Posts Tagged ‘half marathon


Race Report: 2011 NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon

Throughout the year the New York Road Runners hold a series of six half marathons (seven if you’re a lady) — The NYRR Half Marathon Series consisting of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island Half Marathons, Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, and the More Half Marathon also in Central Park (I don’t include the NYC Half Marathon because so few local runners get a chance to run it). In my mind the Half Marathon Series is better than the other two and the king of the Half Marathon Series is the Brooklyn Half Marathon (there’s a NYC pun in there…). Manhattan takes place in January, so you might freeze. Bronx and Queens are in the summer, so you’re probably going to bake. There could be good weather for Staten Island, but honestly, I’ve never really wanted to go there. The Brooklyn Half held in May is at an ideal time on a good course — twice around Prospect Park then down Ocean Parkway to the Coney Island Boardwalk. Sounds exciting, right? It is!

Unfortunately, there are some crappy aspects of this. First, it’s in Brooklyn, which even on good days mean that it’s going to take two hours of trains to make it there. However, even worse, the race started at 7am and baggage cutoff was supposed to be around 6:20am (in reality it was 6:40am). This meant I either needed to crash on a friends couch in the city and get up at 4am to make it to the race in time, or suck it up and get up at 3:30am and drive to Coney Island, park there, and take the subway to Prospect Park. It gets even better with the F train not running, which meant it was the day for a Q train. Ughh.

Nonetheless after going to bed at 10:30 last night I woke up a little past 3am ready to get in my car and drive the hour plus to Coney Island. I really don’t like driving and don’t consider myself to be good at it. I’m pretty sure the 45 miles from here to Coney Island is the furthest I’ve driven in the NYC area in almost a year. The fog had started to move in by the time that I arrived at Coney Island giving a bit of a surreal feel with the little bit of neon on at 5am. By the time I arrived in Prospect Park 5:45am the sun was starting peek through and there were signs that the fog would be gone soon.

Prospect Park Lake Shortly Before the Race

Prospect Park Lake Shortly Before the Race

The route seemed pretty straight-forward. Twice around the park, including the hill on the north side of the park, then a long straight run to a finish on the boardwalk. I had told myself that my goal was going to be 8 minute miles. As usual, I had no idea how fast I did my first mile because it was a little bit more than a minute before I crossed the starting line. The clock was somewhere around 9:15. For the rest of the race I would spend each mile thinking through what my next mile would have to end at to make me have an 8 minute mile. I failed for the next twelve mile markers. There were a few times, such as when I came out of the park toward Mile 8 when I thought I had it, but then I realized I was actually closer to a seven minute mile.

This race was made of three different parts. First was the two loops around Prospect Park, which was very enjoyable. I love running in Prospect Park, it has nice hills to keep it more interesting, beautiful scenery, is quiet, and, perhaps most importantly, lacks the mobs of tourists wandering about. Although the hills make me slower, I can tell that living at the top of a large hill has dramatically improved my hill running and made it significantly less painful. The second part was a straight shot for five miles down Ocean Parkway. While it seems like this would be a great chance to get to know Brooklyn, it’s not like the NYC marathon. The side roads along Ocean Parkway provide a strong buffer from the communities you run through. Also, running on a nearly perfectly straight road for five miles is horribly boring. Especially when it’s so wide and isolated as Ocean Parkway. Finally, we turned onto Surf Avenue and quickly headed over to the Coney Island Boardwalk.

I had thought the boardwalk would be this wonderful place to finish a race, and from a scenic point of view it was a simply wonderful place to end a race. But from a footing point of view it was a nightmare. The way the boardwalk gave inconsistently and how some boards were incredibly loose or had enormous screws sticking out. As it had been raining for most of the past week in New York the boardwalk was still moist in some spots which made for horrible traction. A great spot to end a race, but let’s face it, if you’re going to run a lot on a boardwalk you’re not aiming to set a PR for that span.

