Tidbits & Insights For Saturday’s Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon!

Well New York City, this weekend BROOKLYN takes center stage!

This Saturday May 19th New York Road Runners will be hosting the largest half marathon in North America when 27,000 runners are expected to be set loose onto the streets of Brooklyn to wind up on the boardwalk at historic Coney Island! Its time for the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon!

Getting into the race can be a task as this year’s race was SOLD OUT in just a few hours! So if you got in and will be one of the 27,000 participants – congratulations! However now you have to run this race and here you are in the home stretch of preparations. No worries, I’m going to try and help you out!

BIB PICK UP & EXPO

The Brooklyn Half Marathon Expo is set up and ready to go! (photo credit – NYRR)

Unlike most NYRR runs, you won’t be able to pick up your bib at the NYRR Run center. That’s ok though! This pickup will be a lot more fun. The Brooklyn Half Marathon Expo is where you will have to pick up your bib and you might as well give yourself some extra time when you are there because there is much more to do than just pickup your race bib!The expo is open Wednesday thru Friday from 12pm – 10pm in Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 2. In addition to picking up your bib there will be tons of merchandise on sale, live music, food trucks selling their fare, course strategy tips from NYRR coaches and one hell of a view of the Manhattan skyline! The expo is outdoors so come on out and enjoy yourself in the NYC open air!

Whatever you decide to do at the Half Marathon Expo just make sure you get there because that is the only way for you to obtain your bib! Unlike other NYRR races, you won’t be able to pick up your bib the morning of race day! If you can’t make it you can assign someone as your proxy for pickup. They will need your race confirmation form, which you should be able to get from your race profile and a copy of a legal form of identification.

TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM

With the Brooklyn Half starting at the Brooklyn Museum and ending at Coney Island, public transportation is really the only way to get to and from the race. Keep in mind however that it will be Saturday morning and the subways tend to alter service on a lot of subway lines. Be prepared to get up very early and plan for a long commute if you are going go the race from any where other than Brooklyn. The 4 or the 5 trains are your best bet. Depending on which wave you are in will dictate which subway stop to get off at. Wave 1 runners should get off at the “Franklin Avenue subway station“. Wave 2 runners should get off at the “Grand Army Plaza Station“. The the subway stop and where they are relative to the starting corrals is in the map below which has been provided by New York Road Runners.

Map of the starting area! Photo courtesy of NYRR

In order to verify that the subway nearest you is running on Saturday morning, or if you want to see how often it will be running at an early time of day, I highly suggest using the MTA Trip Planner website . The website allows you to set your starting point as well as your destination and it will give you the best subway route to get you to your destination This trip planner will tell you of any interruption in service on Saturday morning and will also give you the approximate time when your train will be arriving. I have used it before and have found it to be very reliable.

Additionally, folks travelling from Queens or Long Island might want to consider using the Long Island Railroad as an option to get to the start. The Atlantic Terminal railroad station is not too far from the start area. There is a 5:31AM train leaving Jamaica and arriving at Altantic Terminal at 5:51 for wave 1 runners. Then there is a 6:18AM train arriving at 6:39 for wave 2 runners.

As for cabs and Ubers of course they are an option but be ready to jump out of them blocks from the entrance to your corral as traffic is sure to build in the surrounding blocks to the corral entrances. Adding to the potential delays is the real possibility of rain for that day. Be prepared for slower traffic as a result of this. As with public transportation, factor in some extra time into your cab ride just to play it safe.

Finally do you insist on driving and having your car at the finish line? I highly suggest against it! In years past NYRR has had access to the New York Aquarium Parking lot. Not this year. As for the MCU Park parking lot? That lot is off limits because it will be the bag check are to pick up your bags after the race. Outside of local street parking, realistically, there is no where reliable to park by the finish line or even the starting line for that matter. But if you insist on driving, consider parking near the Barclays Center as there are plenty of garages there and the streets should be open in this area as the race does not pass thru that section of Brooklyn. The start line is about a 10-15 minute walk from Barclays center and the train ride after the race from the finish area is about a 30 minute ride. In my opinion if you don’t want to risk getting on public transportation, this might be your best bet!

STARTING TIMES, BAG CHECK & SECURITY

So all the scrambling to get to the starting area via different forms of transportation but what time do we have to be there? See the infographic below brought to you once again from the good folks at NYRR.

Infographic showing important times that you should know for race day! Courtesy of NYRR!

Oh yes – some of the times listed for wave 1 are EARLY but don’t think they are lenient on them just because they are early. For example the bag check closing at 6:10am is a big deal. Why? Since the finish line is no where near the start, all bags are transported to the finish line. If you are in wave 1 and you don’t check your bag in by 6:10am, the vehicles transporting your bag will likely be long gone shortly after 6:10am. Of course you can check your bags in with the wave 2 folks but those vehicles may not get to the finish and be set up for drop off until later. For those that are considering not dealing with bag checking, as of the writing of this blog, race day is calling for a 90% chance of rain. With these odds, we are likely going to get wet. I would personally want to change into a dry set of clothes at the end of the race, but hey, that’s just me!

As for corral closing time, if your corral closes, you will likely be sent to the last corral in your wave. If you weren’t assigned anywhere near the last corral, this may put you into a frustrating position of having to weave in and out of runners that may not be running at your pace.

Therefore it’s important to note the times and factor in extra traveling time so that you have enough time to meet all of the suggested checkpoints above. Be reminded that after you check your bag in, you will have to go thru a security check point similar to that at an airport that requires you to empty your phones and metallic objects into a bin and then walk thru a metal detector. Many folks don’t realize how much you will have to do before you enter your corral.

