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 .

Trial Run Of The Brooklyn Half Course!

My friends! We are less than 3 weeks from the NYRR Popular Brooklyn half marathon! This race came pretty fast but I’ve seen many of you getting at it with all of your training runs!

 

This Saturday, May 5th, 2018, I will be having a trial run of the course with members of the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon Facebook Group that I host . The trial run is as it sounds – a practice run of the entire course- yup 13.1 miles this Saturday morning! The trial run is free and everyone is welcome to join!

*MEET UP SPOT🏛️🏛️

As this is a trial run of the course, I would like everyone to meet up at Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238) at 7:45am! Please do not be late!

Yes thats nice and early in the morning but keep in mind, the actual starts at 7:00am on race day anyways! This gives you a chance to wake up early and practice your routine and route to the start line!

*TRANSPORTATION TO START🚕🚆🚗

For those of you that don’t live in Brooklyn, can I suggest driving to the finish line area, by Coney Island and parking by the finish line. There is a parking lot in MCU Park that if you manage to park there before an attendant is present, you pay nothing! If an attendant is there, I believe it is $15. This lot will only work for the trial run this Saturday because for race day; this lot will be off limits as it will be used for bag check pickup.

For this Saturday however, if you park by the finish line, you can then either take a subway to the start or Uber which is about $10. A few of us are sharing uber’s to the start from the finish line. In order to do this, I would suggest being parked by 7:15-7:30 at the latest!

Of course you can take the subway to the start line. The Eastern Parkway Brooklyn Musem stop on the 2-3 line seems to be the closest station to the start line. Check the MTA website to make sure these trains are running on Saturday morning!

*COURSE MAP!🗺️🗾🏔️

Course map courtesy of New York Road Runners

 

The course map is above. I also posted details of the the start area and finish area are below. Some of you may remember the trial run of the United NYC Half Marathon course that I held back in February. Unlike that trial run that we held, we should be able to run this course fairly close to the actual course. If you remember we couldn’t get on parts of the United NYC Half Course. That shouldn’t be the case here for the trial run of the BK Half. We should be able to see the entire course!

Here’s a brief overview of the course and what we plan on running on Saturday!

-The course starts at the Brooklyn Museum and we will run south along Washington Avenue, down to Empire Blvd where we make a right and another quick right onto Flatbush Avenue.

-Next we head north on Flatbush Avenue, towards Grand Army Plaza. Runners of the United NYC Half may remember this stretch as it was the starting corrals of that race.

-One we approach Grand Army Plaza (at approximately the 1.5 mile mark) we will loop around the Plaza and then head back south on Flatbush Avenue, til we get back to Ocean Avenue.

-We will take a slight right onto Ocean Avenue and proceed straight until we get to Parkside Avenue where we will make a right onto Parkside Avenue. This will be around the 3 mile marker on the course map.

-Continuing west on Parkside Avenue we enter Prospect park near Machate Circle where we will then proceed to do a full loop within Prospect Park.

-After one full loop within the park, we will exit the park close to where we entered it for the loop and run onto Ocean Parkway. Once we leave the park we should be 7 miles in

-Once on Ocean Parkway we will stay on Ocean Parkway and head south for a little over 5 miles until we turn onto Surf Avenue. On the course map this is around the 20k marker or 12.5 miles.

-We will continue west on Surf Avenue for about a half mile until west 10th street where we will make a left onto west 10th street once you pass by the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster.

-Take west 10th street one block to the Coney Island Boardwalk – once you get to the boardwalk make a right.

-Run on the boardwalk until you reach “Tom’s of Coney Island” -this is the approximate finish line of the race!

*PACE OF RUN ⏱️⏱️

grouprun

Group runs are as much about fun as they are about the run!

 

Some things to note – this is not meant to be all out pace. Personally I will enjoy this run and i think you all should too! The weather is supposed to be nice. My definition of nice is Sunny with temps in the 50’s and 60’s for our run! I will likely snap some pictures along the route for myself so that i don’t have to do that on race day! Have fun with this run on what is shaping up to be a gorgeous day!