The Awesome Finish Line for the Brooklyn Half

The Awesome Finish Line for the Brooklyn Half

As I wrote earlier, I was originally aiming for 8 minute miles. This would put me slightly slower than my PR set at the 2010 NYC Half Marathon, but still very respectable. I realized after about four miles that I was on a PR pace and not only that I didn’t feel like I was running really hard. I’m certain I could have run harder, but hey, it’s supposed to be an off week.

Pace and Elevation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Pace and Elevation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn Half Marathon Splits

Brooklyn Half Marathon Splits

That’s right, not a single mile was at my goal pace. This is exciting on some levels, but also horribly disappointing. It means that I’m far too stupid to properly set and run a pace. On the bright side, I felt just fine at the end of the race. I had the usual case of no appetite after a race and was tired, but that was much more because of getting up at that god-forsaken hour this morning. When I crossed the finish line, just like last week, my clock time was better than PR. So the question was by how much?

2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon Results

2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon Results

I wish I had known that I was so close to breaking 1:40. I’m certain that I could have kicked in a bit more over the last few miles and broken it. None the less, I am extremely pleased with my time and it portends well for running a good race in Chicago this fall.

Keep Running.


Race Report: 2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon

Winter starts early and ends late in Minnesota. Snow can remain on the ground from the beginning of October until the end of April. For those of you keeping score, that’s seven months out of the year. Thus, it’s natural that once Minnesotans get a taste of Spring they want to drink it up for all that it’s worth. This is the premise behind the Get In Gear 10k, 5k, 2k, and Half Marathon.

Apparently this event has been held for more than 30 years. Although I grew up in Minnesota, I didn’t start running until I had lived away from Minnesota for more than ten years, therefore I never had any knowledge of this “Rite of Spring” in Minneapolis. Three years ago Get In Gear added a half marathon to the existing 5k and 10k, and while it’s a good size event with about 1000 finishers, you still feel a little lost in a sea of 1800 5k runners and 3100 10k runners. What’s more, the 10k and Half Marathon start at the same time and share the same course for the first 4.8 or so miles. This gives you a bit of a big race feel even in a medium sized half marathon.

Looking at my training schedule for Grandma’s Marathon I saw that I was supposed to run 10M on Saturday and 20M on Sunday. I had a greet week of training before this and decided to do the half marathon and then run the seven miles home. I figured I could manage this because I wasn’t necessarily “racing” this race, rather I was running with my Grandma’s Marathon partner and attempting to keep our Marathon pace of around 9min/mi. Or, as she put it, we wanted to beat Mutai’s 2:03:02 Boston Marathon time for our half marathon.

What we didn’t anticipate when we signed up was that it was going to be about 50°F and a steady rain during the entire race. Thankfully the event had access to the shelter where we and thousands of other runners could cower while we waited for the race to start. About 10 minutes before the start we squeezed way to the starting line and ungraciously budded up to a point where we felt that most of the really casual runners would be behind us. The rain and wind picked up as someone sang a nearly inaudible rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. The horn went off and we started to run. The course started on a nice wide stretch so there wasn’t any of the silly run-walk-run-walk that comes with most over-enrolled races. About 400m we ran under a wide overpass and got a taste of music — either “Blue” by Eiffel 65, or “Fuck You” by Cee-Lo Green. Things were shaping up nicely…Unfortunately, because of the rain this was going to be the only music during the race. 13.1 miles with me muttering the lyrics to “Fuck You” the whole way. My running partner apparently had less profane tastes and had “Blue” stuck in her head.

As stated beforehand, our goal was to maintain a constant pace for the race. Somewhere right around 9min/mi. Yes, this is much slower than I can run in a half-marathon, but it would be good practice for Grandmas. Most mile markers had someone shouting off the time, unfortunately, often times you only heard the seconds which made it difficult to tell your exact time. Luckily clocks were provided at 4mi and 10mi. We estimated that we were running pretty close to our goal, despite the nasty rain.

