Unless you’re a pro runner with some writing chops, who runs in exotic locales against the best runners in the world, like Dakota Jones, or Sabrina Moran, odds are your race report is tedious and uninteresting to just about everyone but you. Your mom may say she enjoyed reading it, but she’s lying.
Still, race reports serve a purpose. By setting down the details of what happened, we can assess what went right, and what went wrong. We can learn, and hopefully, we can improve. This is of little consolation to the reader (who should probably just stop here), but it can be of help to the writer.
And so, here’s my dull, boring, and not very good race report for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.
In a nutshell, it wasn’t a bad race, but it wasn’t a great one, either. I’d trained as best I could given a gimpy foot and a five-month-old baby. I averaged around twenty miles a week for the two months leading up to the race focusing on miles, not speed. I got in a half dozen thirteen-mile runs, but did no speed work. I choose to focus on miles because speed work often results in me getting injured. And this year, more than any racing goal, I wish to remain injury free.
I started the race with good pal Joe. Joe’s an old friend and fellow aging amateur jock. He and I took totally different approaches to our training. He ran, I think, one 13 miler in the lead up to the race and did very few runs in double digits. He did, however, do much more speed training than I did. I was worried he was going to blow up at the end. I was wrong.
We took the first half easy. We cruised down Washington, up Flatbush, around Grand Army Plaza and back down Flatbush at a comfortable 8:30ish pace chatting about running, getting old, and the changes we’ve seen in the County of Kings. Joe and I have both lived in Brooklyn for the better part of fifteen years and it is hard to imagine the Washington Avenue of 2000 playing host to 20,000 runners. In some ways, I miss the old days, the old Brooklyn of cheap rent, danger, and diversity; in other ways, I don’t. Its great to see Brooklyn celebrated by such a huge crowd of runners, but its important to remember all the people who can no longer afford to live here or run in some dumb ass race.
Still, it was 8 am on a Saturday morning and Brooklyn was glorious. The crowds for this race are never big, but those who came out were great: conga drum players, weirdos with ukuleles, and dozens of members of my running club, Prospect Park Track Club. After we’d entered Prospect Park, an older PPTC member shouted at us “PPTC! Go Get ‘Em! This is Your Park!”
And it is; and we did. We dropped the pace to low 8s as we circled the Park and headed out onto Ocean Parkway at mile seven.
This is the second year in a row I’ve run this race. Last year, I went out much faster, at just under 8 minutes per mile. By the time I hit Ocean Parkway, I was barely holding on to 8-minute miles. This year, I felt fresh and ready to go at the same pace at the same place in the race. I couldn’t tell if I was running smart, or too conservative.
One day, I’ll figure this whole racing thing out, but this wasn’t that day.
Somewhere around the 8-mile mark, Joe dropped me. He was feeling strong and picked it up. He ran low sevens and a high six* for the last part of the course. I just didn’t have that extra gear. I got the pace down to high 7s, but didn’t have the legs for anything faster. I finished feeling strong, but not fast, in a time of 1:49:08. Joe finished in 1:45 something.
So, what went wrong? Why did someone who ran significantly less mileage than me beat me so handily? There’s probably a bunch of reasons: Little Dude was up half the night and I started the race exhausted; my foot has been giving me some problems; I’m older. Etc, etc, etc. To me these sound more like excuses than reasons. They’re also all factors I cannot control. The one factor I can control? Speed work. Joe did much more of it than I did and it appears to have paid off.
Lesson learned. If you want to run fast, you have to train for fast. It isn’t like this is new information, but seeing Joe pull away really put it in stark relief. This next cycle of training will include consistent mileage, hopefully more than the last cycle. However, just as importantly, it will include regular speed work. In the past, I’ve gotten hurt doing speed work, especially short intervals, so I plan to stick to hill work and tempo runs. No need for 400 repeats when the distance I’m focusing on is 13.1 miles.
After the race we gathered with our partners and my kid for a celebratory beer. As the loser, I was buying. We’re already looking at some fall halfs — Joe will be buying the beer then.
* One of the great things about training now-a-days is the ability to slice and dice not only your own running data, but also that of your training partners and friends. Joe and I both use Strava and it was easy to consult his log when writing this thing up.