Name of the race: Newport Liberty Half Marathon
Where: Newport, Jersey City, NJ
Date: Sept 25, 2016
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Flat road race
Entry fee: Free entry for being an official blog partner
$44 – until February 29
$47 – until August 11
$50 – August 12 through September 13
$55 – Race Day, September 18
Swag: Long-sleeved cotton shirt and finishers medal
Post-race Food: Bagels, bananas, chips, pretzels, granola bars, fruit bars, water, Gatorade, and beer.
Performance: Overall 1041/2549; Gender 325/1150; Age (35-39) 61/200
Weather: 73 degrees, 83% humidity
As long time readers know, Ben and I used to live in Hoboken/Jersey City before we moved to Brooklyn last year. As Jersey residents we participated in both the spring Newport 10K and the fall Newport Liberty Half. These two annual races we always saw as being our “home races” because the race literally courses around the building where we lived, through the streets we walk on every day, and through the park and waterfront where we frequently run either by ourselves or with our friends. We used to wake up an hour before the race, drink coffee and get dressed for the race, and amble out of our condo a half hour before the start and still arrive at the start line with plenty of time. We really couldn’t have had it easier. These were “our” races. It was “our” turf. We had to go.
Now that we’ve moved away, we still go and not just because of the free entry for being an official blogger. These Newport races have been a way for us to remain connected to our old Jersey friends and roots. It’s hard to find time to see everyone, but we know that they’ll be there at the races. We don’t even ask ahead of time. We show up in the morning, text to see where they are, and arrange to meet up after the race. So it’s always with great pleasure and anticipation that we go back to Newport, Jersey City.
I almost always treat the Newport Liberty Half as a training run. It’s early in the fall racing season, so I’m not quite in peak shape, but most of the training is done and the timing of this half is such that I can use it as a test run to see how things will go on race day. This year, I’m training for Steamtown using the Run Less, Run Faster Program. I was scheduled for a long run of 20 miles. Nell also planned on running the half as a part of a long run, so she and I met up early to run 7 miles before the race.
It was a sticky, humid morning, but at least it was overcast. Nell, Ben, and I ran to Hoboken for our our early morning miles. Nell and I caught up with what was going on with our respective training plans. Ben was recovering from an illness, so he had decided not to do the half, but just do a few miles with us. We managed to time it so that we were done with our 7 miles just before the race started. We both took a gel (Nell took Gu and I took Huma gel – Raspberry) when we ran 5 miles.
The announcer said that the 2016 race had the largest group of runners than it has ever had before. I definitely noticed the crowds.
We were both treating the half as a part of the long run, so we decided to run a “conservative” pace of around 9:oo min miles. Nell is a stronger runner than I am, so she set the pace and I stuck to her the best I could. The fun of running a slower pace is that I really got to look around and notice my old neighborhood. As I ran through the streets of Jersey City, old memories of my former life drifted into my mind. My old grocery store, A&P, was now Acme Pharmacy. I remembered old runs I did with Ben as he urged me to push on. I recalled snippets of past races when in the middle of a race, I ran into a friend and we races each other for bragging rights. While running out on the city streets, someone from PPTC was there spectating and cheered for me. PPTC, we’re everywhere! Four miles in, Nell and I once again took in another gel (this time I had lemonade).
I broke the race into “sections” because I know the course so well. My favorite part of this race is the second half because I love running through Liberty State Park and the waterfront. At about the half way mark, you see the Statue of Liberty. It never stops being awe-inspiring. As we approached Lady Liberty, I overheard two guys talking to each other.
“Look at that,” he said.
“Can’t beat that view,” his friend responded.
“Can you imagine this? We’re in a race where you can say, and now you make a left at the Statue of Liberty.”
It really is amazing.
I more or less was ran with Nell or close to her for 8 miles, but I started to slow down. Nell got ahead, but she was a great friend and waited for me at the water stops. I told her to leave me behind, but she refused. I would have been fine if she had left me, but in truth I was grateful to have her company because she kept me going faster than I would have otherwise. At Mile 10 though, I had to give up trying to keep up and let Nell go. I got another attack of side stitches. I drank my fair share of Gatorade both out on the course and what I carried in my Simple Hydration bottle, but I was still got hungry. For my marathon, I realized that I need to consume more calories.
I slowly ran for two miles. I tried to walk it off, but it did nothing, so I shuffled along until it went away on its own. I had a miserable summer of side stitches, where the only common denominator was that I was exerting a lot of effort on a warm and humid day. It’s not about exertion alone because on cool days, I can run a lot faster but be fine. This summer was the most humid summer that I’ve had in NY and I had the worst experience with side stitches.
The last mile, the side stitch finally went away and I ran more freely. I remembered every turn, every bump, every pole, and anything else that was there. As soon as I passed one landmark, I called to mind the next landmark and ran toward that. I could have ran this section blindfolded. A few hundred meters from the finish line, I heard my name. It was Ben. He ran a few feet with me and took photos.
I tried to pass one last female runner before the finish line, but she had more left in the tank than I did. But I crossed the finish line in triumph knowing that I ran my last 20-miler and now it was taper time.
The announcer announced that I was one of the official bloggers for the Newport Liberty Half and that A Fast Paced Life had just finished the race. It was super cool being announced over the speakers like that.
We had a wonderful reunion with our friends, especially the ones we don’t see as much, like Sergio. If you are a regular runner in the central and Northern Jersey race scene, then you know Sergio. There is no one who is more beloved than he because he is just about the NICEST, most sincere, and joyous person in the world. He is an absolute mensch, as my Jewish friends would say. He always runs without a shirt, no matter what the weather, but what really makes him stand out is that post-race, he dances. He dances with joy and you can’t help but be drawn in by his energy and love. Everybody loves Sergio. He’s also one really fast runner (especially for a masters runner), but really it’s his generous spirit and personality that makes him a beloved person in the Jersey race scene. Honestly, every race ought to have a Sergio.
Much thanks to Newport Liberty Half for having me as an official blogger. It’s always nice to go back to where one’s running life started. There have been many miles that I’ve ran, and I hope there will be many more miles to run in my future.