Races Running

No Means No: The Brooklyn Half Story

I’m not going to sugar coat it for you: At least 70 percent of being a runner is talking yourself into doing things you don’t want to do.

  • I don’t want to run 4 miles before work, but I’m going to make myself.
  • I don’t want to cut happy hour short, but I’m going to make myself.
  • I don’t want to coat my entire body in Vaseline pre-marathon, but I’m going to make myself.
And by coat myself, I mean coat the inside of my belly by eating the entire jar, lid and all. On a side note, this internet-shamed dog is going to be feeling pretty lousy in a few hours’ time.

With so many hours spent every single week talking myself into fitness, today felt like a major divergence. Why, you ask? Because today, registration opened for the illustrious Brooklyn Half Marathon. And instead of trying to talk myself into running it, I spent all 52 minutes before the race sold out trying to talk myself out of it.

(Don’t really click there to register. This is a screen grab.)

You might be asking: Why would I want to talk myself out of joining this iconic New York City road race, which is both the largest half marathon in the country and the site of my last (gulp: last ever?PR? The Brooklyn Half has so many things going for it: the course is fairly flat and ends on a multi-mile downhill, the t-shirts are always top notch swag, and, given the race’s Coney Island finish, you can chase down your victory with a classic Nathan’s hot dog.

photo 2 (70)
Assuming they don’t mind you paying with sweat-soaked currency. I’m the worst.

Plus, I’m already training for the New York City half in March, so it’s not like I’d be starting from square one fitness-wise. I could just maintain for two months between the NYC Half and the Brooklyn Half, I thought as I opened the registration window. Half marathon training for five months straight never killed anyone, I thought as I fingered the edge of my credit card. I don’t have much else to do this spring, I thought as I rounded the corner to check out.

And then I remembered: I actually DO have a lot to do this spring. Not only am I working long days and trying to get to strength training classes at least twice a week, but I’m also cooking 80 percent of my meals at home, trying to read more books, targeting more hours of sleep, and, oh yeah, planning a freaking wedding for 180 of my closest friends (read: giant Irish family) this fall. Half marathon training is a lot of things, but one thing it isn’t is easy to fold into an already crammed schedule.

Which is why, against all odds, I successfully talked myself out of registering today. And when I signed back on to check the site tonight, this is what I found:

brooklyn 2

Maybe I’ll come to regret the decision on May 21 — or maybe I’ll be laying on a sandy beach that day eternally grateful not to be queuing up for a porta potty before the 7 a.m. starting gun. As a runner and — well, a human — it’s important to know my limits, and I think joining this road race would have pushed me to the end of mine.

And if a few weeks roll around and I really begin to regret my decision not to do a second half marathon this spring, there’s always the MORE/SHAPE Women’s Half-Marathon in Central Park in April, which still has a wide open roster ready for registrants. I’ve run that one at least two times, and I could be persuaded to do it again, but only if my running buddy were to join me for a third year in a row.

What do you say, mama bear? I’m only partially kidding.



Races Running

Brooklyn is the New Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Half Marathon didn’t start until 7 a.m. last Saturday, but in the hours leading up to it, my mind was already racing:

  • Am I going to make it to the Prospect Park starting line before bag check closes at the ungodly hour of 6:10 a.m.?
  • Is it going to start pouring mid-race like this ominous cloud cover suggests?
  • Is a 9 a.m. hot dog on Coney Island a socially acceptable recovery snack?
Spoiler Alert: It was.
Spoiler Alert: It was.

But for all the pre-race thoughts and anxieties filling my head, there was one question notably absent from my stream of conscious in the days and hours leading up to my second half marathon of the year:

Will I PR?

For every past race, I’d always checked my previous PR — or personal record — before the starting gun so I’d know just how fast I’d have to run in order to beat my earlier efforts. As a middle of the pack runner, I’m rarely going to beat the other participants, but if I can shave off a few seconds from a previous race time of the same distance, it shows my hard work is paying off. A new PR isn’t the only sign of a good race, but it’s certainly a rewarding one.

For the Brooklyn Half, however, I didn’t even bother looking up my previous half marathon PR before entering my corral. Why not, you ask? Plenty of reasons. I knew I logged it in 2013 when I was in better shape. I remembered it happened when I was running with my fast friend Adam. I recalled it was a sub 1:50 time, which is at least three minutes faster than my performance in the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon just one month ago, and my training since then has been anything but stellar.

The odds of PRing weren’t in my favor.

Flash forward to race day. I was up at 4 a.m. to meet my friends Z-Z and Leigh-Ann (and Leigh-Ann’s brilliant hired van) at 5:15 a.m. to get to bag check before 6:10 a.m. to get in corrals by 6:40 a.m. before the 7:00 a.m. start. Thank god I’m a morning person.

Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)
Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)

I started to talk with my corral mates to pass the time, and I quickly discovered I was surrounded by some really fast individuals. “I’m trying for a 1:30,” said Kevin, the chatty stretcher by the railing. “I’m taking it easy after qualifying for Boston last week,” said approachable Alan in line for the john. “I am Meb Keflezighi,” said Meb Keflezighi as he smacked me with his Olympic silver. I could be exaggerating on that last point, but I can’t be sure. I was clearly in the wrong corral.

Knowing I was surrounded by greats, I made an important decision as the starting gun went off: I wasn’t going to go out sprinting with them. I was going to run my own race.

So I did. Miles 1-4, I kept myself at a steady 8:30 pace, even though my legs were itching to keep up. Mile 5, I was passed by a speedy friend who I decided not to chase down because I wasn’t yet ready to drop the hammer. Mile 7, we exited Prospect Park and even though the crowds were roaring, I simply maintained.

And then we hit Ocean Parkway — the 6.1-mile stretch that would take us due south to the finish line — and I let it have it.

Sure, my quads were starting to ache and my calloused feet were barking, but with more than half of the race under my belt, I felt like I still had more gas in the tank, so I started to push my speed. For the next few miles, I threw back every cup of Gatorade I could get my hands on, ate my Honey Stinger energy chews and counted down the alphabetical avenues from A to Z. At mile 11, the sky opened up to a torrential downpour, so I put my head down and cranked up the effort. As I approached mile 12, I started to do the math and realized that if I could maintain an 8 minute mile for just 8 more minutes, I might be able to finish under the 1:50 mark. So I squared my shoulders, widened by stride and tore my way down the boardwalk and over that finish line at 1:49:12.

I collected my medal and heat sheet, gathered my baggage, unabashedly stripped out of my wet clothes in the minor league baseball parking lot (sorry, mom), and met my friends for a beer and dog at Nathan’s. It was only when I was in the van headed home that I got the idea to check my existing half marathon PR just for hell of it.

And what do you know? It was a 1:49:47. With no expectation whatsoever, I’d just knocked 35 seconds off.

And who says Brooklyn is all played out?

Thanks, Brooklyn!

I was just one of 26,482 finishers, so I know some of you did it do. How’d your race go?