So to summarize, your commute, bag checking and security checks all have to be factored into your morning in order for you to make it to your corral in time. Oh and then you have to run 13.1 miles! (lol),

COURSE STRATEGY

Members of We Run NYC Running Club at the start of their BK Half Trial Run!

So you nailed your commute, had a great breakfast, mastered bag checking and security and now you are finally in your corral. Now what?? Relax and smile like the folks in the picture above. Why are they smiling? Well, myself, along with about 40 other awesome runners who for the most part are members of We Run NYC Running Club took a test run of the course a couple of weeks back. Here’s how I saw the course on that delightful day!

Miles 1-4: The first mile for the most part is down hill as you ascend down Washington Avenue. WARNING! Resist the temptation to fly in this mile as it is only mile 1! As you loop around Empire Blvd to come up Flatbush Avenue, you might recognize this stretch if you ran the United NYC Half Marathon. This stretch of Flatbush Avenue is the area where the starting corrals were located for the United NYC Half. This stretch takes you up a slow hill that will bring to the end of mile one. You will then come to Grand Army Plaza where you will circle the plaza and go back down Flatbush avenue the same way you came up it before. So that uphill you climbed in mile 1, you will be going down the hill as you begin your 2nd mile. But once again, hold back on the speed! The toughest part is yet to come! From here you will run on the perimeter of the park until you enter Prospect part just before the 4 mile marker.

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A beautiful running park, Propsect Park will bring you the toughest hills of the race!

Miles 5-7: These 3 miles are entirely within Prospect Park. The park itself is a beautiful oasis in the middle of Brooklyn. But beauty may not impress upon you during the race because the miles within the park are where your hardest work will be done! I am just going to say it – mile 5 is almost entirely uphill. There may be 2 small declines but you are climbing in elevation for the entire mile. This is why I mentioned to hold back on the throttle when you ran those down hills in the first 3 miles. But at the end you know yourself best. If you are a hill runner and haven’t run hard in the race up until this point, then go for it! If you tend to despise hills, then take a mulligan in mile 5, get thru it and look ahead to mile 6 because this is where the party begins for most. Mile 6 will take you down a gradual hill after which you will wrap around the west end of the park on your way to exiting the park at the end of mile 7. Once out of the park, you will hang a left and run onto Ocean Parkway who will be your friend for the next 6 miles!

Miles 8-13: These miles are why people love the Brooklyn Half Marathon! With the exception of going under an over pass and having to climb back up to street level on a couple of occasions, you won’t see a hill the rest of the way. This stretch of the race will take you straight down Ocean Parkway where a lot of local residents will be cheering you along the way. The only intriguing section I find about Ocean Parkway is around the 11 mile marker. Right around Ave W, the road hooks slightly right and when it does, you can finally see the end of Ocean Parkway for the first time. Here is where some runners will make a decision. At this point, you only have about 2 miles to go in the race. You can go for it and hit those final two miles hard if you have the endurance to do so. Alternatively, you may not want to allow yourself to pick up the pace if you can’t hold that pace for two miles. Either way, you can smell the finish line. As you cross under the Belt Parkway, you will be a mile from the finish. Coney Island will start to come into view. At the 20k marker you will leave Ocean Parkway for Shore Road which you will take until you see the historic Cyclone Roller Coaster where you will make a left and head to the boardwalk for that last 0.1 miles.

POST RACE FESTIVITIES AND OTHER AMENITIES

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Theres something about crushing 13.1 miles and finishing on the boardwalk at Coney Island!

Congratulations – you made it! Once you have crossed the finish line in front of Tom’s of Coney Island, your personal celebration is just beginning. The post race walk off will lead you down the boardwalk just past MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. The walk will lead you into the parking lot of MCU Park, where you will retrieve your checked bags, assuming you checked one in. Either way once you are done with the bag check area, NYRR has some post race festivities inside of MCU Park which you will be able to access directly from the parking lot area. If rain did fall and you are looking to get into those dry clothes I recommended bringing earlier, kudos to you for packing them and rest assured that you will be able to do so once inside MCU Park.

Once you are done with your day at the race, NYRR members can have their medals engraved at the NYRR Run Center! You can head there right after your race as they will be engraving from 11:00am – 5:00pm on race day! Too tired or don’t feel like heading back to Manhattan after the race? No problem. Engraving will also be done on Sunday May 20 from 10:00am – 5:00pm and finally on Monday May 21 from 12:00pm – 7:00pm.

In closing, this course is a fast course and has been known to produce a lot of personal records. You can nail your training for this race however if you don’t plan your logistics right, you may end up stressing yourself out prior to the race and it may derail your potentially strong results. However if you plan correctly, you could walk away with not only a personal record but one hell of a great day running the street of Brooklyn!

Good luck to all of the runners running the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon on Saturday!

If you found this information helpful, follow me on twitter @catrunsnyc or on Instagram @catrunsnyc_2018. 
Looking for a fun group to workout with and run with? Look no further than my fellow teammates at We Run NYC Running Club!  Look for them as well on social media: Twitter: @WeRunNYCRC or on Instagram: @WeRunNYCRC .

Race Review Of The New United NYC Half Marathon

Hi everyone! Hope everyone is having a fantastic start to the spring! Even though the calendar says its spring, it hasn’t felt too warm in New York City. At the time of the writing of this post, New York City is in the midst of yet another Nor’easter!

