I can’t believe that the New York City Half Marathon has come and gone. 3/15/15 was a big day in more ways than one. I marked several running milestones as I raced through Central Park and down the streets of lower Manhattan:
- It was the one-year anniversary of my first half marathon.
- It was also the one-year anniversary of the first time I ever ran double-digit miles (the longest I’d run in training due to the polar vortex of early 2014 was 9 miles!)
- And it was the two-year anniversary of when I laced up my sneakers and ran three miles without stopping for the first time.
So much has changed since the fateful day when I realized I could run. It took me months to build up from running 3 or 4 miles to running 6, and to get to my very first race, a 10K that was as exciting to me as a marathon. And believe it or not, it was even longer before I felt like I was allowed to call myself a runner. Going to the Expo took me back to the first time around, when I wandered around the cavernous pavilion with my eyes wide open in wonder. I’d never seen most of the running gear and tech on display, and I was definitely intimidated by the other people milling around, tossing around terms like fuel and fartlek.
Since then, I’ve reached my running equilibrium. I’ve picked up a few of the terms, and learned the hard way that some of them are not really optional (by that, I mean fuel – it is a NECESSITY!) Not all running shoes are created equal, but I’ve found my favorites through trial and error. I’ve adapted to running in all conditions, although I was certainly happy that the New York cold snap subsided in time for this Sunday. Running in shorts was a welcome change from last year’s double layer of fleece and frozen fingers! (I wore shorts because I tend to get heated quickly, which was paradoxically a better choice here than in Florida in January at the Disney Half Marathon – but at the end, my little legs were freezing!) I still run for myself, and not for any particular time, or to beat or impress anyone else. It would be nice to be faster, I guess, but slow and steady wins the race in my opinion – I’d rather be able to run a half marathon and finish strong than sprint a 5k, because the long runs are what I really love. Running is not a competition for me, it’s a way of life (even though I sometimes feel a little pressure to keep up when I’m around my November Project tribe, I know that getting another injury isn’t worth pushing myself past my limits!)
This morning, lining up in my corral in Wave 2, moving around a bit to stay limber and feeling the adrenaline start to pump, I knew without a doubt that I am a runner. I didn’t need to look to anyone else to copy what they were doing, or worry that my own warm-up method was somehow inferior. Do what works for you and what’s tried and true, and don’t try anything new on race day – sage words of wisdom for all the runners out there!
Starting in Wave 2, you line up on the 72nd street path that crosses Central Park, perpendicular to the start, so I knew roughly when the starting line was getting close. I crossed at 7:57am, and the first few miles up East Drive were slow and steady as expected. I hit a bit of a rough patch after rounding 110th Street and heading up Harlem Hill – I felt a pull in my calf muscle, and decided to walk for a few minutes to shake it off. I usually don’t run up this hill anyway, as it aggravates my right side (due to my ankle, knee, and hip injuries!) It ended up being okay, as I also had a little tummy trouble around this time between Miles 3 and 4. My 5k splits were 10:02/mile and 10k splits were 10:57, reflecting that. But I came down the western side of the park and out at 59th Street feeling better, and running down Seventh Avenue through Times Square, I flashed a big smile at the JumboTron!
Around Mile 7, runners took a right and went down 42nd Street, hitting the West Side Highway at Mile 8. The four miles down the highway elicit mixed feelings – there’s a very slight downward incline the whole way, so it’s actually the physically easiest part of the course, but it’s also the time when a lot of runners hit a half-marathon wall, and where there are the fewest fans cheering runners on. For me, this stretch definitely flew by faster than last year. I actually made up ground here, with a 15k split of 9:58 and a 20k split of 9:54. I just felt good here, and it was really cool to see the Freedom Tower in the distance and as we got closer. It’s a wonderful symbol for my home city and for America, and after all these years with a gap in the skyline, it’s a pretty awesome sight to behold.
Running through the Battery Park Tunnel, I really kicked into gear for the last mile. I don’t like running in dark, enclosed, subterranean spaces (I’m more of a high-in-the-sky adventurer) so both momentum and the motivation to get back outside kept me going. My last mile was at a 9:21 pace, and I finished strong in 2:13:13 with overall splits of 10:10. I was tired, sore, and chilly. Luckily, I met my parents and my puppy at the finish, and we were able to get on the subway quickly. Since I hadn’t really taken in fuel during the race, I downed my water bottle and NY State McIntosh apple fast! (My parents also brought me a pack of Kay’s Naturals Protein Pretzel Sticks, since the pretzels in the recovery bag provided are definitely not GF.)
Once home, I had a welcome hot shower, and some delicious breakfast – a PB&J Oatmeal Cake, some yogurt and berries, and a few spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar! And I was perfectly content, in more ways than one. Today was more than just a race for me. It was a reminder that running is something I do for health and fitness, sure – but even more importantly, for happiness. Running opened me up to a whole new outlook on life, and that’s something I will always be grateful for.
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