I ran an actual honest to god race a couple of weeks ago. It hurt, but in a good way. It wasn’t the best race of my life, but it was better than expected.
In the last couple of years, the Brooklyn Half Marathon has gone from a sleepy outer borough race with a few thousand participants to a huge, twenty thousand strong, spectacle. The Brooklyn renaissance raises all ships, including New York Road Runners which made a huge effort to promote this race, and its part in bringing business to Coney Island. Along with the size of the race, New York Road Runners has changed the course of the race — but don’t worry, it’s still kind of dull. This year, the race started on Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, ran down Washington to Empire Boulevard, over to Flatbush Avenue, up the Flatbush hill to Grand Army Plaza, a loop around the Plaza, back down Flatbush, then a loop through Prospect Park and out Ocean Parkway to Coney Island where you finished with a hundred yard section of the newly rebuilt board walk.
I have run every inch of this course before, some of it many times. I’ve done hundreds of runs through Grand Army Plaza, and thousands of miles in Prospect Park. This was my home turf. I wanted to do well. But what is “well” for a guy who has struggled all winter to get in the miles? When I work up at five thirty in the morning, I wasn’t sure. And when the gun went off at seven a.m., I didn’t have much of a race plan. A friend from my running club asked me what my goal was at the start – I said I hadn’t a clue. I knew I’d take it easy through the first couple of miles, see how I was feeling in the park, and take it from there. Not very well thought out, I know.
Those first miles were easy and peaceful. I cruised along at about an eight minute pace. Though the New York Marathon brings out crowds in the hundreds of thousands, I think all total there were probably about a thousand spectators for this race. That was fine with me. fewer people screaming meant I wasn’t feeling as pushed by the crowd to pick up the pace.
It was easy to run my own race, not worrying about the splits. I tried to run by effort and enjoy the small pleasure of running through my neighborhood with twenty thousand other people. Soon, we were at the six mile mark and I was hearing some cheers from my teammates in the Prospect Park Track Club. I looked down at my watch, did some quick math, and thought, if I can keep the pace right around eight minutes, I might just PR.
So that’s what I set out to do. I broke the race down into small bit. I told myself to hold the pace for just the next five minutes, the next half mile, the next mile, getting stride by stride closer to the finish. It hurt, but I tried to keep at it.
Unfortunately, willpower didn’t make up for under training and I let the pace creep up a little bit closer to 8:30 at the end. I crossed the line in 1:47:11, forty six seconds shy of a P.R.
This was actually a better performance than I was expecting. My fitness isn’t as bad as I thought. There is still hope for a fall marathon PR. Now the real work begins (again). I know where I stand and I know where I need to go. Time to execute.
Postscript – After the race I went to bachelor party that started at one p.m. and went until three in the morning. For those keep track at home, that’s a 22 hour day. One hour and forty seven minutes of it spent running; fourteen hours spent carousing. Needless to say, I felt like death the next day.