Thankfully, sub 30 degree temperatures did not stop the almost 22,000 participants that ran the United NYC Half Marathon this past Sunday! For those who have followed my blog, you know that I am a huge fan of this race and I was very skeptical of the new course lay out. I did a trial run of the course about a month ago (read about that here) and thought that the course was a lot more challenging than the previous one. However now that I have actually run the race here’s what I actually thought of the course, along with my personal feelings during that day!

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Runners near the start of the race by Grand Army Plaza (photo credit New York Road Runners Club)

The course aimed to be more inclusive of other parts of New York City, so they decided to start the race in Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza in Central Park to be exact. Let’s stop right there.

In the past, the start of the race was in Central Park with the finish being near downtown, Wall Street. This year’s course required more planning ahead. For those coming in from out of town, the big question became ‘Do I stay close to the start or close to the finish’? To make life easier for some of the followers of this blog as well as my United NYC Half Marathon Facebook group, we actually hired two coach buses to meet us in midtown Manhattan and take us to the start line. While that was a quick fix for about 110 people, there were several others who had to navigate the subway system enroute to the start line, very early on a Sunday morning. For the most part it seems that folks that left early, got to the start line on time. There seemed to be a crowding problem on the train for those that boarded trains close to the start line in Brooklyn. You would think the MTA would put more trains on the lines given 22,000 extra people heading to Brooklyn at this time!

Crowded Subways Photo Credit Peter Eher

The crowds on the subways enroute to the United NYC Half – Photo Credit Peter Ehler

Once you arrived at the course, the race organizer, New York Road Runners, was on the ball in terms of getting everyone lined up for the race. Prior to the race, they instructed everyone to specifically go to the start of the corrals which was on the opposite side of the park from the actual start line. I think the entry point was perfect. It was convenient from subway stations and close to a major intersection which made it easy for taxi and Uber/Lyft dropoffs to allow passengers to get off quickly and be close to the corral entries. Once there, an abundance of security awaited runners as they would pass a full set of security measures such as metal detectors, clear bags only and the restriction of liquids greater than 1 liter. This year, NYRR put portable bathrooms right in the corrals to make it easy for someone “to go” right before the start of the race. As a matter of fact, with the staggered starts, there were people going to the bathroom even though the race had started because they knew they had time before the stagger reached them! Good move on the part of NYRR to do this!

Porta Potty Village - Ericka Gee

Portable bathrooms right in the corrals! – Photo Credit: Ericka Gee

One the race stated, racing down Flatbush Avenue was chilly but exhilarating, mostly due to the fact that the first two miles were down hill. The crowds weren’t what I expected but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it was 7:30am when we were flying down Flatbush Avenue and it was under 30 degrees. Downtown Brooklyn gets a pass for the thin crowds on this one. For the most part, all you could see were the thousands of runners that were taking off with you! I told myself going into this race to take these first two miles easily. Clearly I didn’t listen as I clocked a 7:23 and a 7:27 respectively for the first two miles – so much for that game plan!

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The approach to the Manhattan Bridge – Photo Credit: Gail Miranda

As expected, once on the Manhattan Bridge there were no spectators in sight due to security reasons. Going over the bridge was actually very peaceful. After getting over the adrenalin of the start and the first two miles being mostly downhill, this is where the race really started for me. With the rising sun hitting runners from the east, it was a chance to take in the views of the east river and settle in for another 10 miles. For me it was a time to make a decision on how I would run the remainder of race. I wanted to PR, which meant go under 1:50. 1:45 would have been a great day. As I crossed the Manhattan Bridge, the pace group for the 1:40 goal time passed me. I saw them and thought to myself, ‘maybe I could keep up with them?’. To do so would require a pace much faster than than what I was shooting for. As we approached the end of the Manhattan Bridge, they settled in 10 yards in front of me. Keeping them in sight, I was distracted for some time by what I saw as I was coming off the Manhattan Bridge. The bridge left us in the heart of Chinatown. The crowds coming off of the bridge were terrific. I have to be honest, before the race, I didn’t think there would be many spectators in Chinatown but boy was I wrong. The crowds there along with the first Huma gel of the day that I popped provided a nice boost for the next mile as we headed towards the FDR Drive!

Manhattan Bridge Rose Ormillo

Views Of The Manhattan Bridge Portion – Photo By Rose Ormilo

One of the stretches of the race that I was looking forward to was the stretch along the FDR Drive. When I ran a trial run of the course a few weeks back, I was obviously not allowed to go on the FDR drive as there was no way onto it with moving traffic. During my trial run, I noticed that there was some significant elevations on the FDR drive and I wondered how that would feel on race day considering we would be 5 miles into the race by the time we reached the elevations of the FDR Drive. In looking back at the race, the FDR drive was just the beginning of several climbs that we would have to endure from that point on until the end of the race. Also looking back on the race, I enjoyed the scenery of running on the FDR Drive and actually being in the middle of it. It felt almost surreal as you knew that no one actually ever walks or runs on the FDR drive itself.