A little after mile 4 the thousands of 10k runners veered back over the Ford Parkway bridge to the finish while we began our long out and back portion of the course. Despite being an out and back for the next eight miles, it was gorgeous scenery. Yeah, we lost nearly all of the fans except for a few die hard locals who lived on the street and drug their kids out at 10am in the rain to cheer on runners (mad props for that, that was AWESOME), but the bigger highlight was the river. The entire distance was running above the mighty Mississippi with the beautiful tree lined bluffs in Minneapolis on the opposite side of the river. It was quiet, but not rural race quiet. Just the right level of noise to keep you going.

The turnaround was around mile 9 and wasn’t the best. Because it was a true 13.1 course it went over a grass…err…mud median in the middle of the road. If I hadn’t already gone through dozens of puddles I might have been annoyed, but one of the great things about not racing and just running is that small things don’t bother you as much. The rest stops during this section of the course were great with folks handing out GU packets. I’m a little torn on this. During a half marathon I don’t need a GU packet and normally don’t need much water, so it’s nice that they were handing them out and I grabbed one, but didn’t open it, the first time we passed the aid station. The second time we passed the aid station they were helpfully opening the GU packs, which is great for runners, but bad if you just want to hoard the packs.

Around mile 11 my running partner managed to find some extra legs inside of her and push us forward as we climbed the last set of hills toward the Ford Parkway bridge and back across the Mississippi to Minnehaha Falls Park. At mile 12 we really kicked it into gear as the wind and rain kicked up on the bridge. We managed to cross the line at 1:55:43.

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Results
Distance Time Pace Overall Place Division Place Sex Place People Passed Passed By
13.1 Miles 1:55:43 8:50/mi 397/1030 87/141 280/494 29 4
10 miles 1:29:25 8:56/mi 438/1037 97/142 303/499 25 60
4 miles 35:41 8:55/mi

438/1036 93/142 296/495 299 100

A couple of words on the results: first, they look a little rubbish because enjoys stripping out all my CSS. Arghhh! Second: I’m not certain what is up with the numbers when it comes to people passed and passed by. According to the results between mile 4 and mile 10 I should have fallen 35 places back, but my overall place remained the same. I’m not certain what to make about this. It’s helpful that MTEC provides this information, but the numbers just don’t add up. And now, back to chatter about our pace.

For most of the race we had a conversation going, so I had no idea about how our splits were recorded in RunKeeper. I feel happy that I’m finally getting to the point where I know what a 9min/mi pace feels like. While these cant be considered to be exact, they show that almost all of our miles were under 9min/mi and that we certainly got some kick for the last part of the race. It looked even better when I looked at the pace/elevation graph.

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Splits

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Splits

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Pace and Elevation

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Pace and Elevation -- That Flat Line is Nice!

Post race there was an enormous amount of food and beverage, including lots of chocolate milk, thanks to a new sponsor DynaMoo, a purveyor of chocolate milk that is pastuerized in a special way such that it doesn’t require refrigeration. My running partner was so high on endorphins after the race that I’m pretty sure we’ll appear in some propaganda for them. The food tent was quite a distance away from the finish line, and it was now raining very hard and I felt very cold. I don’t think I would have found it if we didn’t run into some 5kers who told us about it and all the goodies (Clif Bars, Salted Nut Rolls, Bagel Bites, Bananas, Yogurt, Popsicles, Yum!).

At this point I decided that even though I was supposed to go 20 in the rain it wasn’t going to happen. I hopped back on the shuttle bus and got a ride back with my running partner and took a nice long hot shower.

This was a GREAT event. It was extremely well managed and despite the miserable weather the people, both runners and volunteers, did a great job. I was impressed with the knowledge of the runners about how to run a race course — of course that might be one of the differences between doing a 5k and a half marathon. No silly walkers at the front of the line, no groups eight abreast running. Race staff provided clear instructions and excellent support. It really was a top notch event for what is still early spring in Minnesota.

My Bib and Medal from the 2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon

My Bib and Medal from the 2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon

Keep running!


2010 NYC Half Marathon

Sunday morning was a beautiful day for running. Starting about 6am more than 11,000 runners filed into Central Park from the Upper East Side in anticipation of the 2010 NYC Half Marathon.  First up was about eight miles in Central Park, followed by jaunt through Times Square, west on 42nd St, and finally down the west side highway to the finish down in Battery Park City. I try not to set many goals for races because I usually disappoint myself – today was different. My goal was 1:45:59, enough to get me into the C corral for the Chicago Marathon. My previous best was 1:48:26.

