My Path to the NYC Half: I earned guaranteed entry into the NYC Half through volunteering at the race last year. Volunteering was great, albeit cold. It was a privilege seeing the elite runners live, up close and in motion. They were so focused and ran really close to each other. While I was jumping around in my winter coat trying to get warm, I was baffled by how they managed to run in singlets and tiny shorts. Now fast forward to 2014.
Dread and Trepidation: I registered for the race with the intent to train and give it my best effort. It is after all the New York City Half. Well things just didn’t quite pan out like I expected. The Northeast got hammered this winter and between the snowstorms, icy trails and freezing temperatures, my training never got off the ground. In fact, my most significant workouts were my frequent trips to the refrigerator. As the race approached, I lapsed into denial that it was even taking place. The only thing dragging my ample waistline and other inflated parts to the race was the thought of forfeiting my registration fee.
Race Day: I got up in what felt like the dead of night and had breakfast. A boiled egg and slice of toast with Gatorade. I drove to the financial district, parked my car and took the subway up to Central Park. This got a little dicey because I had trouble finding the subway. The area was laced with police officers who didn’t know anything about getting around Manhattan. When I finally got on the train, it was local and stopped at a hundred stations. Yikes. I was comforted only by the other runners who were boarding at the many stops.
I got to the park, and rushed to check my bag, and headed to my corral only to encounter a security check point complete with metal detectors. This was a first. I suppose this is the post-Boston reality and I was reminded of the possible danger of running in such a high profile race. I got to my corral and saw the staff turning away runners who belonged in different corrals. They were not playing. They were splitting up friends. I had an 8:10 a.m. start time and we began on time.
The Run: I started off at a nice slow pace because I knew the Central Park portion of the race would consist of Big Hill, Monster Hill and Bunch of Hills. And Big Hill was right at the start of the race. My iPod kicked in with Fred Hammond’s This is the Day and I conquered Big Hill without even feeling it. Awesomeness. This slow pace strategy might actually be the move. I was ready for Monster Hill. So I’m cruising along but after mile 3 … slow down sister, pump the brakes. The Monster Hill emerged and was soooo menacing it almost broke my spirit. It’s been a while so I must have forgotten the wickedness of Harlem Hill. I was so glad when I finally got to the top. But my joy was short-lived because Bunch of Hills came right after it. I tried to focus on other things, like the awesomeness of the volunteers and spectators. Someone had a sign that read, “Don’t Stop, People are Looking.” I envisioned myself stopping to walk just as the ABC camera zoomed in on me, causing the at home viewers to boo me and turn to NBC in disgust. But after a while it became hard to focus on anything but the run. Is there any good in Central Park? Well goodness and mercy caught up to me at mile 6 as the course exited the park. Oh yeah. Party over here. I pumped my fist and began my internal celebration as I started down Seventh Avenue. I didn’t get very far before I realized that it felt as though the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees outside of the park. Holy coldness! The other down side was that the Seventh Avenue roadway was a little rough and rugged. My new found misery didn’t last very long though as I approached mile 7 and ran into Times Square. The energy and the crowd could not be denied. It was great. I was running down the middle of Seventh Avenue right into Times Square. It was sweet.
We made a right turn onto 42nd Street and headed west. I was feeling good and the adrenaline rush had me running strong so I tried to slow myself down so as not to run out of steam. As I approached the West Side Highway, the wind started to kick up and that cold breeze was brutal. Brutal I tell you. So I have about five more miles to go and I’m cold, cold, cold. At about mile ten the party started to wane a little. Some of the runners were walking or stretching on the side. I walked through the water stations but I was getting it done. Then came mile 12. I mean really, there was only a mile to go. But at mile 12 we entered a tunnel that spat us out onto the FDR. Now for some reason, this tunnel slowed me down considerably. Maybe it was because it was dark in there or that U2’s “Beautiful Day” was playing on my iPod for a second time, meaning I had been out there so long that my playlist had restarted, or that I was just tired. Anyway, I couldn’t even get any comfort from the light at the end of the tunnel because it graced me with an uphill ramp. Ugh! At this point I didn’t care how long it was taking, I just wanted it to be o-v-e-r. But at that moment I saw a left turn up ahead. That signified the beginning of the end of the race. I pressed on. My spirits lifted after I made that turn. The narrow roadway was flanked with flags of various nations and there was a nice crowd of spectators cheering. I was reminded that this was a huge race that had been run by athletes from all over the world. When I finally made it to the turn onto Water Street, I saw that finish line and could hardly contain my excitement. I didn’t speed up … I couldn’t. But I raised my hands and thanked God and Jesus.
It was an amazing finish. I heard them announce my name and my BGR sister placed my medal around my neck. It was a great race. Next up … Power of a Woman Triathlon on April 12.