FDR Drive Photo By Lourdes Lawrence

Running on the FDR Drive – Photo Credit: Lourdes Lawrence

Depending on your pace, most runners would exit the FDR Drive at 42nd street exit ramp just as a car would that was exiting the FDR. The FDR drive however was a topic of debate for runners who started at the back of wave 2. According to some runner’s accounts, some of the late starters were not even allowed on the FDR Drive because they had to re-open it to vehicular traffic. Instead they were asked to run along the promenade that runs parallel to the FDR Drive. For the most part this works as a good alternative however there weren’t race officials to tell runners were to get off of the promenade. The promenade comes to a dead end at some point north of 34th street and never makes it all the way to 42nd street. Runners were under the impression that they could go all the way up to 42nd street on the promenade and then continue east along the remainder of the race course. Unfortunately, this was not the case and frustrated runners encountered the dead end and had to reverse back to 34th street to exit the promenade and make their way to 42nd street to pick up the official race course. This was a major miscue on the part of NYRR! Hopefully something they will learn for future races that run this course!

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Running Thru Times Square – Photo Credit: Rose Ormillo

Regardless of how you made it to 42nd street, the race continued west along the wide stretch which included an uphill until you ran past Fifth Avenue. Much to my dismay, there weren’t as many spectators on 42nd street. Most of them seemed to be tourists who were uninterested in the runners passing by them. One thing that I noticed on 42nd. street was the way that NYRR handled the power gel distribution. Just after mile 7, NYRR decided to distribute Power Bar gels to all of the runners. In my opinion the way they were distributed was horrible. They simply placed the gel packets on the table for runners to grab. Runners however seemed to have been grabbing one and knocking one off of the table as well because by the time I got to the table, there were several gel packets already on the floor, most of them which had been stepped on and exploded making the path to the gel table a dicey and treacherous one. If NYRR wants to give out gel packets, bravo! But how about you drop one in the bag along with the race shirt when you distribute them at the expo? The way it was done on Sunday was a mess and I am sure that several runners in the back of the pack may not have been able to get one.  While I did grab one, I tossed it just after I got to Central Park. The packet weighed a ton compared to the Huma ones I had. I regret even grabbing it off of the table on 42nd street.

Speaking of 42nd street, the race turned north once we approached 7th avenue. The crowds were vibrant and loud when we got to this part of the race. As I was running along 42nd street, I could see the 1:40 pace group turning north on 7th avenue. Trying to keep them in sight, I was motivated and sped up when I myself reached 7th avenue despite the fact that the stretch on 7th avenue was another uphill until we reached Central Park. My mile split for this mile was the fastest of the race – 7:00 and that 1:40 pace group was still in sight! As we approached Central Park I spotted Tana, one of our We Run NYC Running Club members who didn’t get to run the race.  She was holding up a cheer sign for us! God Bless her because 7th avenue was a wind tunnel and yet she remained out there supporting us! The motivation worked because I entered Central Park feeling strong and ready to conquer the hills that awaited.

Tana Supporting We Run NYC Running Club! Photo Credit: Maritza Santos

Even though I have trained in Central Park, it still had its way with me. With 4 miles left to go as we entered Central Park, I went in strong and positive but that quickly wore off as we approached Cat Hill. This tells me that I was purely running off of adrenalin on 7th avenue. I’ve run Cat Hill hill before and never had issues with it but on this day, I think I might have expended too much energy in the parts leading up to here as I was chasing the 1:40 pace group. Approaching the end of mile 11 just before the 102nd street traverse, I finally lost the 1:40 pace group and never saw them the rest of the race. I was tired and I knew I still had 2 more miles to go. At this point I was just thinking to myself, ‘You ran 8 miles over your head with the 1:40 pace group at roughly 7:37 per mile, just hold it together and get thru these last two miles!’.

Making the turn onto the 102nd street traverse we came upon a water stop. I took one last shot of Gatorade at this water station in hopes that it would get me to the finish strong. Next came the turn off of the 102nd street traverse and onto Central Park west. We were met with a long uphill right away. I was familiar with this uphill and knew that it was a long one. Mentally I was shot. I felt my legs buckle as I tried to push forward. Other than early on in the 3rd mile where we climbed the Manhattan Bridge, mile 12 would be my slowest mile at 8:13. I thought to myself, you ran too fast this whole race to give it all back now. Knowing the worst was behind me hill wise, except for maybe one more small hill, the 13th mile was all guts and glory. If I could personally thank all of the spectators that lined that last mile I would because they got me thru that last mile. From running an 8:13 mile in mile 12 to finishing with a 7:21 mile in mile 13, it’s been a while since I was so happy to see a finish line! I saw the 800m marker and forgot about the fatigue and just went for it. Final time 1:41:41. That’s a full 10 minutes knocked off of my previous personal record. Finishing in Central Park was tough, but I liked it. Actually in looking back, the whole race from the FDR drive til the end was tough , but it was a good scenic and challenging course and I can’t wait to do it again.

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My official results from NYRR!

Overall, I enjoyed this course more than the previous version. I came across a lot of people that ran personal records on this course and all of them thought it would be a harder course. Is it actually an easier course? I can tell you there are a lot of hills. Did the scenery make tit all go by faster? Was it the cold?

If you ran the race, what do you think? How was your United NYC Half experience – share in the comments below!

United NYC Half Complete – New course gets a thumbs up!

Race Day Planning For The United NYC Half Marathon!

So you are running the United NYC Half Marathon? Congratulations are in order because this race is not easy to get into! Now that you have gotten into the race, running and completing the race is not the only thing that you may have to worry about. Preparing for this race physically, mentally, emotionally and logistically can be a huge task. With this course being new, no matter how many races you have run in New York City, no one has ever run this course before! Those that will run the race this year will be the first ones ever to tackle this version of the course. In fact there are portions of this course that have never had any race run over them!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve hosted a United NYC Half Marathon Facebook group and we’ve discussed so many topics about this race. From training, to travel accommodations, to diets, to race prep, to holding local group runs and even hiring two coach buses to take some of us to the start line of the race! We’ve covered so much in that group and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it! (side note, we have similar groups open now for the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon and the New York City Marathon!)