This was my first time running the NYC Half and I was more than slightly disappointed with my bib number, 15164.  In the Marathon that would be a great bib number, but for this it meant that I was in the back of the corrals.  Literally, the very last group to cross the starting line.  They didn’t even have anything corral like set up for us in the back, just a line in the road we were told to stand behind.  A little chatting with other people revealed that it looked like number assignment for these lottery winners was done alphabetically. Yet another part of the agony of having a last name near the end of the alphabet.

We had no idea when the race actually started. We couldn’t hear any of the announcements because no speakers were run that far back.  Looking at a map we were around a half a mile from the start of the race.  Finally, the race started and we began the slow march to the start. At around 17:35 I finally crossed the starting line, ready to run…right into groups of walkers three and four abreast.  Running around Central Park was much more like going rock climbing than running.  I was constantly looking around to try and find gaps in runners so I could pass people.  Often times I’d try to dart ahead only to have a gap close. I try not to be a dick when I run, but sometimes you just need to cut through a group of six runners doing 12 minute miles in a wall across the course.

My first mile was about 10 minutes. I began to get disheartened. If the race stayed like this I would have little chance of making the C corral in Chicago. My time slowly picked up, but it was mentally exhausting. The entire time I was looking around for holes and trying to dart into them. Periodically I risked my ankles by jumping up on the curb and taking a few steps to go around people. I’m certain people perceived me as being a jerk, but hey, it’s not my fault my last name starts with W.

As we continued around the first loop I heard them clearing runners out of the way for the lead runners who were finishing the eight miles in the park at their blistering paces.  I must have been just ahead of this group because they never lapped me, but they came really close.  To be fair, I’d imagine that a 17 minute head start gave them an edge on me.

My 5k time was around 27 minutes.  Ouch.  I can’t be entirely certain of the exact time because I didn’t get a split for it as they had already deactivated the sensor for the lead runners on my tail. Looking at the overall stats it looks like a lot of people missed that split.  Luckily, by this point the roads were opening up some.  I took advantage of my hill training and was able to blast up and down the hills as we approached Harlem and had my first 10k at 50:14 (I had no idea of the exact time during the race, however).  My goal seemed doable, but still a stretch.  The park roads get narrow and crowded, especially as we climbed the hill around the Lasker Rink.  I was still passing people left and right and almost never getting passed, partially because if you start out in the back it means all the faster people are already ahead of you.

The turn out of the park was tight and narrow, but it was nice to see fans there. Then everything changed, out of the serene park and down 7th avenue into Times Square.  The entire road was closed for runners, this gave us a huge amount of space to run and provided a great opportunity to pass lots of people as I cruised down the east side of the road. By the time I reached the core of Times Square many of the fans had already left. The singalong was a little disappointing, they were playing a song I hardly knew and not many fans were singing.  Where’s “Sweet Caroline” or “American Pie” when you need them?   New Yorkers act all hard core, but they couldn’t have stuck around singing songs for another 20 minutes?  Sheesh.

Rounding the corner to 42nd St were were packed in the north half of the street.  The road was pretty pitted to which made running a bit more interesting. Down to the West Side Highway and then north for a little bit to 44th St.  Here we hit a headwind. It was actually a relief because it meant a tailwind for the end of the race and blew off some of the sweat from my brow.  Runkeeper told me my times were also doing quite well. I was running what I thought to be about a 1:46 pace. Rather than thinking about how to pass runners I was now obsessed with mentally calculating my pace and given scenarios.

The West Side Highway is actually a pretty boring run.  Who really wants to look at New Jersey?  Fans lined most of the road, which made the race easier for me. As we approached 20k my legs began to ache. I managed to summon the strength to cross the finish line strong just as the official time was crossing 2 hours 1 minute.  I began to second guess myself about what time I crossed the starting line.  What if I didn’t make it under 1:45:59?  Would I blame my poor starting position?  Would I sign up for another half in an attempt to break the 1:45:59 barrier? I was tired, but not completely exhausted. I think I could have done better, but I felt satisfied knowing that at worst I PR’d on the race.  Lots of smiles at the finish from hundred of other people who achieved PR’s too.