As for paces, this trial run is for EVERYONE! As I mentioned earlier, I did one of these in the pouring rain in February for the United NYC Half and 12 of us completed the trial run successfully as we split up into similar pace groups. I plan on splitting the group up into the following pace groups:

*Under 9 minute mile pace

*9-10 minute mile pace

*10-12 minute mile pace

*over 12 minute mile pace

It is highly suggested that you note the course directions above as we likely will not stay together in one big group due to the different paces we have. As such, I would be appreciative if anyone is familiar with the course and would like to volunteer as “pace group captain” on this date for any of the above pace groups!

*OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Also to note are bathroom breaks – try and hit the bathrooms before you start. I have been told that there are portable bathrooms at 5 different locations on the loop within Prospect Park with 2 portable bathrooms where we enter and exit the park to and from our loop.

The stretch along Ocean Parkway is mostly residential so I’m not sure if you will have access to bathrooms during that 5 mile stretch. Or course when we get to Coney Island, there should be public rest rooms to use also.

As for hydration and nutrition, please bring your own! There are 5 water fountain stops within the Prospect Park loop. However once we exit Prospect Park, I cannot guarantee that we will pass by open store fronts.

Additionally please bring your own gels or anything you may consume for a 13.1 run.

Once we are done with the run we can hangout on the boardwalk and maybe catch a cold adult beverage to “re-hydrate”!

If you have any questions or comments – please do comment below! As I mentioned, it’s going to be a nice day on Saturday – let’s get together – meet some fellow runners and take one huge step towards getting ready for the Brooklyn Half Marathon!

Trial run will be sponsored by We Run NYC Running Club but by all means open to all!

See you all on Saturday!

Starting area map courtesy of New York Road Runners

 

Finish line area map courtesy of New York Road Runners

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!

UnitedNYCHalfStart

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!

Approacing Manhattan Bridge - Gail Miranda.jpg

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 Report – Gridiron 4 Mile Run

Hi everyone! I have been away from this blog for a few days. Apologies about that but this thing they called a job, kind of got in the way! I also have been working on some other running related things that kind of some how fell into my lap. I will likely be a little forthcoming on that in the next week or two!

Lost in my absence, was the fact that I ran a race finally! I tell you, it has felt like forever since I have run a race. While I did do an unofficial 5k on New Year’s Day with my gym and I also managed to do a virtual 5k with New York Road Runners, nothing compares to the feeling of an actual race, particularly one at Central Park! Add the fact that I got shut out of the Fred Lebow half marathon and that they cancelled the Joe Kleinerman 10k and I was really itching to get a race in. Well finally the day to race came!

RACE:  NYRR Gridiron 4 Mile Race & Longest Football Throw

DATE:   Sunday, February 4, 2018 9:00am

LOCATION:   Central Park

DISTANCE:   4 Miles

WEATHER: Cloudy, 34 degrees w/ 5mph winds.

GETTING TO THE RACE & PRE-RACE:

I like to document this because the time leading up to a race can dictate the outcome of your race. This was my first race in a while and I was anxious as all hell. With the race being started on the upper easy side (102nd street traverse), I thought I had a good chance of finding some street parking if I got there early enough. I got to the area around 7:30am- Mind you the race didn’t start til 9:00am. After circling for about 15 minutes, I decided to look for a parking garage close to the park. Found one right on 102nd street just east of 5th avenue but it had a line waiting to get into the garage. That was ok, I was early. I was waiting on that line, I noticed a guy walking to a parked car down the block. I bolted off of the line and followed the guy. Sure enough he was pulling out. Free parking was scored!

Meeting up with some members of the United NYC Half Group

 

Adding to the excitement of the pre-race was the fact that I was meeting up with some members of our United NYC Half Facebook community. Close to 30 of us in the group had signed up for this race and several were eager to meet before the race. It was great to meet up with several of them before the race! The cold weather had us a bit frozen, but I think it was safe to say that we all made some new running friends and we likely started a new trend that could carry over to other local races leading up to the United NYC Half Marathon on March 18th!

THE FIRST HALF:

I usually start out in D corral for NYRR races, but this time I started in E corral to run along side one of the members from our online group who had never run a NYRR road race. Knowing this runner, I don’t think she belonged in E corral as I’ve seen her pace and it is definitely faster than E corral. However NYRR has a policy that they  will only move you up once you have recorded a time with them. At the start of the race, it was very crowded and I found myself dodging a lot of slower runners and even walkers. The first mile ran along the 102nd street traverse from the east side of the park to the west side. Once we turned onto the west drive of the park, there was some up hills to overcome. I was taking it easy during this first mile because the crowds just did allow me to stretch out my stride. My first mile was clocked at roughly 7:36. Not bad for the first mile of any of my runs, since I am usually slow in that first mile!