So I thought I would put this article together for everyone to benefit from the discussions that we have had in this group. It targets out of towners running the race as well as native New Yorkers. It’s a long read but I think there is something for everyone in here!

Getting Your Race Day Bib and the Expo

Getting your bib at the Expo is only the beginning of the fun!

Whether you are traveling in from out of town or whether you live here in New York City, you will have to make your way to the Half Marathon Expo. For those that live in the New York City area who are accustomed to picking up their race day bibs at the NYRR Run Center, that will not be an option this time around. Further, you will not be able to pick your bibs up on the morning of the race either! That makes it super important that you plan some time either on the Thursday (11:00am – 9:00pm), Friday (11:00am – 9:00pm)  or Saturday (9:00am – 6:00pm) before the race to make it down to the Expo. The Expo is located at 125 west 18th street, New York, NY 10011 (between 6th and 7th avenues).

When heading to the Expo, give yourself some time to be there. Getting your number and race shirt should be quick, but there is usually a lot of fun little things for your to see or do there. A race pacer booth will be set up so that you can speak with race pacers to talk about strategy to meet your desired goal time. I was able to confirm with NYRR that you will be able to pick up a “race pace” bracelet at the expo to help you keep pace with your desired goal time. These are several different bracelets each with a different goal time. The bracelet then tells you the mile splits you will need to hit in order to run that bracelet’s goal target time. Among other things to do at the expo is look for your name on the wall of runners, take some pictures or do some shopping from the racks of merchandise they are sure to have! The official race dear gear sponsor New Balance will be on hand with some giveaways as well! Whatever it is, just give yourself some time at the Expo! You won’t regret it!

If you can’t fit some time in to get to Expo yourself, there is an option to send someone as your proxy to get your bib. That involves having your proxy bring a copy of your photo ID, with your name matching the name attached to the bib. Your proxy should also have a copy of your race day confirmation form. Your race day confirmation form can be found by logging into your NYRR account. While this is an option, you will miss all of the fun at the expo!

Know Your Transportation To The Start Line!

This is the first year that the course will start in Brooklyn and end in Manhattan. As such you will have to plan out your traveling plans in order to get to the starting line on time! The race is on a Sunday morning which means New York City subways will be operating with less trains than they usually do on Sunday mornings. This means give yourself lots of commuting time if you will be riding the subways to the race that morning. Recently New York Road Runners Club released a detailed diagram of Prospect Park and where runners will need to go to enter the starting corrals. Based on that diagram below, it looks like the Q, 4 & 5 trains are the preferred subways to take the start of the race. One important thing to note, even though it is advertised that the race will start in Grand Army Plaza, runners will have to enter the corrals on the other side of the park over by Flatbush Avenue & Empire Blvd. Make note of that and make sure you travel to the right location! Traveling to the Grand Army Plaza station will only make you walk all the way around to the start of the corrals.

Diagram of the starting line for the United NYC half!

One thing that I STRONGLY urge you to do is check out the service advisory section of the MTA website. They are notorious for scheduling track work or other maintenance that can severely affect train service on the weekend. The last thing you want to do is be on your way to the race, only to find out that morning that the train you planned on taking that morning was not working! Plan ahead! To assist with that, the MTA actually has a “Trip Planner” available. This trip planner takes into consideration any service advisories that may be in play that day. I tested this a couple of weeks back when I did my trial run of the course (click here to read my review of the course!). The day I used the Trip Planner, there were service advisories for the subway lines I used that day. The trip planner told me about them and factored them into my traveling time. I got to the starting line to meet my group for the trial run on time with no issues just as the trip planner had planned it out for me! For reference the name of the subway stops you can travel to are in the graphic above. Enter those subway station names into the trip planner along with the station you are traveling from.  It works – use it!

Aside from subways, NYC taxi cabs, Uber & Lyft are an option. Just keep in mind, traffic to that area will be heavy. Further street closures in Brooklyn leading up to the park may snarl traffic. Give yourself some time if you plan on taking some form of car service to the start! As for driving yourself, I strongly suggest against it. 25,000 people will be heading to the start area. I tried to park at Prospect Park a few weeks ago for a race that only had 5,000 participants and it was chaos on that day! Imagine having 5 times the number of runners and trying to look for parking! Leave your car at home!

Planning Your Day Before The Race

Many folks will be traveling into New York City specifically for the race. If you are like many of these folks, you might be getting to New York on Thursday, Friday or even Saturday. If you are lucky enough to get in Thursday or Friday, do your moving around the city those days. Saturday is March 17th, also known as St. Patrick’s Day! Manhattan is full of parade goers and party goers looking to seek a celebration or two in honor of the famous Irishman! The festivities always seem to end up in an abundance of alcohol being consumed so if you had your heart set on going to a restaurant or bar in Manhattan on this Saturday, just know that it may full of festive party goers enjoying St. Patricks’s Day. Further, getting around town may be tough on the day before the race as the parade route goes right up 5th avenue, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. As I mentioned, plan your day on Saturday accordingly to work around the St. Patrick’s Day congestion.

There is no question that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the most popular parade in New York City and one to enjoy if you are ok with having a couple of drinks. But for the person who has trained for weeks in preparation for 13 miles on Sunday, you might want to skip the festivities this year. If you need to unwind with some beverages, seek out hotel bars or lounges who will likely not allow St Patrick’s Day revelers into their establishments. Better yet, by a bottle of wine or a 6 pack and sip comfortably and responsibly in your hotel room if you absolutely must, although personally, I recommend you save it for AFTER the race!