I got my finishers medal, the little thermal blanket, which was very welcome in the shade of Battery Park City, and my finishers bag.  I tried to find the celebration and raffles, but couldn’t.  Finally, I wandered back over to the east side of Manhattan to catch the train to Grand Central and another train back home.  Waiting on the train at Grand Central I hit up NYRR’s results website. 1:43:44.  2308 out of 11439 — close to the top 20% of runners in the race.  I was feeling pretty good. It was a great day for a race.

1:43:44 and 2308th out of 11493

1:43:44 and 2308th out of 11493


2010 New York Road Runners Manhattan Half Marathon

When I laid out my 2010 running goals I said that I wanted to run in two different half marathons this year and have at least one of those half marathons with a sub 1:50:00 time.  At the time I made the post, I was unaware of the New York Road Runners Manhattan Half Marathon — two and a half gruelling laps up and down the hills of Central Park at the end of January.  Naturally, I registered for the race.

It was brisk this morning, but not cold.  The air was about 35 degrees, cold enough that most people were wearing tights, gloves, and hats.  I warmed up by running to the starting line around West 62nd St at about a 10 minute/mile pace.  As usual, the NYRR staff were on the ball on made it incredibly easy to get started with the race.  I found my corral, which was a bit further back than normal due to the larger number of runners in this race, about 5500.

Although my training runs have been floating around 8:10/mi for runs around 7 miles, I felt like I wanted to take this run a bit easier.  I knew I couldn’t overrun and spend the rest of the day in bed.  Also, Central Park is tough, there’s a nasty hill on the northwest side of the park that I dreaded climbing twice.  I set my goal to finish under 2 hours.  The 1:50:00 goal would wait for another race that wasn’t so bad.

I got into my corral, turned on RunKeeper, and prepared myself for a leisurely couple of laps around the park.  My first mile was slow, about 9 minutes, largely because of the large number of runners in the park.  After that point I was able to pick up the pace some.  Familiarity with the park definitely helped out.  I’ve run enough around Central Park that I know every turn and hill in the park.

As I continued I kept up a good pace and RunKeeper dutifully chatted in my ear once every five minutes to let me know my approximate time, distance, and pace.  10:02, 9:25, 8:50, 8:40, 8:35, 8:30.  I was now at considerably under my 2:00:00 overall pace and feeling great.  I decided to try and stick with that pace.  But I was feeling great.  My pace hovered around 8:30, but then began to drop some more.  Even on tough miles, like mile 10 which faced the dreaded hill, I continued to do well.  In the end I crossed the finish line at 1:48:26, an 8:16 min/mi.

Split Times for Manhattan Half Marathon

RunKeeper Estimated Splits for the Manhattan Half Marathon. The Big Hill was Mile 4 and Mile 10.

The race was great.  A completely unexpected find, and even more unexpected that I would do so well.  Two weeks ago I had my first race with a sub 8 minute overall pace, and today I ran an unexpected half marathon and finished faster than I thought I could.  Interesting things await for the NYC Half Marathon in March.  It’s a considerably easier course with considerably more people.  Should I push down to 1:45?  I think I should.

Pace, Elevation, and Distance for the Manhattan Half Marathon

Pace, Elevation, and Distance for the Manhattan Half Marathon

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Marathon Times

2011 NYC Marathon3:57:45
2011 Hartford Marathon3:58:17
2011 Chicago Marathon4:20:16
2011 Grandma's Marathon4:07:43
2010 Big Sur International Marathon4:22:49
2009 NYC Marathon4:37:05
2009 Twin Cities Marathon4:43:28
2009 Pittsburgh Marathon4:14:38
2008 Erie Marathon5:11:40

Upcoming Races

  • Nov 6 - New York City Marathon, New York, NY
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