4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Brooklyn Half Marathon Race Report

with 3 comments

Wow I had a lot to say, sorry about the length 🙂

First, right off the bat, I think this was a wonderful event, and very well organized by NYRR.  With the exception of the NYC Marathon, this is probably the biggest NYRR race, in terms of participants, I’ve ever run in.  There were almost 9,500 finishers!  I was very nervous about the start, because the first part of the course was directly into the main walkway back from the bag check to the start line, and with port-o-potty lines between.  However, they did manage to clear the roadway and get the race started very cleanly, although 10 minutes late.  Better to start 10 minutes late and have a good clean start, than to start on time with confusion and congestion in the race course.

Also, the finish was fantastic.  Again, with the exception of the NYC Marathon, I’ve never, ever, seen so many people lining the finish of a race.  It was really incredible, especially with the surroundings of the boardwalk, Coney Island classic sights (parachute jump, Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, etc), and the beach and ocean and the Atlantic Highlands, NJ off in the distance.  (My weekend house, in Little Silver NJ, is sort of in the area of the Highlands, and so I’m even more fond of that view).  The festivities at the finish were also great, and it was real nice to have the opportunity to walk the boardwalk, use the baseball stadium, and visit Nathans.

My only complaint, logistically, is that the water stop at mile 3 / mile 6 was very, very poorly done.  This was the only water stop that was covered twice on the course.  For people on the inside, it was mile 3, and the first water stop of the race.  For people on the outside, it was mile 6, and this was the 3rd water stop.  Even though there were essentially 2 threads of runners coming through that spot, water was only on the left side of the road.  When I was at mile 3, the leaders were just started to pass us by at mile 6, and I was thinking to myself that those people will never be able to get over to the left side to get a drink.  When I came around the 2nd time, at mile 6, there was nothing left on the table.  The volunteers were working hard to refill, but there was a mass of people trying to get water and Gatorade.  I simply skipped it, and luckily, didn’t seem to cause me too much issue.  There should have been water tables on both sides of the road, or, there should have been twice as much water and Gatorade.  It simply didn’t seem like it was being treated as 2 water stops, but rather the same as the other water stops, which only served the course once.

My only other complaint is that they twice advertised the race as ‘almost’ full, even though they signed people up till the last day.  Maybe they changed their minds on the size of the field, but it is false advertising in a sense.  With caps on races, people are now incentivized to sign up early before races sell out, even if they are on the fence about running.  I wonder how many people signed up, because the race was ‘filling up’, and then did not end up running.  That also needs to be handled better in the future.

But, those aside, the race was pulled off wonderfully, and I really enjoyed myself.

For me, the day started out poorly.  I made the decision to drive, since parking was easy, they had a shuttle from the finish to the start, and it would allow me to get home faster and in more comfort than a long subway ride.  Also, I am an early bird when it comes to races.  I love to get to races real early, so I’m not rushed in my preparations, and so I simply don’t get caught in the masses checking my bag and using the bathrooms, etc.  I planned to get to Keyspan Park by 5:45 to catch one of the first buses to the start.  Was up just after 4am, and out the door and in my car at 5am.  Heading down the FDR Drive to the Brooklyn Bridge, when all of a sudden the traffic came to a stop, and not a third of a mile down the road, at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, I could see more flashing lights than I’ve ever seen in my life.  Apparently, there was a 3 car crash, closing both sides of the FDR.  I was S.T.U.C.K!  Not much else to do except hang out with drunk party goers trying to head home – “Party of the FDR”.

Eventually, after at least 45 minutes, they were able to back us out to the South Street exit, where I took the streets down to the Battery Tunnel and was on my way.  Luckily, I gave myself so much extra time that I was still a bit on the early side.  Parked my car by 6:15 and was at Prospect Park by 6:45, still plenty early.  Plenty of people already there, and I walked into the park, to the start area, to use the bathroom, find a bench to change my clothes, put on suntan lotion, and go through my other preparations.  Then headed back to the baggage area, dropped my bag off around 7:30 and walked back to the start.  Got on the bathroom line one last time (which took 20 minutes to get through) and then got into the 5000 range corral just before 8am.  Race kicked off about 10 minutes late.

