right hand was nearly frozen.
I knew my handheld would have to go at the top of the park when I would see Dougie cheering at the 110th street loop.
Not shockingly, the park was crowded. But I kept my cool and tried to hit every tangent I could.
I saw Dougie exactly where he said he would be, and threw my handheld at him.
My hand warmed up almost instantaneously and I started focused on my form. I made a good decision.
Runners started cheering themselves on at the top of Harlem Hill—the hardest part was over. Yes, we’d made it, but we still have a long way to go.
The rest of the park was as expected: I dug in at every West Side uphill, and took it easy on the downhill; I didn’t overextend myself on the straightaway leading up to the 72nd St. transverse (which my husband can attest to how very often I do that); and I took my Gu right as I was exiting the park.
I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it many, many times more: running down 7th Avenue through Times Square is nothing short of awesome.
This year, the crowds were intense.
The bands were awesome.
There was a kids race where kids were running in the opposite direction.
I had now caught up with the 1:40 pace group.
Peeing would have to wait.
I tried to stay with them as long as I could. (I also got very carried away and didn’t hit my lap at mile 7. Whoops.)
I saw Eric and his very visible mustache hat shortly after we turned right onto 42nd street.
I felt great, and knew I had it in me to PR.
The West Side Highway is a make or break moment in this race—it’s long, it’s flat, and One World Trade Center takes forever to get to.
Ergo, you can get defeated very easily.
My legs were now on fire and the 1:40 pace group was pulling away.
I kept my head down and plugged along.
All while having to pee.
I remembered Claire’s Smuttynose Marathon race report and thought, ‘if Claire can run 26.2 whilst having to pee, surely I could run 13.1.’
(I also didn’t have a friend to so kindly wash me off should I get to the point where I urinate on myself, so, that option was out.)
Mile 10 went off at 7:13.
I was shocked. I didn’t think I had that in me.
And then mile 11 went off at 8:46.
I knew I was slowing down, but not that much.
I saw Maura just past 1WTC. She always gives me the extra oomph I need at the end of a race. (Thanks, M!)
At this point, I knew my sub-1:40 was gone, but knew I could PR.
I made sub-1:43 my new goal.
The tunnel wasn’t as long as I remembered.
Suddenly there was light, and a few steps later, I was home.
I cried a bit, grabbed my medal and space blanket, snapped some photos, grabbed my bag, and exited.
I found His Lordship, Eric, Danika and Kelly, and told them of my tales and woes.
I asked that we immediately get to the bar, only so I could use the bathroom.
Unfortunately for me, the bar didn’t open for another 30 minutes.
Thankfully, there was a row of (mostly) unused port-a-potties, all for me. (And probably other people, but whatever.)
The rest of the day was spent with friends and family (who also ran!).
This is still my favorite half marathon.
I will absolutely run it again.
And just like every other time I’ve run, I’ve learned something from the course:
Do not run 13.1 miles when having to urinate. JESUS, it’s painful.