Dressing For The Race & Bag Check

What to wear come race day morning?

Weather in New York City in the month of March is extremely unpredictable. There have been 70 degree days in March and there have been insane snow storms in the month of March. In 2017, the race was run on the heels of a pretty strong snow storm during the week leading up to the race. The temperature at the start of the race was 30 degrees. While the temperature could be cold at the beginning, it could warm up rather quickly as the race progresses as well. So how does one dress??

I suggest to wear some layers to the race that you will be comfortable parting with. There are close to 25,000 runners competing in the United NYC Half Marathon. This means that the bag check won’t be close to the starting line. In fact if you look at the graphic of the starting area above, the bag check is before you even enter the secure zone. Think hard about what you want to check in and what you will be able to bring with you thru security and to the starting corral. Keep in mind that you can only check in a clear bag. NYRR wants to see the contents contained in your bag. Also, I have confirmed with NYRR that your bag will be transported via courier to the finish line at Central Park so don’t worry about having to come back to Brooklyn to get your stuff! Check your bag in with confidence!

In terms of other items allowed past security, water bottles in excess of one liter will not be allowed. Camelpacks are also not allowed either. To be honest, those likely aren’t even needed. The race course will have a water station just about every mile along with some water stands that will include Gatorade. There is even a “Powebar Gel” station in mile 7.

The security check point will include a metal detector and you will pass thru it like you do at an airport. Your cell phone, keys, money, etc., will go in a dish and then they will wand you and you will go thru a metal detector. All of this means that if you’re checking items into the bag check, you will have to do it early to give yourself enough time to get thru security. This could cause your wait in the corral to be anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

Going back to how you should dress, you will want to stay warm in the corrals for this period of time. This is where the extra layers come into play. Remember, it will be anywhere between 7am – 8am when runners start since there are two waves. Once your wave starts, you can peel a layer or two off and part with them by placing them in one of the several donation bins that will be lining the starting line area. That’s right, you won’t be seeing those items again, so plan accordingly!

Going back to checking in your items at the bag check, one thing to consider when packing your check-in bag, is that it may be cold or rainy this day. Consider packing a dry  or warm change of clothes in your check in bag for after the race. The last thing you want to have happen is to be standing around after the race in cold or wet clothes. You can easily duck into a portable john to get out of those wet clothes if you choose after you retrieve your checked in bag. If you despise portable bathrooms like some folks do, you can head over to the New York Road Runners Run Center (320 West 57th street b/w 8th & 9th avenues) which is not too far from the finish line to use some of their changing rooms there.

As of the writing of this article, the temperatures are expected to range from the low 40’s at the start of the race, to the low 50’s thru out the race. That’s not cold. Rain is in the forecast as of now, but lets hope that pushes away! I would still plan to wear a couple of layers to the stating corral only to peel them off when the race begins.

Get To Know The Course

img_0822Finally, the course itself! As mentioned earlier, this year New York Road Runners Club decided to change the course route that had been in effect for several years. For the first time ever the race will start at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and will finish in Central Park. The reason for the change is because the race is getting bigger each year and they are looking for a wider course and one that has a larger finish line and finish area. Logistically also, finishing in Central Park allows them to keep the finish area open longer so that runners don’t have to worry about having to finish their race under a certain time.  If you have ever run this race before, it will be all new for you just as it will be for someone who is running the race for the first time!

The course map is just above. If you have run this race before you will notice that this course has a lot more hills than the previous version of it. What make it worse is that a lot of the hills are towards the end of the race. If you look at the elevation chart at the bottom of the below graphic, miles 8 thru the end of the race are a series of climbs most of them which will be in Central Park. Just before that there is a stretch of 7th avenue from 42nd street up until the entrance of Central Park which is all up hill. If this stretch may look familiar to those who have run this race before thats because the race used to run the opposite way down 7th avenue after you exited the park. This year, you are running a slow steady climb for 15 blocks before you get into Central Park! If you haven’t thrown in hill work into your training, now may be the time! For a more comprehensive review of the course, you can read the review I wrote up after I did an actual trial run of the course a couple of week ago. You can find that article here!

The Finish Line.

You made it 13.1 miles to the finish in Central Park – CONGRATULATIONS! You’re not done yet! Once you are done with the race, you will still have about a half mile walk. During that walk, family will not be allowed in this half mile are as it is considered a “runners only” area. Family can watch you finish the race during the last mile. See the graphic above and note that they can enter the park on the west side the park via two entrances. They will not be able to meet you however on there other side of the finish line.

Once you have crossed the finish line, you have approximately a half mile walk that will lead you to the southern exit of the park close to Columbus Circle. I highly suggest, that you meet with family away from the park after the race. The area around Columbus Circle will be pure chaos. During your half mile walk you will get your recovery bag, water, and of course, your well deserved medal! There will also be stations set up to take post race pictures with your medals or your friends. Medical tents and bathrooms will be available during this half mile walk as well. It may be a half mile, but trust me, it will pass by really quickly!

