This was an awesome race! My goal was to start conservatively, speed up outside of the park, and run around a 10:30 pace. Mission: ACCOMPLISHED! Out of four half marathons, it's my second-best. :D
First, we had to get to NYC. NJ Transit is normally convenient and reliable for me, but it hated Aud and me this weekend. After 45 minutes sitting on a still train with a system-wide power outage, getting dropped off at another station, ten minutes watching three cops run up and down the train aisles with no explanation, we got moving and arrived in the city only two hours later than planned.
We briskly walked fifteen blocks downtown to the race expo, where we got our bibs, new tech-tees, and swag bag (microwave popcorn, elastic exercise band, and Axe shower gel anyone?). The expo was disappointing; it was small and had no free samples. What?! I know. I did grab a flier for a marathon in Ireland...
Quite hungry by this time, we stopped at the first hole-in-the-wall bagel shop we found. So delicious. Then we subwayed up to Lincoln Center, had coffee and a cookie in a European-style cafe, and saw the 18th or 19th movie adaption of Jane Eyre. It was really good! Jane Eyre isn't my favorite story (Mr. Rochester is no Mr. Darcy), but it was a beautiful rendition.
Continuing uptown on the 2, we arrived at her aunt- and uncle-in-law's Harlem apartment. They sweetly made us a huge batch of spaghetti and gave us the run of their beautiful three-story brownstone. We called it an early night after the first episode of North and South (continuing with British period dramas).
Aaah race mornings. They dawn so early. 5:30am is no time to eat a toasted peanut butter sandwich, yet it must be done. We couldn't figure out their coffee contraption, so we drank some black tea. And water.
We alternated briskly walking a block and lightly jogging two blocks in the dark for the 1.5 miles to the race's start at 95th and Central Park's East Drive. The moon was full and bright, hanging low over the buildings across the pond. After dropping off her sweats at the baggage drop and standing in the porta-potty line for ten minutes, we split up. She got to start way up in the 4th corral; I was back in the 10th. There were 14 or 15 total!
I froze. It was about 35 degrees. I did meet a friend from Daily Mile for the first time in person! We exchanged bib numbers online, but were shocked that we actually found each other in the corral. His planned time was faster than mine, though, so we separated as soon as we started.
Finally, at 7:30am, we were off! We inched toward the start line, and actually crossed it around 7:40.
Here are the elites running away:
The first eight miles were in Central Park--that's about 1.3 laps. I had heard the hills in Central Park were hard, but seriously, after the Seattle Marathon, those were NOT hills. ;) They were short and gradual enough and we had plenty of downhill to recover. I'm glad we only had eight miles in the Park...I was only just getting tired of it when we left.
Here I am around the 10k mark!
We entered the city at 7th Ave. Running through the skyscrapers was incredible. My slowest miles were the two including Times Square--I guess I was too enamored by the sights. ;) This is apparently the only annual event which completely closes Times Square, besides New Year's Eve. The crowds were great too! They had "Broadway stars" leading a sing-along (complete with lyrics on a screen behind them).
They got FIVE photos of me scrunching my nose:
Aren't you glad I shared one of them?
Then, we turned right on 42nd, entered the home stretch and headed south on the West Side Highway. Around mile 10.5, I started to get a bit mentally unsettled, but calmed down by reminding myself that we had less than a 5k left. I can focus for that long. The last three miles were speedy! The Hudson and even Jersey City were pretty in the sunshine. DJs pumped music every half a mile or so, and the sidewalks were filled with supportive cheering squads. I personally liked the "800m to go!", "400m to go!", and "200m to go!" signs, though they drove Audrey nuts. ;)
My last 200m dash was super strong!
I finished with an official time of ***2:17:51***.
It was better than both Philly halves (#1 and #3 [I apparently wished to forget it and didn't blog it]), but not Asbury Park (#2). In terms of course, it's by far my favorite.
I received my shiny medal, space blanket, and recovery food bag. I've never gotten a recovery food bag--usually bananas, bagels, fruit cups, etc are on tables for the taking. It was not impressive. The bag contained pretzels, a water bottle, and a smashed, rotten apple. Great. That is my only big complaint about the race.
Audrey was waiting for me by the baggage claim. She PR-ed with a 1:36:42! That qualifies her for the NYC Marathon (outright--no entering the lottery). You know, to go with her Boston Marathon, for which she qualified last year and is running next month. She's my hero. :)
Joining about twenty other space-blanket-clad runners, we bought bananas, juice, and lattes at Starbucks with sweaty bills kept safe in our running gear's mini-pockets. Then, we shivered on the looong subway ride from Battery Park up to Harlem.
After a refreshing shower and lovely chat with her family, we walked up and over to Columbia to meet my friend Sarah for brunch! The walk was hazardous--an uneven sidewalk landed me on my hands and knees. My favorite jeans ripped and I lost a dime-sized patch of skin on my palm. Boo. :( Sarah provided me with neosporin and bandaids. All will be well. A plate of home fries, whole wheat toast, a brie-apple-bacon omelet, and a Bellini hit the spot!
One more subway ride, fifteen minutes of a delayed NJ Transit train (*shakes fist*), and seventy-five minutes of napping later we were back in Princeton. Whew!
Overall? If you can get in, RUN THIS RACE!