As I approached the second mile, you could tell that the crowds were starting to thin out a bit. I remember seeing a nice area of space and darted for that. It coincided with a down hill and I remember just flying down the hill for about a good 200 meters. Truth be told, that whole second mile felt like a down hill. The mile time was reflective of that. 6:38 was my split for mile 2. What the hell was that? Pretty fast by my standards.

A nice loop in Central Park on Super Bowl Sunday

 

THE SECOND HALF:

Mile 3 was an upward climb as we crossed over from the west side and back to the east side of the park . Up “Cat hill” we went and I was definitely feeling some tired legs up this hill especially after a 6:38 second mile. As we started the climb I could feel my legs getting heavy and my breathing starting to get rapid. There was a brief point where I got distracted. There was a purposely made up division in the road. If you went left it meant you were rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. Going right mean you were rooting for the Patriots. At that moment, I felt like stopping and turning around because I hate both teams. But if you need to know – I went right (lol) .

After that distraction, I focused on controlling my breathing and just taking relaxed strides. Once my breathing was under control I tried to pump my arms and my legs a bit more to get up the rolling hills a bit stronger. Mile 3 definitely wasn’t the fastest mile of the race, but I prevented myself from burning out. In fact, I was actually pleased with my mile split considering that 3rd mile was filled with hills, 7:12 pace!

Once I got past the 3rd mile, it dawned on me that there was only a mile left. This is what I hate about short races, its like you are alway churning a rapid pace each mile. You can’t take a mile off! I know myself, I can always churn out a fast final mile. But like I said, in a short race, all of them had been fast this was going to be a bit of a struggle. I locked my mind into a sustainable rapid pace and told myself just to stay at this pace until the finish line came into sight and then let it all hang out. That’s what definitely happened. My final mile, 6:40. I have never put two sub 7:00 minute miles together in a race before! Hey I’ll take it!

My analysis:

My final time was 28:42 for an average pace of 7:11. This was good enough for a PR at the 4 mile distance. For my first race of the year, I was very pleased with this. If that first mile wasn’t as crowded, I may have run that mile a bit faster. All in all this was a great way to start Super Bowl Sunday!

PR for the 4 mile distance!

Once Again Running Amazes Me!

I have to admit, I have been fortunate when it comes to running. I have always managed to turn to running as an escape from madness. It has in its truest form, become a form of therapy for me. Part of that stems from the fact that I do push myself hard when I run and 99 times out of 100, I am usually pleased with the end result when I look back at any of my runs regardless of whether it is training or a race. There is no question that it boosts my self esteem and confidence as it does for a lot of people. These aren’t the only things that running has done for me. I have met so many wonderful like minded people thru running. Even today, I come across so many new people that all share the same passion for running that I do. For me, running is like the gift that keeps on giving.

So it doesn’t surprise me that this past weekend, running was up to its tricks again. Last week I stumbled across an event on the New York Road Runners website. At first it came across as an attempt to advertise the upcoming Millrose Games. For those that may not be familiar with the Millrose Games, it is the longest running track & field meet that exists today. Those who have won at Millrose Games have gone on to become elite track and field legends. The event that I stumbled upon was a 4 mile group run sponsored by New York Road Runners that would allow members to run with some athletes that would be competing at the Millrose Games. Going into this run on Sunday, they wouldn’t say which athletes would be running with NYRR members, simply that we wouldn’t be disappointed!

I took the bait and signed up even though I had no clue who was going to be there.

The one thing about professional runners is that unfortunately they go relatively unknown in public. The sad truth is that track and field is not that popular with main stream sports fans. Recently however there has been an uptick in American middle distance and distance runners that has captivated some fans. Shalane Flannigan’s win at this past year’s New York City Marathon is a prime example of that as was Matthew Centrowitz’s win at the Rio Olympics in the 1500m. So when I arrived at the NYRR run center and saw a group of about 30 people gathered for the run on Sunday, even though I was excited to be there, I had no idea who were the NYRR members like me, and who were the athletes competing at Millrose! Before I knew it, I had taken off my jacket and barely laced up my sneakers and we were off on running on a Sunday morning heading to Central Park!