Speaking of medals, make sure to get your medals ENGRAVED after the race! I confirmed with NYRR that medal engraving will be available immediately after the race at the NYRR Run Center on Sunday from 10am – 5pm. If you are not in the mood to stand on line to get your medal engraved after the race, medal engraving will also be available at the run center on Monday 3/19 from 12pm – 7pm and on Tuesday 3/20 from 4pm – 7pm. Unfortunately medal engraving is only for NYRR members. However there is nothing stopping you from becoming a NYRR member before the race to not only take advantage of free engraving but to also take part in their future races. Of course as an alternative to all of this, you can also get your medal engraved else where.

In Closing

I am a stickler for logistics. I put this together because so many of you worked hard to prepare for this race and I don’t want to see you throw it away because you thought you could pick up your bib on race day morning or you took the wrong train to the start or your dressed incorrectly. You deserve better than that! Now go out there are crush this NYC Half Marathon!

If you found this information helpful, then I am glad I could help. As I mentioned earlier, if you happen to be running either the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon or TCS New York City Marathon, I have similar group discussions going on now. Here is the one for the Brooklyn Half and here is the one for TCS NYC Marathon Why not join these groups and get in on all of the information being exchanged there!

For more information about running in general in New York City, make sure to follow me on Instagram @catrunsnyc_2018 or on Twitter @catrunsnyc ! Also while you are at it, check out our running club We Run NYC Running Club! It is a running club that is open to all levels of runners with one common bond – that they simply love running in New York City!

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It awaits you!

Get Ready For Another Half Marathon

Good Morning to everyone out there! This will be a quick but informative post!

The cold weather has taken its grip on New York City again! While running may not be on the forefront of people’s minds right now, runners know that race planning is always occurring. It is after all one way that runners stay motivated. They set these goals and put races on their calendars as something to strive for.

Today, myself like many other folks will try to put another race on their calendar. Next to the NYC Marathon, a half marathon in Brooklyn, New York might be the hardest race to get into. The Brooklyn Half Marathon, now called the Popular Half Marathon, usually sells out in less than 30 minutes. This race unlike the NYC Marathon or the United NYC half marathon does not have a lottery. It’s a simple sign up to register. But registration spots are limited and that’s why it sells out in less than 30 minutes.

Registration for the Brooklyn Half opens at 12:00pm noon today! Park yourself by a computer at that time and deploy a little patience! It might be a marathon and not a sprint to get thru on the registration!

Good luck to all attempting to register today!!

Fred Lebow Half & NYC Marathon Tidbits!

Well my friends we made it to the end of another week! The weather is supposed to be a lot nicer in the NYC area this weekend so if you have been thinking about getting out to start running, this weekend is a good time to start with warmer weather in store! Saturday should reach close to 50 degrees with Sunday seeing 45 degrees.

If the weather doesn’t inspire you to get out then, maybe the runners toeing the line this Sunday will in Central Park. On Sunday the New York Road Runners club will be holding the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. 2 and a half loops of the standard loop in Central Park will be run. As of now the race is sold out so there will be lots of runners conquering the 13.1 miles on Sunday. What is more inspiring than having a sold out half marathon in the middle of January! A big salute to all of the runners running the race on Sunday and don’t forget to smile for Fred when you cross the finish line!

This Fred Lebow half marathon pays homage to the late great Fred Lebow who is the founder of the New York City Marathon which of course has become one of the most famous marathons to run in the world. He founded the marathon in 1970 and was one of a handful of 55 runners that took part in the inaugural NYC marathon. In 2017, the NYC Marathon hosted about 55,000 runners while turning away much more than that who just couldn’t be accommodated. Lebow went onto complete 69 marathons in his lifetime and doing so in 30 countries before passing away in 1994. Today aside from his legacy of creating a great marathon, he can be remembered for some of his quotes:

The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama, competition, camaraderie and heroism.

As the Fred Lebow half marathon is run this Sunday, earlier in the week, the race Lebow founded opened up its lottery to accept runners who wish to run the 2018 version of the TCS New York City Marathon. This year’s marathon will be Sunday, November 4th. This race has become one of the hardest races go get into. I was giddy when I received my acceptance into the race earlier this week and had to post something about it! I know however that not everyone will be so fortunate. It has become so difficult to get accepted into this race, that last year, only about 16,000 runners were accepted via lottery. Close to 100,000 applications were received in the lottery. That means only 16% of runners were accepted via lottery!

So if 55,000 runners make up the race- where did the other 39,000 come from? Here are some other options for you to explore if you don’t like the 16% odds via lottery.

9+1 program. For me this is the easiest and most assured way of getting in. It is also the one that requires the most work. It simple. This is the option I opted for last year and how I qualified this year. How to do it? Run 9 NYRR qualifying races and volunteer to work one and you automatically qualify for the following year’s marathon. That won’t get you into this year’s marathon, but you are assured to be in for the 2019 marathon.

Then there is the endless list of charities that you can run for in the marathon. Each charity has a number of spots reserved in the marathon however, you will be asked to raise money for that charity. Usually the amounts that you must raise are over $2,500 and that might be daunting for some.

If you are reading this from another country, you are in luck! If you plan a vacation to New York City from another country, there are guaranteed spots reserved for several runners that are willing to book a vacation to NYC. The vacation must be booked with one of their approved tour directors. More info on that can be found here.

Then there is luck for really fast people. If you are an elite athlete, you will likely get in. But if you are not elite but still fast, there is hope for you. There are time qualifications by age group in the half marathon and full marathon. If you have run a time for one of these races faster than the time qualifiers then you are in luck! To qualify for the 2018 marathon you will hAve had to run the qualifying time in 2017. To see if you were fast enough, check out the time qualifying standards here!

