Impulsively, on Tuesday morning, April 10th, I made the highly rash decision to buy a last minute entry into the More/Fitness Half Marathon. The good: I was already somewhat trained and, because I signed up with less than a week to go until the race, I only had a total of 5 days to freak the heck out. The bad: I only had 5 days total to freak the heck out.
I started planning right away. On Tuesday afternoon, I ate a runner-friendly lunch in order to pack myself chock full of vegetables and whole grains. On Tuesday night, Noah and I hit up yoga. On Wednesday morning, I took my final longer run of the week with a friend. (Usually I’d squeeze another long run in on Thursday morning, but because I ran 21 miles over the course of last weekend, I figured that I’d be better off resting my muscles for the race.) On Thursday, I did strength training videos in my apartment. And on Friday, I had intended to rest in order to do my usual shake-out run on Saturday but couldn’t bear the idea of not breaking a sweat before work, so I caved and ran 2 miles. The expo was great when I stopped by Friday after work, and I was overcome with enthusiasm when I picked up my number. Yep, it was official.
That brings me to Saturday. 4 days went by quickly, and I had finally made it to the eve of the race. On any normal Saturday, I’d wake up, run, do errands, and generally enjoy a lovely active day in the city. But I couldn’t seem to ignore the advice I received from a sports therapist merely days before my Manhattan Half: “You haven’t taken a day off from working out all week?” he asked. “Give your body a break. You’re not going to forget how to run after 24 hours.”
Fine. I said aloud to myself. I won’t run today. So rather than gearing up like I would on any other Saturday morning, I put on my leggings and hoodie and walked to the Union Square farmers’ market to keep myself busy (after, of course, playing around with and changing the header of my blog).
Saturday night was a bit unconventional for someone running a half marathon the next day. See, Noah’s family was in town and the only reservation we could get was at 8:15. My hope was to have a nice meal, maybe enjoy half a glass of wine, and head home by 10:00. In reality, I stuffed myself with grilled octopus, burratta, a leafy green salad and lots of table bread, and drank 2 glasses of wine. I was in bed by 11:15 and asleep probably somewhere around midnight.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel far for the race, and so I still managed to get a solid 6-and-a-half hours of sleep and wake up before my alarm at 6:28. While less than ideal, I nevertheless felt rested, prepared and excited, and so I popped half a whole-wheat and fresh berry muffin into the toaster, made myself an espresso, poured a glass of water, and plopped myself on the couch to peruse the Web and make sure I had all of my ducks in a row. For only having 5 days to prepare for my third half marathon since August, they were as linear as they were going to be.
Now that I’ve caught you up on the last few days – my I’m-not-blogging-so-I-can-run-sanely hiatus – here’s where we get to the juicy part. My official More/Fitness Half Marathon recap, aka the first long(er) race I’ve ever decided to participate in on a total whim.
I should start out by telling you that I both PR-ed and PDR-ed on Sunday (woo!). For any marathoner out there, neither my time nor distance is particularly impressive. I’m proud of myself regardless though; running will always be a highly personal part of my life.
I had been toying with the idea of running from my apartment to the start of the race, which would tack on just under 2 miles for a grand total of 15 miles. Tough? Sure. Was there a reason? Not really, except to test my physical endurance. Once the idea was in my head though, I knew there was no turning back. I had already run 2 half marathons in the last year alone, and while there’s nothing wrong with adding a third to the list, there’s also nothing wrong with being insanely ambitious and jogging it out for another 1.9. So I did.
Pre-race warm-up jog. My pre-race run felt glorious. After taking Saturday off to sit on my behind and fill my body with water and the appropriate nutrients for a healthy race, it was great to be making my way ever so slowly up the empty, quiet New York City streets to Central Park. I love New York City before 8 on a weekend. If you’ve ever been out there, it’s the ultimate proof that, while the city may never sleep, its inhabitants certainly know how to sleep in.
As I approached Central Park, it was truly empowering to see so many women, most of them in groups, shuffling into the park. I’m not usually a girl-power type of chick, but at that moment I felt proud to be one of them. My adrenaline was beginning to build, even though a part of me was a little sad to be on my own. I got used to having Noah at all my race starts and would have to wait to see him at the finish line.
The picture doesn’t prove it, but I’m still on the outskirts of the race start here. Take my word for it: the park was crowded and overwhelming, as it can be before the start of a race. In a way, it was jarring. The last time I had participated in a race of the exact same nature, back in January during the snowy Manhattan Half Marathon, there were comparatively so few runners that it almost felt a little claustrophobic to be surrounded by so many bodies on Sunday morning. I timed my arrival pretty perfectly though, and within 15 minutes of getting to the park, I was huddled in a corral getting ready to run. I was definitely excited, even though I was starting the race around mile 2 and I knew that by mile 11, I’d be entering a scary, scary place: PDR territory.
