United NYC Half Marathon Race Report

NYCHalf_2016_LogoName of the raceUnited NYC Half Marathon

Where: New York City, NY

Date: March 20, 2016

Time: 7:40 am (Wave 1)

Distance: 13.1 miles

Terrain: Rolling hills in Central Park, then a net decline down to Wall St.

Entry fee: $11 lottery fee + $160

Swag: Finishers medal, gender specific tech shirt, & clear string bag

Post-race Food: Small bag of pretzels, apple, bottle of water, & bottle of Gatorade

Time: 1:56:32

Performance: Overall 7535/20,166; Gender 2540/10,565; Age (35-39) 383/1712

Weather: 34 degrees, 35% humidity, winds at 14 mph

I never thought that I would do this race, if only because of the insane race fee. It costs more than most marathons. But hearing from people over and over again about how wonderful and magical it was to run through Times Square got me thinking and then the mild winter tantalized with with promises of a mild spring race. Those factors were enough to tip my interest into throwing my hat into the lottery.

Getting into the NYC Half takes a bit of conniving and scheming. NYRR composes the entry field be approximately 1/3 NYC-metropolitan area, 1/3 national entries (US outside of the NYC metropolitan area) and 1/3 be international. If you’re a NYC/NYC-metropolitan resident, it’s quite difficult to get in through the lottery because most of the entry spots are already taken up by people who do the guaranteed entry by running the NYRR 5-Borough Series in the previous year. Knowing this, I used my parents’ address so I would enter as a national entry.

As a national entry, based on past years’ data, I figured I had about an 80% chance of getting in. I was thrilled to get a coveted spot and had plans to train hard in Jan and Feb in order to race this. I knew I wouldn’t necessarily be in PR shape, but I figured I would put in some solid training and set myself up for a late spring goal race. Well, life had other plans for me. I came down hard with bronchitis in Tanzania in January. I have chronic bronchitis thanks to childhood asthma and it takes several weeks for me to recover. At best the bronchitis would be gone by the beginning of March. At worst, I would recover after the half. It’s now the end of March, two weeks after the NYC Half, and my bronchitis is aaaalllllmmmoossst over.

Frankly I was bummed out about being forced to treat the United NYC Half as a fun run. A really expensive fun run. For what I paid, I wanted to RACE this. I did not want a fun run. But there wasn’t anything I could do about this, except make the best of it.

Early Sunday morning when it was still dark, Ben walked me to the B/Q subway stop. I took the subway to Central Park. I got off with everyone else at 57th St, which was a couple blocks away from the bag drop off on 59th St. I didn’t need a bag drop because I wore some throwaway clothes and Ben was going to meet me at the finish line with clothes. I walked into the Ritz-Carlton where rich runners were staying and used their restroom. So much better than a port-o-potty.

Getting to the start line was insane. They had airport security set up, so thousands of runners were swarming around trying desperately to get to their corrals. Eventually they realized that there was no way that they were going to get all of us through in time. So they opened up another area where we only got a brief check to make sure that we weren’t terrorist. I hate all this security theater and think this is a waste of time and resources.

Finally I made it to my corral just in the nick of time. I took off my sweats, threw it in the clothes donation bin, then in a few minutes I was off! The first six miles are in Central Park and Harlem. I deliberately ran the first mile quite slowly because 1) I wasn’t in shape to run fast and 2) this was going to be my longest run in a long while, so if I wanted to not blow up, I need to start SLOW.

I used the rolling hills of Central Park to slow myself down. A small course change in the United NYC Half was that they had us exit our of the park on the north side to run on the street that borders Central Park on the north side and to snake back to continue the rest of the Central Park loop. I enjoyed this part because there were a ton of spectators (the energy was amazing) and I love seeing a long snaking running congo line of runners. I could see runners everywhere!

It quieted down a bit when we re-entered Central Park. Then finally we exited and spilled out onto the streets of Manhattan.

Times SquareRunning through Times Square really was as amazing as everyone said it was. The energy and the vibe was just as electrifying as the hundreds and hundreds of neon signs and lights of Times Square. The cheering crowds and the slight decline set me off to quickening my pace. I felt like thundering off. This was the best that I’ve felt running in ages. Normally I hate Times Square and avoid it like the plague, but I loved running through Times Square and loved running so much during that stretch.

Running became less fun when I was at Mile 8. My longest run for the United NYC Half was 10 miles and that had been done a while ago. I was getting tired, but I paid attention to my pace and did my best to keep the same pace. I knew at this point, it was more mental than actual physical fatigue. Afterwards I read about people complaining about the wind, but I only left the wind was a problem when we were on the West Side Highway and even then, it wasn’t that much wind. I knew this stretch because I ran it number of training while training last year. All sorts of memories of different training runs popped up as I ran. As nice as the mental bubbles of memories were, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing my PPTC teammates who were waiting for PPTC members to run by at Mile 10. This was my first time wearing a red singlet to represent PPTC and I was excited to have a cheering squad waiting for me.

West Side Highway

On the West Side Highway.  Photo by Myriel Frische

Finally I spotted them just before Mile 10 and frantically waved my arms. They greeted me loudly and lovingly. So much cowbells. My feet picked up and I felt like running again. I loved having them there.

Now I only had a 5K left. Oh, gawd, it’s the longest 5K in the world. Whenever I’m feeling like this when running, I concentrate on simply running the mile that I’m on. If I think of the finish line, I start to fret, so I forget about everything and just focus on the mile.

Just after Mile 12, we entered a tunnel, which was super cool. I loved running in the tunnel and it made the distance go by faster. One last uphill out of the tunnel and the finish line was a few minutes away. I got one last shout out from another PPTC teammate. That was a nice little boost to the finish line.

Finishers medal

Thanks to a PPTC member who took this photo

Finally I crossed the line. My time was 1:56:32, which was a pretty decent time considering the minimal training that I’ve been doing. Ben, unfortunately, missed me at the finish line, but we met up soon afterward. I was really glad to see him because the wind picked up and I was COLD!!!!

Ben’s old running partner was in town for the race, so we all met up and had brunch together. It was good catching up with him and he invited us to visit him this summer. So we may end up doing a race in upstate NY.

16 thoughts on “United NYC Half Marathon Race Report

  1. Loved this race report. I would have been SO annoyed by that security. I get it, but when you don’t have time to get in line that is super frustrating. Congrats on doing so well given your circumstances. Most impressive! I love running races in Upstate NY. I have always wanted to do either the half/full in Wappingers Falls or Rhinebeck. Two of my favorite places to go.

    • Thanks. I’m pleased considering everything but if I had any way of predicting the future I would have skipped it this year. The conditions for the race was great. My friends all set PRs.

  2. Brrrr it was cold that day! Congrats on a great race! I ran it in 2012 (have worked it every year since); even as a long-time Manhattanite I was completely dazzled by running through Times Square. It’s incredible!

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