On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nothing to see here...

Can you hear the birds chirping in this space, where my Manhattan Half Marathon race report should be going?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

One thing about living in NYC is that you get remarkably spoiled by how many races there are to do. The NYRR puts on something like 40 races each year, and they're (almost) all priced at $17 each. One thing that happens, at least for me, is that it devalues the overall race experience. It's no longer special - it's just a training run with a bib.

My plan had been to do each of the Grand Prix series half marathons, one in each borough. The NYRR hasn't announced the rest of their dates yet, and the chances of me being around for all of them (and wanting to do all of them) is low - Staten Island is typically the weekend of the Chicago Marathon, when I'll be out of town for a wedding, and Queens last year was in the dead heat of summer and would have meant a 4:30 wake up call to travel 90 minutes to the start.

I was taking stock of my training schedule the other day and realizing - you can have the epiphany, too, just click on my training log up there to the left - that I was not prepared to do a half this morning. Could I finish it? Sure! But what would I get out of finishing it? I started thinking that maybe it made more sense NOT to finish it. I know that sounds like a cop out, but it's true. I didn't want to do too much and risk injury, plus it's cold out and it's VERY demoralizing to be among the very last, struggling walkers being lapped by everyday runners.

The course was 2 loops around Central Park. My plan was to do at least a full lap (6m) and then come around toward the finish (at 7m) to pick up my checked bag. Checking my bag limited my drop-out options, but that was fine.

By Mile 2 I was coming up Cat Hill and I knew it was going to be a bad day. My legs felt like lead and my pace was slow. I was resolved to drop out, maybe even at 5m.

By 5m I was feeling better. By 6m I was still strong, and, although I left the course at 7m, I kept running through the Rambles for another mile or so. Honestly, those last 15 minutes were the most fun I had during the run. Me, nature, quiet, hills, bare trees.

I've been debating in my head whether I should beat myself up about this or not. I didn't disappoint myself, and I think I would have been more disappointed had I finished the race - I had taken a few walk breaks by the time I left, and I know that would have only gotten A LOT worse. I don't feel an accomplishment in finishing a race I've not trained for if it means I walk the last handful of miles. I haven't done a double-digit run in literally months, so I can say genuinely that I was not prepared.

But still, there's that niggling feeling of disappointment.
I can redeem myself in a few weeks, luckily - and I will.


  1. Don't beat yourself up one bit. You probably would have hurt yourself - physically or psychologically - if you had hung in there.

    I left a half marathon at its halfway mark once too. The experience taught me to never run a race whose route wound a stone's throw from my house. Tom was there cheering for me and so I just walked over to him and said, "let's go get breakfast". I lived to run another day and feel no guilt. Neither should you.

  2. Oooh, breakfast. Yum.
    But, yeah, I'm coming around to agree with you unequivocally. Basically I got home, showered, and took the longest and best nap on the couch. It was pretty awesome.

  3. Redemption will come! :-) I give you kudos for showing up, and at least you logged several miles today! That's more than I can say...

  4. I think it's fine. You know your body's limits, and it's better to stop at the right time than to push too hard and risk injury.