4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Queens Half Marathon Report

with 6 comments

Wow that was hard.  At least for me.  As readers of my blog know, I HATE running in the summer and HATE running in the heat and humidity.  The conditions on Sunday morning were very humid and it really killed me.  While not nearly as bad as the humidity the previous week for the fitness mag 4 mile run, it was not the best of conditions for 13 miles.  I’ve already read two reports (here and here) from people that were quite satisfied with their runs, but for me, it was Dreadful (note the capital D).

It didn’t help that the New York Mets game I was previously scheduled to go to on Saturday turned out to be a doubleheader.  As a result, I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, and was up at 4:30 to get to the race comfortably before the start.  If you drive, you really need to get to this race early as it is hard to find a spot close to the start.  I was there before 6 and still ended up parking .689 miles (measured on MS Street and Trips!) from the park, competing with lots of other cars also looking for spots.  Boy was that a long walk back to the car after the race.

I must take a moment apologize to Laura, who runs the Absolute(ly) Fit blog.  A few weeks ago, she asked for opinions on the course and specifically asked if it was hilly.  I commented that it was not that hilly at all.  Boy was I wrong – I somehow did not remember that it was actually very, very, very hilly.  I think the reason why is because last year I felt really good and ran a very strong first half of the race – didn’t notice the early hills.  The latter part of the race is much flatter, so when I struggled in the late miles last year, I mentally didn’t blame it on the hills and blocked them from memory.  I noticed it big time this year – in the first miles it seemed we were constantly going uphill or downhill.  The uphills seemed to be long gradual inclines, and the downhills seemed to be very short and steep, not good for recovery or keeping a steady pace.

Before the race, I had decided to try to keep the race on the slower side, at marathon pace.  With the humidity and the lack of sleep, I realized that sub 2 hours was not going to happen today.  My goal marathon pace is about 9:45 per mile, which leaves room to get in under 4:30 in the marathon.  I felt fine for about 3 miles, and then, all of a sudden, each hill seemed hard, my legs felt like lead, and I was completely drenched in sweat.  I knew it was going to be bad when I was praying for the water stop at mile 4!  By mile 6 I was taking significant walk breaks, resigned to a poor time, and fighting depression.  If the race was the old 2 loop course I’d probably have dropped out.  I kept going though, the humidity seemed better later in the race, and I was able to get through it.  At the end, I finished in 2:17, which is 10:27 per mile.  With the exception of a poor showing at the NYC Half Marathon last year due to a back injury, it was my slowest half marathon since 1998.  If I have that kind of a day on Marathon Sunday, I’ll be lucky to break 5 hours, let alone 4 and a half. 

For me, the problem really is the heat and humidity, and I’ve seen it before.  The trick is overcoming it.  I remember one year (2000, by looking at my old records) where I ran 2:11 in Grete’s Great Gallop.  That is a Central Park race, 2 loops of the park, where the hills are killer.  That day was cool, in the 50s.  I was energized by the great race and had very high hopes for improving my time on the mostly flat Staten Island course, exactly 1 week later.  On that day, it was hot, in the 70’s, and I finished in a disappointing 2:16.  I think that is the case here too.  With a cooler day, I know my time would have been much better.  At least that is what I will keep telling myself until the SI Half.  Again, the trick is being trained well enough to get through those tough days.

One note about the early miles.  Not sure exactly how or why this occurred, but I felt bad for the many many people that were late to the race and were actually running AGAINST the race course, on the sidewalk, presumably to try to get to the start to drop off their bag and then start the race proper.  Even at one mile into the race, people were following the course backward to try to get to the start.  These poor people, presumably, had no idea that the course doubled back and forth on itself several times, perpendicular from the start point.  Following the course itself is the longest way of getting back to the start.  I appreciate the early start time to stay out of the heat, but a 7am start in the far reaches of Queens is really tough.

Anyway, ONWARD!


Written by SCL

September 15, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Race Report

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. The heat was really rough, but I actually found the hills okay (though that last one at mile 12 sucked). That isn’t to say I PRed or even close, but I found it to be generally okay. Thanks for the advice in advance! See you in Staten Island?

    As for the latecomers, I didn’t really feel bad for them. Supposedly the reason was that it was hard to find parking. I drove and it WAS hard to find parking… but I did as NYRR said and got there by 6:15, because that’s when they said the roads would all close. A lot of the latecomers arrived only a few minutes before 7 and then struggled to find a parking spot – but in my opinion, that’s just stupid for a 7:00 start. Reminds me of the issue at the Seafair Marathon I did in Seattle, where they had buses to the start and they announced that the last run would be at 6:30… and then several hundred people showed up at 6:29 and they couldn’t accommodate everyone. Planning, people! 🙂


    September 15, 2008 at 9:40 pm

  2. […] 4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity « Queens Half Marathon Report […]

  3. I took the 7 train out to Flushing Main Street and then hopped on the free yellow school bus shuttle. This worked out well as we got there with just enough time to drop our stuff, take a pee, etc. Plus, I got to meet a few cool new runners before the race, and get all my nervous pre-race chatter out.

    I think the trick the beating the heat (or at least coming to an uneasy truce witht he heat) is hydration, hydration, hydration–WITH electrolytes. Also, I am convinced that my long training runs and temp runs I’ve done through this summer’s heat and humidity acclimated me enough so that my body was able to better regulate its temperature so that I wasn’t hurting during the Queens 1/2.


    September 19, 2008 at 5:59 am

  4. […] week… NYflygirl also PRed, this runner is no joke, people….. 4:30 or Bust really struggled through the heat and humidity… Anyone elase have a race report? Please post the permalink in my comments […]

    Elipses « Pigtails Flying

    September 22, 2008 at 11:37 am

  5. […] the summertime when it is hot.  My most recent failures were at the fitness mag 4 mile run and the Queens half marathon, both on humid days.  In sharp contrast, the weather Sunday was P.E.R.F.E.C.T.  Rain early in the […]

  6. […] struck by all the challenges I faced that month.  In particular, I had 2 really, really bad races (here and here), and it just helped to put things in perspective for me.  That Nov 2, I ran my fastest […]

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