In Central Park on Sunday with NYRR members and some Millrose Games Athletes!

As we entered the park, four runners took to the lead. The pace for this run was advertised to be between 8:00-12:00 minute mile pace. These guys were going faster than 8:00 minute mile pace. These guys clearly must have been the Millrose athletes. I noticed on one of them that he had a gold rope chain bouncing in and out of his shirt. I remembered back to the 2016 Olympics, an American runner that ran the mile who also had a rope chain that he wore during his race. That American was Robby Andrews. Could this be him? At the moment however, I had some hills to deal with at Central Park and a pretty rapid pace that these Millrose athletes had set!

The pro runners stopped once they were two miles into Central Park and waited for us so that we could turn back around. I was the first one to reach these guys. I introduced myself to them and amongst them were Eric Avila, Charlie Grice and I had guessed right earlier, the American Olympian Robby Andrews. Grice was also an Olympian for England in 2016.

So lets stop for a minute. I am in Central Park on a Sunday morning running with professional runners, two of them who are Olympians?

Yup!

I decided to run back with Robby Andrews. I had watched this kid run before. He was an Olympian at the mile. But this wasn’t the main reason why I was a fan of his. He also  excelled at the 800 meters which was my race in high school. In his career he has run a 1:44 for the 800 meters and a 3:53 for the mile. Both of those are blistering times! As we started running, the conversation was easy and casual. I could have been talking casually to someone on my train ride to work instead of running an 8:00 mile in Central Park. He told me about how he got into running thru his father who was a track and field coach when he was younger. He recounted that for many years as a kid, he would run one track and field race a year. This and his father’s passion for track and field  was enough to keep him somewhat in love with running. But he admitted that his true love was basketball. He swore he was going to play for the North Carolina Tarheels in college. Now an Olympian, I think he made out ok!

Andrews_Robby_Winning_2017_USA_1500_24-Jun-2017_David_Monti-800x529

Robby Andrews winning the USA outdoor title in the mile back in June 2017.

Later as we progressed in our run, I asked him what race he would be running at the Millrose games. He responded by saying in an excited tone, that he would be running the Wanamaker mile. If Millrose was a prestigous meet, the Wanamaker mile is the jewel at that prestigous meet. The race has been won by track and field royalty. Eamonn Coghlan, Marcus O Sullivan, Bernard Legat and Matthew Centrowitz are just a few names that have won this race multiple times in the ninety plus years that the race has been run. The field for Saturday’s Wanamaker Mile is an impressive one as it will include multiple Olympians such as Charles Brice and Nick Willis. It will also have Andrews though who is the reigning USA outdoor champion at the mile. In June of 2017, Andrews came from way back in the pack to sprint past Olympic champion Centrowitz to claim the 2017 USA Championship. You can watch that come back here. Andrews would add that he is particularly excited about running the Wanamaker mile. He revealed to me that he won the Boys High School mile at Millrose Games when he was a high schooler. In 2009 he won that race with a time of 4:17. He further revealed to me that no one has ever won both the High School mile at Millrose and the Wanamaker mile. Mind you we are still running thru Central Park, and I let out a big “Whoa!” when he told me this. Not only is this guy an Olympian, the reigning US Champion in the mile, but he has plans on doing something no one has ever done before at the Millrose Games this Saturday. We continued to talk about my running and my upcoming races. This guy was genuinely interested in the races I was running. We talked about my upcoming United NYC Half Marathon and how the course was changing.  I mentioned how I was also running the marathon in November and he said he would likely never do a marathon but encouraged me to stick with the training and wished me the best.

I will never step on a baseball field with the league leader in home runs and toss a baseball around with them. I’ll never shoot hoops with an NBA all star. But I got to run a few miles with an Olympian, US Champion and a participant in this weekend’s Wanamker mile. I tell you, running has been very good to me!

The Millrose games will be broadcast live this Saturday on NBC. The Wanamker mile is the last event on the schedule. Tune in to see if Robby Andrews can do what no runner has done at Millrose! If he does, am I allowed to take a little credit for that since we kind of sort of “trained” together for this race? (haha) .

Regardless, its going to be pretty cool just to watch Andrews on the track regardless of where he finishes. A genuinely nice guy deserves to win but of course, nothing is given in the world of track and field. I’m confident though that Andrews is going to put up a fight.

