Today I ran the NYC Half, my 56th New York Road Runners race, as a training run for my April 15 Marathon de Paris. My net time was 2:27:45, a minute off my 2008 event PR (because I lost 3 minutes taking pictures in Times Square!), which is great because I was in peak condition then. Most importantly, I felt strong and powerful, clearly benefiting from 11 P.T. sessions so far on the IT Band syndrome that presented itself in January's Miami Marathon. I feel good!
As you can see in that video above, it is a rush. Doing a Big Apple takeover is a one-of-a-kind experience, and with apologies to all yellow cabs, Times Square belonged to me and 15,335 other finishers (7,456 men, 7,880 women). I have run it twice before but I got giddy as I went from lane to lane, looking up like I was new here. You have not run a race until you run the NYC Half, trust me on that.
It is something my friends at NYRR know full well, too. The entry fee is now the same as an expensive marathon just about anywhere else in the world. Demand is heavy, for a reason.
My corral was at Strawberry Fields in Central Park, near 72nd Street on West Drive. Ethiopia's Firehiwot Dado, the 2011 NYC Marathon winner, would win the women's race, and Kenya's Paul Kirui would top all men. I mention them here because the starting ceremony featured the introduction of elite runners, Meb, Kara, an impressive crew. It was about 48 degrees consistently, just chilly enough to force long sleeves for most.
This time it ran counter-clockwise around Central Park, which for me is trickier because you have to go straight up Cat Hill and even bigger Harlem Hill. I shredded both hills. My pace was 10:00 each of the first two miles, and I knew around mile 4 that I needed to chill a bit as the park can sap your strength later. After a full loop, we proceed to the 7th Ave. exit on South Drive and then comes the real thrill.
Seeing Times Square alit in front of you, totally yours, is a sight to behold. Fans lined up behind the barricades on each side. To the left, Carnegie Hall (getting a facelift). To the right, the giant Lorax sign, Broadway theaters, the giant "Mama Mia" sign. Three times I removed my iPhone from my spibelt so I could shoot videos or pics, and that would wind up costing me my PR but it's worth it! It is fun and you find yourself giggling as you dominate where hustle and bustle normally rules.
[Updated 10 pm ET Sunday: We went to see The Lorax tonight. Felt like the picture must have been an omen. It is a great message, highly recommend the movie to anyone!]
Then we turned right on 42nd Street, and there I saw my Big Cats running friend Roxygen, speaking of Mama Mia (expecting!). She took this picture:
Musical performers are all along the course after Central Park, and they are a nice pick-me-up. We turned left on West Side Highway, and from there is a straight and flat shot all the way through the Financial District. There was one weird moment, and that was when we went past our MLBAM HQ at Chelsea Market: Up ahead you saw the new Freedom Tower, only the top was obscured and seemingly missing in thick fog, a smoky look that was an eery reminder of 10+ years ago.
Then suddenly we were alongside Ground Zero, and I could look at the comeback construction and then focusing again on my form, doing whatever it took not to walk. I saw one sign that said: "DRUNK BY NOON SOON" -- a reference to the finish at South Street Seaport. It was a runnerup to my favorite sign of the day, though, seen at Central Park: "DON'T STOP: PEOPLE ARE WATCHING YOU!"
I had a surprise next, not having examined the new course layout closely enough. Expecting to go straight to Battery Park and then circle the bottom of Lower Manhattan on the streets, we went straight down into the Battery tunnel, which you would normally take to Brooklyn. It was all of Mile 13, just us runners all packed in there literally waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. I was among those who yelled in the echo chamber, keeping ourselves amused as we marched on toward South Street Seaport.
That is where we finished the NYC Half. We received a medal and even a heatsheet, a sign of how big this half marathon has become. We also marched forever past baggage pickup stations (I didn't need it, thanks to Lisa dropping me off). Check out the medal:
Here is where it wound up:
I met up with Lisa, and while others celebrated at South Street Seaport, I was fine with heading home and walking my English Bulldog King Bingley. He had a great outing, too!