Well, it turns out that last weekend's race was in fact the slowest of the 4 half-marathons I've run this year. While I was disappointed in my finishing time I'm really glad I ran the race. Running down Seventh Avenue from Central Park to 42nd Street - with the entire avenue blocked off on both sides and relatively full of spectators - was the coolest running moment I've ever had. Pictured below, courtesy of NYRR, is a view looking up Seventh; not as dramatic as the view I had looking south to Times Square and beyond, but it gives you a sense of what it was like.
There was a brief period of time Sunday morning where I wondered if (hoped that?!?) the race would be cancelled due to some pretty impressive thunderstorms in the area. By the time I left our apartment at 6:15 the rain had slowed to a drizzle and the big thunder and lightning had moved out. After the storms departed we were left with....hot and humid. The NYRR stats page on the race says 70 degrees and 90% humidity, but it sure felt worse than that.
The race was well-organized, as are all of the NYRR races. There were a ton of volunteers guiding the 10,000+ runners into their starting corrals on the east side of Central Park. This race had the most participants of any I've run in this year, so it was interesting to see the logistics as a preview of what Chicago might look like with 35,000 or so runners. All I can say is I hope there are a LOT of porta-potties. The picture below (also courtesy of NYRR) will give you a sense of the number of runners involved:
After taking care of business and the usual pre-race festivities (in this case the national anthem, the declaration of the day as NYC Half-marathon today by the deputy mayor, various announcements (wet grates are not your friend, warnings to take it easy given the heat and humidity, etc.). The move up to the starting line was very orderly and we were actually running at pretty much full pace by the time we got to the starting line.
The first seven and a half miles were in Central Park - a full clockwise loop from 85th Street on the east side and then from the starting line down to Central Park South and Seventh Avenue. The park portion was pretty much what you'd expect - hilly. I had to make a quick pit stop during mile 3 or so (fortunately I've never had to make a 'long' pit stop during a race). My time wasn't so bad, but I was already feeling quite hot by the time I left the park
As mentioned above, the portion of the race going down Seventh Avenue through Times Square and then west on 42nd Street to the West Side Highway was really cool and made it relatively easy to ignore my discomfort. I actually took off my headphones as I left the park to listen to the cheering and the bands along the next couple of miles of the course. I never found the promised misting stations, but one of the aid stations was handing out sponges soaked in ice-cold water. Very nice.
The last four miles down the West Side Highway were a real slog. While the terrain wasn't as mind-numbingly boring as the trip up the Ocean Parkway in the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, it wasn't all that exciting either. At this point in the race I was feeling so used up that I walked at each water station - which seems to show up very frequently - drinking a full cup of water and pouring another on my head to cool off. Other than chatting a bit with a woman wearing Texas flag running shorts (she was from Austin), I spent most of my time willing myself not to walk other than at the water stations. While the last few miles felt really, really slow, in the end I never ran a mile at slower than a 9.9 minute/mile pace (with the exception of the mile in the park with the pit stop)....but, that said, it only takes 15 extra seconds per mile (not so much) to add 3+ minutes to your total time. Ultimately, the difference between my best race (Brooklyn, at 1:54:02) and my slowest (this race, at 2:02:42) is about 40 seconds per mile.
On crossing the finish line we were greeted with ice cold towels and the medal pictured below.
As silly as it may sound, it was incredibly gratifying and emotional to get the medal. I've had this wave of emotion at the end of three of the four half-marathons that I've done - which I think is a combination of relief, satisfaction, pride, and exhaustion all mixed together. I can only imagine what it will feel like at the end of 26.2 in October.
I've thought a lot this week about the results, my performance, what I could have done differently, etc., and I'll be back to you soon to share some thoughts on all that and some lessons learned.