Go get ’em Robby!

With Andrews outside the NYRR run center after we crushed 4 miles!

5 Ways To Keep Your Runs Interesting

Cheers to another day my friends! I have gotten a few messages from folks who have started running recently who are struggling to stay motivated in their new journey. It’s new to them and what is still fresh in their heads is how much they have always hated running. Further, if they haven’t run a race yet, they may not have had the opportunity to witness the positive enthusiasm that running can bring to keep them motivated during their workouts. So this morning I thought I would share some ways that can keep running interesting. For me I can’t say that running is ever boring for me, even after all these years. Maybe the reason it isn’t boring is because I call upon some of these every now and then to “keep things interesting”! Here are just a few of those!

Run with headphones. Whether they are wired or bluetooth, running with headphones is a game changer. I have a few playlists that I fire up when I go for my runs. For me it’s 90’s alternative since that’s what I was listening to in high school when I first picked up running years ago and quite frankly, I still love those tunes too! But I have a few other playlists too, like some old school hip hop and another with latin vibes. But music isn’t the only thing you can listen to. Podcasts have become favorites of runners, or maybe even a newscast. All of these can and will make your run go by a lot faster!

Some songs from my 90’s/Alternative Rock Playlist

Mix Up Your Running Routes This is one that I like to do a lot. Let’s be honest here, if you are running the same route over and over again, this will get boring. I always say that running can lead you to be a sightseer whether it’s when your travelling or even in your own neighborhood. Take a look at your runs, if you’re doing the same ones over and over again, mix them up please or consider changing the length of your runs if you must use the same routes.

Track Your Runs. There are a number of running apps out on the market today that track your runs from your phone by use of GPS. I am a fan of Map My Fitness & Strava, but I must say that Strava is quickly becoming my favorite. These apps have information that keeps me wanting to come back and run again and again. One of the reasons Strava is becoming my favorite is because of all the info they give you out of just one run. They will calculate portions of your run and compare them to similar portions you have run before and tell you how you compared to those. Further Strava is quickly becoming another community but solely made up of runners, which means you can follow your friends and compare how you do. I always say numbers can tell a story and Strava’s stats tell you your story while keeping you motivated. Map My Fitness is always coming up with challenges to keep you motivated and thats part of the reason I continue to use them as well as Strava!

Just a few of the stats from Strava that keep my running interesting!

Run With A Group. This is something that I personally had not tried until this week. I’ve always run alone in my neighborhood but since creating a facebook group for the United NYC Half Marathon, I’ve met a lot of runners online in preparing for that race. Some who live close to me, and when I say close I mean New York City (lol), expressed interest in running as a group to prepare for our race in March together. I ran with the group for the first time this week. We had 6 people in the running group and it was an awesome experience. I’ve always heard that group running is fantastic but it was hard to vouch for that without a group to run with. I highly recommend that if you need a change a pace in your running, find a group or even just a friend and go for a run with them. While your chatting away, those miles will trickle by with ease!

Good chats, good friends and good running within a group!

Mix Up The Type Of Runs You Do. Running doesn’t always have to be about going out and running the same distance. As I mentioned up above, the same route can get boring but also the same type of run can get boring. I always like to get a track workout into my routine if not once a week, at least every other week. This allows me to do intervals on the track which in turn help me build my speed. Hopefully most people have a community or high school track near by that they can have access to. If so, I encourage a track work out! Other times, I like to go find a decent sized hill by me and just run up that hill 10-20 times. This will no doubt challenge you but it will be different from your usual run. Plus hill work will make you a stronger runner in general and that is always a plus when running a race! Tempo runs are also a good way to mix things up. Tempo runs involve running portions of a long run much faster than other portions. For example on a 5 mile run, running miles 1,3 & 5 easy but cranking it up for miles 2 & 4. These are just some ways you can mix up the type of runs you do.

When you look at the above, in my opinion, running can indeed be fun! Like with any other task if you do the same thing over and over again you will naturally lose interest. I’ll update this from time to time when I find new ways to keep running interesting. Want to be updated – follow my blog!! lol

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Recovery After A Half Marathon

Happy Monday morning!

