Here we go!
The recap before the recap (seems fitting for Staten Island): I ran the Staten Island Half Marathon this weekend in a time of 1:20:51 (6:10/mile pace, 37th place overall, 12th in my age group). Totally pumped about my performance, the gorgeous day, and all the good times and success of my sister with her 18-plus minute half-marathon PR and my other friends’ strong performances.
Now let’s recap the day.
I woke up at 5:15 a.m., ate my standard breakfast of non-fat Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of honey along with two slices of sourdough toast, one covered in peanut butter, and a banana. I threw on a long-sleeved running shirt and a North Face thermal, remembering last year’s frigid Staten Island Half temperatures (it turned out to be a 70 degree day). As I wrote about in my race preview, I had been battling a slight cold for a week and a half. This morning, the cold had subsided, and I could almost breathe entirely through my nose.
I met my sister at the 72nd Street 2 train, and we rode down to the Staten Island Ferry across from a guy whose snores reminded me of a male walrus. After a good chuckle (and then a move down the train car when it got too weird), we arrived at the Ferry, met up with our friends Ashley, Kim, Mike, and Sam, and made it to Staten Island around 7:30 a.m.
Once off the boat, I checked my bag, ate another banana, and went for a 20-25 minute warm-up run with Sam who, despite having PR’d at the Brooklyn Rock n Roll Half Marathon the previous day, looked strong. We expressed our gratitude for the opportunities to participate in so many races, and about how pumped we are for the NYC Marathon. I ran into some people I know, slapped a few high fives, ate another banana, and then headed to my starting corral.
Once in the corral, I ran into Steve from November Project NYC, who said that he had run and won a 100k race in Long Island the previous day. WHAT? Congrats, Steve. I would have taken the day off. I took my first GU gel, hopped up and down for a bit, and then BOOM! We were off. I crossed the starting line 18 seconds after the horn.
Before I continue, I want to put this race in the context of my running experience over the past year. Last year’s Staten Island Half was my first half marathon ever. I ran a 1:44:42, and remembered a hilly course with a heartbreaking hill at mile 10. I also felt like the flat section between miles 4-9 never ended, and that I could barely drag myself across the finish line. In other words, even though I trained decently for the race (3 runs during the week with a long weekend run), the course owned me.
This year, however, after a year of running, recovering from injury, running slow to race fast using the Maffetone Method, strength training, and generally taking a “do your best and forget the rest” attitude toward running, I found this course incredibly manageable. The rolling hills in the first three miles felt flat to me, and I cruised through the first four miles into the flat section in 25:00, right on the 6:15/mile pace that I planned for those miles. Before I knew it, I had taken my second GU at the aid station after mile 4 and was clearing the 10k point at 38:46, faster than I have ever run an actual 10k race. Everything about this race felt like it was in my control.
While I had intended to pick up the pace after the 10k mark, I maintained that 6:15/mile pace for three additional miles. I attribute this to three things: 1) running on the boardwalk for miles 7-9 was unsettling, and I honestly thought that I might slip on a loose board and eat it; 2) I held back in anticipation for the mile 10 hill; and 3) I had some reservations about my slight cold. Ultimately, though, I arrived at the mile 10 hill feeling strong.
This year’s mile 10 hill was different from last year’s: It was on a running and cycling trail, not the main road, and it felt like it snaked up and around forever. Despite that, I shortened my stride, slowed my pace, and climbed. One runner charged up past me and promptly slowed at the top.
Once through the top of the hill, the race was on. I charged down the hill and back onto the main street, grabbed water at the mile 11 aid station, and began the steady downhill to mile 12. I passed a couple runners, yelled out, “Looking good, guys! Keep it up,” and turned onto an industrial road that led through a warehouse district. As I turned another corner, I saw Myles, another NP_NYC member, running about 50 yards in front of me. Woot! This pumped me up so much that I had to restrain myself from sprinting to pass him.
After a couple more minutes, I came up next to Myles, yelled a lot of endorphin-influenced obscenities, and we raced alongside each other up a hill and back onto the main road again. Myles got the jump on me for a bit, but I pulled next to him again. We ran into a group of NP_NYC folks cheering us on, and I ran over for some high fives. My legs and lungs screamed, but with half a kilometer to go, I couldn’t let up.
Myles and I rounded the final corner down the hill and into the stadium. I took the final turn way too tight and lost a bit of jump, but the finish line sprang into my sight. Less than one hundred yards to go! Cheering! Pain! I forced my legs to turn over a few more times and Boom! Across the finish line.
While I set my goal at 1:20 or better, 1:20:51 represents a ~16-minute PR for me in the half marathon. Also, although time goals are important, the real goal is to work hard and have fun. And that I did! I negative split the race, making that three races in a row with negative splits, and I proved that all the hard work I’ve put in the past six months since my injury has been worth it.
While I wonder whether I could have pushed it harder out of the starting corral and brought my time down by a minute, I can only say that I’ll take that into consideration for my next race. And somehow this race time-qualifies me for next year’s NYC Marathon, so that’s pretty cool! Ultimately, I feel that I can correct these pacing issues with more experience.
My sister, Ashley, Kim, my girlfriend, Melissa, and some other folks and I had post-race brunch at Fraunces Tavern where we celebrated my sister’s epic PR. One year ago she ran a 2:28 at Staten Island and felt like death for days after the race. Yesterday she ran 2:09 and could have kept running. Amazing. Inspiring. But the best part? She’s taking an NYRR running class beginning tomorrow because she wants to improve her running. I love it! Can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
NYC Marathon approaches: less than three weeks! I’m going to do one more long run next week, and then it’s taper time. This week will include some other longish runs in the Park, and an easy NP_NYC session on Wednesday.
I also want to thank everyone who’s liked my posts on Facebook and Instagram, written to me about my running, or just said hey these past couple of months. Starting this blog seemed like the perfect way to combine my love of running and writing into one happy corner of the Internet, and I’m grateful for everyone who’s stopped by, read what I’ve written, and clicked a thumbs up or a heart. It means a lot, and I hope that I am giving something back by writing about the things I love.
As always, happy running, everyone!