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, March 21, 2010

NYC Half Marathon Report, or, My Garmin Goes Wonky

The short version: perfect weather (upper 40s at the start, low 60s at the finish with sun the whole way), finished in 2:27:36 (slower than my perfect-conditions/better-training goal, faster than my actual goal).

The longer version:
Last year, I paid my $75 and entered this race and made it to mile 8, barely, before hopping on the subway and going home.  This year, I was going to finish.

This race was off to an inauspicious start for me even before the gun went off.  I got a bad night of sweaty sleep, woke up 45 minutes earlier than I needed to and couldn't fall back asleep, and missed my bus.  The buses run infrequently enough to begin with on Sunday mornings, and I had no cash on me to take a cab (although there are never any cabs in my 'hood, anyway).  By the time I got to the start I was a) freezing cold and b) later than I'd wanted.  Luckily, I was still there 20 minutes before the starting gun went off.

Unluckily, I was in the second-to-last corral.  The 7:35 start time came and went, and I was still standing at 105th St (the start was half a mile up at 95 St.).  7:45 came and went, and we could sort of see some movement ahead, but no forward push.  By the time I crossed the start line, 17 minutes had passed from the start.  If there were any announcements, or the Star Spangled Banner, we couldn't hear it.

I won't waste my time or yours complaining about the NYRR corral system.  Every large race has to have one, I get that.  And, short of making everyone run a qualifying race, there are going to be people out of place.  So partly I'm tired of all of those out of place people being ahead of me, but mostly I'm tired of every type-A New Yorker who pushes themselves to an 8 or 9 minute pace being ahead of me.  Did I say "tired" when I meant "jealous"?  Same thing.  I'm definitely tired of starting at the end of the corrals, when the corrals are so long and thin that it barely even feels like I'm in the same race as the front of the pack.

The course was 1.5 loops of Central Park, a jaunt through Times Square, and then a run down the west side of the island, along the river, for a finish in lower Manhattan.  First up: the park.  On one hand, it's gorgeous for running.  On the other hand, it's hilly as all get out, it's crowded, there are no spectators, and I'm tired of racing it.  The first few miles were fine as I pushed past a lot of people who'd started ahead of me.  There was a miserable spot - more like a miserable mile - at 2m when the elites were leaving the park.  We normal runners were stretched out over the entirety of the path, feeling fresh from the start line, and with very little warning the lead car had to get us out of the way.  Runners were dodging the bikes and trucks and it was kind of a cluster.  The road is narrow at that point, so there was a lot of jostling and elbowing and general frustration.  (I have trouble with NYRR races: more than anywhere else I've run, they seem to have some bad problems with people not understanding race etiquette.  Today it was walkers two or three abreast in the middle of the road.)  The frustration got worse about half a mile later, when the volunteers started yelling at us to move to the opposite side of the road.

The second half of the park was uneventful.  Hilly, yes, and I got passed by the Prospect Park racewalker again.  I said hi to him and thanked him for helping me get through the last few miles of that race.  He was very nice, but he did add that his 10m time this year was 4 minutes slower than last year.  Our conversation was cut short by the icy-cold dread that coursed through my veins when I saw a line of runners in front of me, climbing a hill that looked both steep and never-ending.  I think I can run Mt. Washington when Central Park intimidates me?  I snapped out of it and kept running.

Bizarrely, I ended up carrying a water bottle, a normal Poland Spring bottle I'd grabbed out of the fridge to drink at the start line, in my hand for the whole race.  Usually I like water stations for breaking up the monotony of the race and for forcing walk breaks, but today I relished the fact that I could avoid the water station insanity and just stop once every two or three for a refill.  I also stopped twice for electrolytes - once ca. 6m (way early for me!) to eat my Shot Blocks, and again around mile 9 when they were giving out Power Gel.  I didn't take any Gatorade, and after my rough night, I'm not too surprised by that.

My ideal pace would have been 10:41 (for 2:20).  Also acceptable was anything less than 11:27 (for 2:30).  For the first time, I was counting on my Garmin to get me through my run.  Bad, bad mistake.  Each of my first miles on the Garmin came up about .1-.2m before the NYRR signs.  Who was right?  Who was wrong?  Well, I have a hunch: my Garmin says that my overall mileage was 13.41 for the day, so I'm going with the NYRR.

Plus, the splits also incriminate the Garmin:  10:25, 10:00, 10:14, 10:54, 10:30, 11:11, 11:15, 11:15, 8:22, 13:31 (I would believe them averaged out for 10:58s for both), 11:49, 12:05, 11:46, 4:17.  I may have been running faster in the beginning, but I think it's safe to distribute that "extra" .3 from the end over the first few miles.  I wasn't running that fast.

I had noticed that one of my toes was slightly painful during the race, and when I got home and peeled off my shoes, my toenail is purple.  I'll be watching for that to fall off over the next few days.  Might be time for another trip to the podiatrist.  It could have been worse - I saw three different people carted away by ambulances.  Hopefully they're all feeling better now...

Overall, I feel good about the race.  Not great - I won't be able to say I feel great until I'm back at my pre-illness racing times.  But I feel content about it.  I was pretty beat at the end, which suggests to me that I put in a good effort.


  1. Fact: The NYC Half Marathon has more hills than the Mt. Washington Road Race.

    Well done.

  2. Congratulations, what a great result!!

  3. Thanks!!
    I *love* the idea that there are fewer hills at Mt. Washington. Only one hill. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

  4. I totally agree that NYRR needs hold a big awareness-raising campaign about race etiquette.

    Congrats on your best effort!