2016 NYC Half Race Report

I got my first taste of NYRR, and I liked it. For those who don't know, that stands for New York Road Runners, the organization that runs the New York City Marathon in the fall, as well as many other events across the five boroughs of the city. Scot and I were accepted as participants in the NYC Half Marathon through lottery drawing back in December. The race was held on 3/20/16 and the course was entirely in Manhattan. The logistics of this race and the quality of support are an indication that the marathon will be a world class event when we get there in November (I'm earning my entry through a charity; here's a link to my fundraising page for the Migraine Research Foundation).

This was a quick trip to NY, but packed with activity and a lot of fun. Scot and I drove up on Saturday morning, arriving around noon and checking into our hotel in the Financial District. We were able to park at a reasonably priced garage just around the corner from the hotel. We then took the subway to the race expo in Midtown. The expo was fairly small and most of the activities were focused on the race itself, or NYRR charity partners. Other than the official race merchandise, there was only one vendor, a local sporting goods store called Paragon. We were there on Day 3 of a three-day expo, so the selection of merchandise had thinned. We each bought hats and I bought a NYC Marathon Training shirt. I have never purchased a training shirt before (a shirt that is branded for a race I have not yet run), but this shirt was meaningful because I'm raising money to enter the race, and I loved the color scheme.

Official race shirt and medal, plus the trucker hat I bought

After the expo we visited the actual Paragon Sports store, which wasn't far from the expo. Then we walked around and visited Union Square, the Flatiron Building and Grand Central Terminal before we needed to catch an uptown train to meet Julia for dinner. She selected her favorite vegan restaurant Candle Cafe. It was nice to order anything off the menu and not need to worry if it was vegetarian. We had a nice meal and drinks and then Scot and I headed back downtown, getting off the train at City Hall and walking past the pedestrian entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. And then we stopped for a pint at a bar near our hotel.

Race morning was cold. We bundled up in layers and caught an uptown train to Columbus Circle and walked to the race start. We found our corrals and said hello to our friend Lisa, who was pacing the 2:30 group. I started in the corral with her. Scot went on ahead to his corral. Since we arrived kind of late, we didn't need to wait too long before our wave started. The sun was out, so that was at least some consolation in the nearly freezing temperatures.

Pre-race with Lisa 
Starting line

The race started uphill (ugh), and I was not able to stick with Lisa for long because she was running through the hills with no walk breaks. I needed walk breaks, especially on the first half of this course, which wound around Central Park. It was a beautiful course. I just didn't know Central Park was that hilly! I took a few photos during my walk breaks and didn't see anyone I knew until Mile 6, where Steve "Thunder" was there as a spectator. It was nice to have him cheer for me by name.

Central Park views

Super spectator Thunder

We exited the park after Mile 6 and headed straight down to Times Square. Between the skyscrapers there was less sun and there was a wind tunnel effect, so it was quite chilly. But the good news was the Times Square spectators and entertainment. What fun! And then shortly before leaving Times Square I ran into fellow Half Fanatic Kathleen; she was the only runner I recognized on the course.

Times Square selfie

Times Square without me

Next, the course turned West onto 42nd Street (another chilly wind tunnel) and then South onto the West Side Highway, where we ran for several miles. The spectators were sparse, but there were a few energetic cheering stations, and we had views of the piers, the Hudson River and New Jersey. All along the way we could see One World Trade Center and it grew closer and larger as we approached the finish.

Running downtown for quite a while

One World Trade Center

The last mile was interesting. We ran into the Battery Park Underpass, which was a fairly long tunnel, and then emerged with a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and only half a mile to go. The finish was in the Financial District near the South Street Seaport. There were many spectators cheering for the last tenth of a mile. Right before the finish line stood Peter Ciaccia, Race Director of the NYC Marathon. He was giving out high fives to the runners and you can be sure I took one.

Runners coming out of the Battery Park Underpass

View of Brooklyn Bridge - almost there!

In the finish chute we received a nice medal, a mylar blanket and a recovery bag, which was a really nice reusable, clear drawstring backpack with water, Gatorade, an apple and pretzels. Bag claim was before exiting the chute. I hadn't checked a bag, but this was very convenient for those who did.

At the finish

There was no official after party that I knew of. Once leaving the finish chute, we were simply returned to the streets of NY. Many finishers were wandering around with their friends and family looking for places to eat and drink. I walked back to our hotel to get cleaned up. Scot and I were heading over to Brooklyn to attend a farewell party for Julia, who is moving to Portland next month. It was a nice, informal gathering of her friends, and we enjoyed meeting them. We had to leave the party before it wound down so we could drive home. From Brooklyn we took the Verazzano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island. We'll be running across the bridge in the opposite direction in November when we start the marathon.

With Julia at her party (I'm wearing my new NYC Marathon "in training" shirt)

I enjoyed this race in spite of the cold, windy weather. I love New York, and enjoyed every moment of the course. I think the race was extremely well-supported. Aid stations were frequent, volunteers were awesome, the t-shirt and medal were nice, and the finish experience was streamlined and well done. This was an expensive half marathon, but worth it. It's a lottery entry, so plan ahead if you want to run it, and enjoy. I'm now all pumped up for the NYC Marathon in November, which will run through all five boroughs and have a completely different course. If you are able to support me in my fundraising, it is simple to do at this link. No amount is too small; consider donating $26.20 to symbolize the 26.2 miles that I'll be running. Many thanks, friends!

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