Patiently waiting in the 30 degree weather to start (and this is just part of wave 2!) Action shot! This was the Times Square portion and I was so excited to see my family! (Downtown had also just come on via shuffle, the perfect song) 🙂
Yesterday I did something I never dreamed was possible: I ran a half marathon. Not just any half marathon, the NYC Half marathon that goes through Central Park, down the West Side Highway, and finishes on Water Street in the Financial District.
My decision to run this race was sort of spur of the moment. After watching runners pass mile 25 during the NYC marathon last fall, I was feeling really inspired. So inspired that I said to myself “I want to do that someday.” At this point in time I had built up my running ability to the point that I was able to semi-comfortably run 6 miles without any official training plan. That alone was a pretty huge accomplishment for me because years ago I HATED running. Come end of the year and I decide what the heck, let me enter the lottery for the NYC Half, I mean they’re never going to pick me right?! Sure enough a few weeks later I see a charge on my credit card and things got real. After spending soo much money, sigh, on quality winter running gear (which was TOTALLY worth it!!), I started my 12 week training plan 2 days after Christmas.
Fast forward 3 months and past lots of both good and bad runs, and it’s me on Saturday night super antsy and nervous. I managed to actually get a good sleep that night despite being really anxious. The morning of the race was so cool. I left my apartment at about 6:30am after eating my usual bowl of oatmeal and blueberries an hour before and I immediately saw a couple walking across the street towards the subway dressed in running gear. It was still pitch black outside and for some reason seeing other runners out so early to head to the race really got me excited. And when I got on the subway it was just full of runners! Never have I felt so connected to other people on the train, haha.
A couple stops later all the runners exit so I follow suit (even though I thought I was supposed to keep going 1 more stop, nope!). As soon as I reach the top of the subway stairs all I see is runners coming in literally all directions heading towards security. Some people were even running because the bag check was closing in 10 minutes (luckily, since I live in NYC and my family came to support me I had no need to check a bag). It was pretty cold, but the windbreaker pants and old Vancouver Olympics track jacket I picked up at Goodwill the day before kept me pretty warm. The entire walk through security and to my corral was just really amazing. I had been to that part of Central Park a million times before, but I had never felt the sense of belonging and excitement that I felt in those moments. Like I just looked around at everything with a smile on my face, slowly breathing in an out to attempt to keep myself calm.
After making a pit stop at the GIANT WALL of porta-potties, I headed over to my corral to await the start. I must have stood there for a good 45 minutes, even though I arrived to Central Park 20 minutes after the recommended time. I talked to some women around me, 2 in their 40s and 2 in their 60s. All of them had run halfs before and were excited for me that it was my first race. They asked if I had a goal in mind, and even though I did (I really wanted to get as close to 2:00 as possible), I told them the truth: that I had a goal in mind but I was trying to forget about it and just finish/have fun since it’s my first race. Once the gun went off for wave 2 (my wave), it still took about 20 minutes before we got going. Once I could see the start I zipped off my $14 sweatshirt and threw it across the metal railing. When we were about 200 meters from the start the volunteers were yelling at us “GO! GO! GO!” and I was like “OH! OK!” so I started MapMyRun a good 20 seconds before even passing the starting line, haha! They were really trying to get people going, which makes sense because they had close to 20k people to get past that starting line!
At mile 1 I REALLY tried to take it easy since runners say the most common mistake you can make it letting the adrenaline get to you and starting way too fast. Well, come 1 mile later and map my run tells me my pace is 10:01!!!! (I had been training at a 8:45-9:30 pace so this is NOT where I wanted to be LOL). I kicked things into gear after that and past the first hill saw a giant yellow sign with my name on it! I knew this was the sign my parents made for me, but they weren’t supposed to be at this part of the race according to the plan we laid out the night before. Seeing them was AWESOME and I ran over will a smile on my face and I felt ready to go.
By the time we reached the 5k mark in Harlem I couldn’t believe we were already 3 miles in. This was also at the start of Harlem Hill. I had read that people start to walk here, but I didn’t believe it because I was like: that’s only 3 miles in!! But sure enough a handful of people starting walking up the hill. Granted it is very steep, but I had trained on this hill multiple times and my body new exactly how to handle it. I passed some people with ease, and I knew I could recover on the following rolling hills. Shout-out to the people who were cheering on Harlem Hill, it was great!
The rest of the Central Park run wasn’t too exciting since this was literally where I did all my training. I did pass a good number of people and tried to choose others to keep pace with. By the time we were nearing the exit of the park at mile 6 I was beginning to feel a little tired, but man did that changed as soon as we stepped onto the street that was shaded from the tall buildings.
Running down through Times Square was like nothing I’ve ever done before. There were so many people cheering and I was literally smiling the entire time. I totally forgot the fact that I had already run 6 miles and I felt like I was flying. Then I approached 50th street where I knew my family was waiting and ran by with my arms in the air, full smile, and blowing kisses. IT WAS SOOOOO FUN!!! Ugh, I want to run this race again just to experience that section one more time. I seriously almost unplugged my music to take my phone out of my pocket and snap some pictures because WOW.
Turning right to head towards the West Side Highway didn’t bring as much wind as expected (though there were 2 or 3 gusts that felt like they were pushing me back a bit), but running on down the West Side Highway was a huge mental challenge. 4-5 miles of just straight flat road when you’re approaching miles 9,10,11,12 is pretty rough. There wasn’t a lot to distract me from realizing that I was running a half marathon, and there weren’t too many cheerers along the way. It seemed like it was taking FOREVER to reach the Freedom Tower. I knew I had to pass it to finish the race but I swear it took forever to get there.
Once we reached the underpass for Battery Park, people starting yelling “WOOOO” in the tunnel and it was pretty fun with all the echos. It was the little kick that I needed to pick it up. Upon exiting the tunnel there was a small hill, which was brutal, then we were greeting by a sign that said 400m to the finish. By this time my tracking app had already told me I passed 13 miles about 5 minutes ago so I was exhausted and annoyed, especially because I’m terrible at estimating distances and although I knew 400m wasn’t super long, I really wasn’t sure how much longer it would be. UNTIL I TURNED THE CORNER AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD THERE WAS THE FINISH LINE!! (At this point Beast by Tungebaag & Raaban came out which really made me feel like a best lol.) I really have zero idea where it came from, but when I saw that finish line, I also saw my family and my boyfriend, and my body went into hyper gear. I sprinted the rest of the distance and passed at least 20 people along the way to the glorious finish line. I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything. Then to top it off, I got a medal, which in my state of euphoria I had totally forgotten about!! I wore that medal for the rest of the day because obviously.
After walking what felt like a long distance past all the bag check claims and people handing out toasty foil blankets (I love my blanket and am keeping it as a souvenir 🙂 ) I was finally reunited with my family and we took many, many pictures because this is just not something you want to forget. To say I’ve been bitten by the running bug is an understatement. As I was running on mile 11 along the highway, I though to myself “never again.” As soon as I saw the finish line and flew right through it, I immediately wanted to do it again and again. While writing this I am a total of 1 day post race and I’ve already registered for 3 more races which qualify me for guaranteed entry to next year’s NYC half. I am soo looking forward to a long year of running! 🙂