If none of these apply, I’m sorry but your just going to have to sit back and wait for those lottery results! I got turned down for 4 years in a row before I went the 9+1 route. I pray that none of you have to wait 4 years to get in. Lottery results are expected to be announced on February 28th. Close to 60,000 are expected to toe the line this year.

Fred Lebow is surely smiling from above at what his race has become!

Long Weekend Ahead!

Happy Friday too all my friends out in the blogosphere!

Hopefully for most of you, there is a long weekend in store that includes Monday off for Martin Luther King!

Coming into this Friday, I thought I would go back to my “Friday Free For All” posts that I had done last month. So here goes!

NYRR Virtual 5K

They gave me a bib for the virtual 5k but I think I will pass on wearing it!

 

Earlier this week, I decided to sign up for the NYRR Virtual 5k. I did it pretty much because it was free. There was an option to pay $20 if you wanted this particular virtual 5k rece to count towards qualification for next year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon. I believe you needed to run 6 virtual races with NYRR in order to automatically qualify. However, I started to think about this – six virtual races at $20. That’s $120 in virtual races just to qualify for the Brooklyn Half and it would be for the 2019 Brookyln Half and knowing NYRR, I would likely still have to pay the race fees for that race which is listed as $90 for NYRR members. So over $200 just to run a half marathon? Ummm no thank you. I will just run this virtual 5k for free! Most likely I will get out and run my 5k on Sunday. It’s supposed to be cold again on Sunday so I’m not looking forward to a fast time. Let’s see how I rank on the virtual race leaderboards!

Stanner Games At The Armory NYC

I cannot tell you how nice the armory is!

Its no mystery but I love running. My love for running doesn’t stop only at road races, I actually love Track & Field as well! Next month, I am hoping to get to the Millrose Games on February 3rd, which will be held in Manhattan at the Armory Track & Field Center. But before we get to the Millrose Games, this Saturday I will be assisting with a very well attended high school meet which will also be held at the Armory. For folks outside of New York City, the Armory is a state of the art indoor track and field arena in Washington Heights New York City. It’s a great facility and it produces some great track meets and some even greater results. On Saturday the high school that I graduated from Archbishop Molloy high school, will be hosting its annual track and field meet, The Stanner Games. They lean on former track and field athletes from the school to work the meet and each year more and more track alumni come out to assist. The meet has become one of the biggest high school track meets in the North East. Last year Olympian Sydney Mcloughlin ran at the meet as a senior in high school and I had a chance to meet her and chat with her a bit. I don’t think any Olympians will be there this year but for me, the vibe of the meet and seeing these younger kids compete at a high level is inspiring for me! I remember as high school kid being nervous at these meets but then using that nervous energy to surprise myself and run strong. It will be a long day 8am to 6pm, but I enjoy it so much each year! So if anyone is at the Armory on Saturday, come down to where the relays are being checked in- I will be there all day!! 🙂

Celebrating Martin Luther King

If you have a chance – read Bryan Stevenson’s book!

 

As I mentioned above, hopefully many of you will have off from work or school for Martin Luther King day! Earlier this week we had a speaker, Bryan Stevenson, come to my job to give a talk on social injustice and criminal justice. His 70 minute speech was very profound and resonated with me a lot. Mr. Stevenson is a lawyer whose work is centered around prisoners on death row. He’s worked with so many inmates over the years, including children. When he came to our job he didn’t come to talk about the issues with social injustice but rather how we can all help to fix them. He outlined 4 points. The first was we have to be proximate to where there is poverty and injustice. If we aren’t exposed to it then we can’t see the issues. Second, we have to learn to change the narratives that we are always given. Third we have to create hope for those that don’t have it. Lastly, we have to be willing to do uncomfortable things, like visit inmates or impoverished in struggling neighborhoods. I won’t go into too much detail here but I thought it was very fitting that a few days before MLK day, I was hearing Mr Stevenson kind of carry on the work of MLK right in front of me. Mr. Stevenson is the author of a New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy, a Story of Justice & Redemption. If you have some down time this weekend and want a good read, pick this book up! And if you don’t, take some time on Monday to reflect on Martin Luther King!

Have a great weekend my friends!!

Display Your Pride For New York City!

Happy Monday to all!

New York City has just gone thru one hell of a cold spell. The temperature has not been near freezing for over a week. Wind chills have had it feeling below zero for quite some time. Still, I have seen so many posts on social media of people running in this cold weather.Seeing this is quite inspirational. It shows a drive and determination that you just don’t see in too many place.

I myself ran a 5k on New Year’s day in zero degree weather. New Yorkers for lack of a better term can be crazy at times with their running. For me, it has to do with a very busy schedule so my time to run is limited. That being said, whenever I plan on getting a run in, I hold myself to that no matter what it is doing outside. For others, as well as myself, there is a great sense of pride to running in New York City. That can also be said for the hundreds of thousands that flock to New York City each year to run races here.

With all of the above in mind, I had an idea to make accessories and shirts with the hashtag #irunnyc on them. For me it is one of my favorite running hashtags. I’m proud to be from New York City and I love running thru out the streets of New York! I have had several runners, both from New York and from out of town express the same pride. I’ve started a page on this blog that has a few items on it that display the hashtag. I am hoping that you will give it a visit and check it out. If you do, check back often as  I will be adding more things from time to time. If anyone has something that they would like to see with the #irunnyc hashtag on it, let me know and I will try my best to make it happen! If nothing else, I will have fun wearing some of these items over time to some of my upcoming races!

For now, be proud of your city and display your pride with #irunnyc accessories and apparel!