I expected, in a race of 10,000 people, that the course would be very crowded and it would be hard to work around people in the early stages of the race, but that was not the case at all.  First of all, the corral area was fairly narrow.  For that reason, the corral area was very long, and it also took a long time to get to the start line (6:12, for me), but once we got across the start line, the course was not crowded at all.  There was plenty of room to maneuver, and for the most part, crowding was not a problem at all (except for the water stops!).  To me, this means the wave starts are still working.  Actually, the most shocking site of the day, was that there was somebody going through the corrals, kicking people back that did not belong.  Way to go NYRR!

Finally, on to the race proper.  For several reasons, I was really worried about the race.   The key to doing this race well is to sufficiently hold back in the early hilly miles to save energy for the end.  I tried really, really hard to do this.  The trick is to keep a fast enough pace so that you don’t kill your overall time, but hold back enough to stay fresh.  I managed to do this.  Even though I could have gone faster, I kept the early miles in Prospect Park in the 9:15 to 9:30 range.  Mile 5 was the one I really concentrated on this, as it was the 2nd time up the big hill.  Took that one as slow as I reasonably could.  By mile 7 we were heading out of the park.

 

  • 1 – 9:27
  • 2 – 9:22
  • 3 – 9:26
  • 4 – 9:12
  • 5 – 9:41
  • 6 – 9:38

 

Out of the park, down the ramp to the Prospect Expressway, and then up the hill to Ocean Parkway proper.  Then, it was the long, straight road to Coney Island.  Thankfully, the sun was off the left side, and not direcly in front.  Believe it or not, for me, it makes a big mental difference, not be running directly into the sun.  There was some shade, but not enough to be a big help.  Early on Ocean Parkway, there was little breeze, but as we got closer and closer to the Ocean, the breeze was more noticeable, and was a nice, cooling, breeze.  Slight downhill most of the way.

First couple of miles on OP were good.  Since I missed the mile 6 water stop, I took an extra long stop at mile 8, and ate my Gu there.  The next 2 miles, 9 and 10, were both on the slower side.  I ‘did the math’, at mile 10, and figured that I was right on pace for 2:05.  I knew 2:00 was not happening, too much time to make up, but I could, with a push, get down to 2:02-2:03.  My strategy for that was swinging my arms from time to time.  That is a good way to increase the pace without working much harder.  It worked for me.  I was able to pick up the pace for miles 11 and 12.  By mile 12, The end of Ocean Parkway was in view, and it was time to put the pedal to the metal, and push as hard as possible into the finish.  There was a pretty strong headwind on the boardwalk, but the big crowds were enough to keep me pushing.  In the end, miles 11, 12 and 13 were the fastest of the race!  There is nothing better than a negative split at the half marathon distance, and that was the case this time.  First 6 miles in 56:49 and the last 6 miles in 55:50.

  • 7 – 9:19
  • 8 – 9:11
  • 9 – 9:44
  • 10 – 9:45
  • 11 – 9:11
  • 12 – 9:08
  • 13 – 8:48
  • 13.1 – :48
  • Official time – 2:02:46
  • 5242 out of 9415 total finishers
  • 3510 out of 5074 male finishers
  • 684 out of 975 male 35-39

In the end, I was happy with the consistency, and also that the muscle pains in my legs were not a big problem.  Hopefully the naggy pain in my upper thigh/groin did not get any worse.  I was also happy that the warm weather was not a bigger problem.  It was definitely on the warm side, and very sunny, which makes it worse, but it was not humid, and so was manageable.  It was offset by some time in the shade, and some breezes, which both negated the sun a bit.     

I finally figured out the reason why I was so unhappy about the change of the timing of the race and the race course.  That is because the Brooklyn Half Marathon used to be my PR race.  Prior to this year, I’ve run it 6 times, the last 5 times setting new half marathon PRs.  I always run strongest in winter and early spring, and so was always in best shape for this race when it was held earlier in the year.  Anyway, this run of PR’s at the Brooklyn Half is over, and I’ll have to work harder on my PR’s in the future!

Next up, sprint triathlon in 2 weeks!

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Written by SCL

May 31, 2009 at 7:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Great race report and great race! I sure wish I could keep up with your pace!! Perhaps someday!!! :O)

    michjoy61

    May 31, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    • Thanks! If you keep up with the races and half marathons, you’ll definitely bring your time down…

      SCL

      May 31, 2009 at 8:17 pm

  2. great report :)you sped up at the end too!

    jen

    June 8, 2009 at 7:48 am


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