Mile 1. I heard a loud pop in the distance, and we were suddenly off. Nothing really to tell here. It was crowded and tough to move around other runners. I’m not particularly fast, but it was hard not to be frustrated when there were walkers so close to the start – even if they were in the left lane. I’m not sure why, but the first mile of Central Park always goes by so quickly. Only 12 more of those to go, I thought to myself. I can do this.
Miles 2 and 3. Still really nothing here. My goal was to maintain a steady 10-minute pace in order to boost my energy reserves for later. Cat Hill really showed its claws though, which is never a good sign. There were, after all, still about a billion more mountains to climb. Needless to say, I very much appreciated the flat path as I ran past the Engineer’s Gate as well as the slight descent as we approached Harlem Hill.
Miles 4, 5, and 6. Harlem Hill was really obnoxious, but I managed to run up without losing too much steam. At this point, I was able to pick up my speed and maintain a 9:30 pace (based on my unofficial calculations). I also avoided water stations for the first lap – they looked pretty slow and annoying. The West Side seemed to take forever as the sun began to beat down, but I felt pretty good anyway. Until I realized that, because I hadn’t run Central Park’s hills in about 2 weeks, I miscalculated my positioning and forgot about one of the hills. Damn you, wishful thinking.
Mile 7. I typically don’t love events that double up on the route, so I adopted the same mentality that I used during the Manhattan Half Marathon for the More/Fitness Half: Don’t even think about the fact that you’re in a race until you run past the 72nd Street entrance for a second time. That was around mile 7, and while I knew my body was feeling really hot, sweaty and tired (emphasis on the sweaty and hot), I also knew that I only had one complete lap to go. So I had that going for me. Oh yea, and Cat Hill sucked the second time around, but whatever. It’s not supposed to be easy.
Miles 8, 9, and 10. Compared to the rest of the race, I hit my stride again between miles 8, 9, and 10. The only part I disliked – a lot – was Harlem Hill. But goddamn it did I feel badass when I hit its peak for a second time. Home stretch, baby. My body was definitely feeling it about here, especially considering that, for the day, I was reaching mile 12. Deep breaths, Stacy. Stop thinking. Your body knows how to run. Use the downhills to your advantage, and just go through the motions. Your body knows what it’s doing. Trust it.
Mile 11. With the worst of the hills behind me, I began to go into mechanical mode. I was rapidly approaching PDR territory, and every morsel of my body knew it at this point. To counter the exhaustion, I turned on the most intense house music I could find on my iPhone and simply ran it out. What other choice did I have? There were only 2 miles to go. Then, out of nowhere, I got the urge to pause my music. I let the sound of my breath propel me forward; the energy of the crowd fuel my bones. I probably only muted the music for a total of a minute, but it was a really welcomed silence as I made my way to mile 12.
Miles 12 and 13.1. I wanna sound awesome and say that I ran like a banshee during the final mile of the race. In truth, I wanted to. My body, on the other hand, was done. After almost 15 miles, I was just ready to be done with it. It’s not like I stopped or anything, but I settled into a nice and slow – but most importantly comfortable – 10-minute pace and pushed toward the finish line. I saw Noah up ahead and I swear grabbing his hand energized me for that final, tiny push. I could see the finish line in the distance, and while I may not have ran fast, I certainly ran my heart out. I got to the finish line and quickly veered off to the left to heave just once. The heat definitely got to me, but I managed to walk it off from there. (I still can’t believe I actually heaved.)
15 miles later, I was done, and my body – my face especially – was covered in salt. I don’t have photo evidence, but my eyes were seriously burning. Dehydrated much? Definitely. All the water stations in the world couldn’t have prepared me for that 70-something-degree spring day. The rest of my Sunday was pretty standard: shower, Westville for a mint lemonade and prosecco smoothie, migraine, 3 Advil, nap, 6:00 wine spritzer, dinner, bed. Yep, I loved Sunday, and I’m so incredibly happy I signed up for – and finished – the More/Fitness Half Marathon.
Oh, and I had a feeling that I ran this half quicker than my first (the second doesn’t count – it was an untimed race because of the snow). As it turns out, I did by 3 minutes. Take that, Central Park hills.
I can’t help but wonder what I’m capable of without such steep inclines. For now though, I’ll have to wait to find out. I could hardly handle the heat on a sunny April morning; and while I have a few shorter races coming up over the summer, I think 3 half marathons in one year is pretty solid for a newcomer to the racing world. That’s enough for right now. For my next trick, I will focus on less physically demanding runs, and I’m totally okay with that too.
Congratulations to all the More/Fitness Half Marathon finishers (and to all those who raced elsewhere or simply ran for the love of it this weekend). Did you PR, PDR, or accomplish any other feat of personal achievement this weekend? What were they, and how did you celebrate afterward? Have you ever thrown up (or almost thrown up) at the finish line?