In looking at my social media feeds this past weekend and even last weekend, I noticed a lot of folks completing half marathons. Yesterday I was thrilled to see so many people I know completing the NYRR Fred Lebow half marathon. The weather in NYC was perfect for a half marathon and I am hoping a lot of people achieved personal records!

There is no question that when you set out to conquer a half marathon, especially if it’s your first, adrenalin and euphoria will push you to achieve wonderful things. Running a half marathon is no easy feat and while some may think it’s something they can’t do, hard work and motivation will push you to the finish line along with the adrenalin and euphoria I mentioned before. But what about after the race? What about when your medal is hung and there are no more crowds, cow bells clanging or music playing? When it’s just you, and your sore muscles?

sorelegs

Just complete a half martathon? Listen to your muscles!

Since today is the day after a big half marathon here son New York City, I thought I would post some suggestions about half marathon recovery.

  • Hydrate and rest– Sure you drank a lot before the race and during the race but your body will still needs to replenish its liquids. You lost slot of your electrolytes during that half marathon. Therefore look for liquids that contain a lot of electrolytes. Gatorade and coconut water are perfect for this. Also, try to increase your fruit and vegetable intake, you will need the potassium that they provide. Further, your first day after a half marathon should be about rest. Unless you are an experienced runner, avoid running the first couple of days after. Your body needs to recover from the impact of 13.1 miles.
  • Diet.During these important next couple of days you will need to have a well balanced diet to fully replenish the nutrients you lost during the race. Meals that includes a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and monounsaturated fats are ideal after the in the days after a race. I like to go with roasted salmon with quinoa and garlic mashed potatoes. Coincidently, I like this before a race too! (lol) A little Greek food is always a plus for me. I enjoy some pork kabobs with cherry tomatoes and onions and a lemon cucumber dressing with rice.
foamrolling

Foam rolling is a great way to help sore muscles recover!

  • Listen to your muscles. There is no question that there will be sore muscles to deal with. Whether it’s your hamstrings, quads or calves, spoil them rotten the next couple of days. Ice them. Invest in a foam roller and massage your muscles. If you don’t want to invest in a foam roller, get a friend or loved one to simply use their hands. If you want to splurge, seek out a sports therapist or a masseuse for a deep tissue massage. Do any of the above that suits you but please don’t sit there and let your muscles ache!
  • Walk but don’t run. While running the day after is not recommended because of the impact on your legs, do go for a walk to stretch the muscles and get the blood flowing.
  • Need more to stay active? I understand that some of you just don’t like the couch or that your body just needs a workout as a mental escape from it all. I’m kind of like that myself! (lol) Go ahead and cross train in the first few days after a half marathon if you must. But if you do. work muscles you didn’t use in your half marathon. Stick to upper body work or something that is low impact on your legs. I find yoga can aide in flexibility right after a half or full marathon. Also if you can gain access to a pool, running or walking in a pool is really helpful. Cool water helps muscles recover and there is zero impact on your legs in the pool.
  • Running again I know, you just crushed a half marathon and you want to run again. I would hold off on any running until about day 3 after your race. If you recall in the last week or 2 before your half marathon, most people tapered their miles and ran less. If you were training at 10-13 miles, you reduced your runs to much less mileage. Well now after your half, my approach is to “reverse taper“. Go very short on your first run. 2-3 miles is ideal. As you progress over the next two weeks, keep “reverse tapering” and increase your mileage to 4-5 miles then 6-7 miles until you are back in your routine. The idea is to ease your legs back into the running routine while they recover.

Keep in mind that the above are just suggested ideas that can help you recover after a half marathon. These have worked for me in the past as well as others I know. Thankfully, I have never seen any long term effects of injury after a half marathon. However if you have pain, not just soreness, after your half marathon, seek a professional doctor’s advice. In a couple of weeks it is normal to have soreness but definitely not pain. The most important thing is to listen to your body and respond to it with the appropriate treatment. I cannot stress how important this is.

But lets think positive! If all goes well and you recover well and get back into running, don’t be afraid to put that next race on your calendar! Remember complacency can work against you. If you are pleased with your first half marathon results, make a goal to run faster and most importantly a smarter race. We can always improve. Challenge yourself, because the challenges you present yourself will reward you. Comfort never rewarded anyone!

Congratulations to everyone out there that recently completed a half or a full marathon!

Don’t be afraid to plan for your next big race!