You guys! I ran a race in New York City! Nope, I didn’t run the New York Marathon. (I weirdly have no desire to!). I didn’t run the New York Half Marathon. Though I did want to run that one, I just didn’t get in through the lottery. I did get into the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon so that’s what I ran and , well, it was a tough one!
The New York Road Runners‘ Brooklyn half owes it names to the title sponsor of the race, Popular Bank, but it bears it well! Indeed, it’s is one of the most popular half marathon in the United States, attracting some 27,000+ runners this year. I was looking forwards to running it as my first New York City race, especially since I had never been to Coney Island where the race ends. Also, I was going to run it with my friend Caitlin and that’s always fun. We’ve now ran 5 races “together”: the 2010, 2011 and 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, the 2017 Disneyland Paris Half Marathon and now the 2018 Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon. I put together in quotation marks because she’s a lot faster than me and we don’t actually “run” together 😉 Still, it’s a shared experience. Kind of.
Since the race is on a Saturday, I bused up to Manhattan Friday afternoon, which meant I missed the expo. I snagged a $5 Megabus ticket that was too good to pass. My friends Calla and Nicole traveled in a little more style than me (ie. they took the train) earlier in the day and we met up for some carbs at Basta Pasta, a casual Japanese restaurant in Chelsea that serves classic Italian dishes, with a twist. I love seafood pasta (spaghetti with clams are my go-to pre-race) so I had been lusting over the Linguine Al Ricci Di Mare (uni pasta!) for weeks! It doesn’t photograph well, but it didn’t disappoint.
Caitlin scooped me up after dinner and we headed to bed early-ish since we had to get up at the crack of dawn and, you know, run 13 miles the next day.
If you live in the East Coast, you know the weather has been simply atrocious and unfortunately, it looked like conditions would be less than ideal on race day. Oh well, you run the race you’re given not the race you want and ours was going to be wet and cold. We got up at 5AM and ubered to the Brooklyn Museum. Because the race is so big, runners are divided in 30+ corrals split between two waves. Since she’s a faster runner, Caitlin was in Wave 1 and I, of course, was in Wave 2. That meant her expected start time was after 7AM and mine after 7:45AM. We got there a little after 6AM and since you have to go through metal detectors to get to the corrals we quickly said goodbyes as Caitlin headed to her earlier start. Meanwhile, I had quite a while to wait so I found myself underneath a scaffolding for protection from the rain, in a garbage bag questioning some of my life choices. I mean, I could have been warm at home, in my pjs, sipping hot tea and watching the Royal Wedding 😉
If you’ve read some of my previous race reports, you know that I have been extremely frustrated by my inability to improve my race time. I had ran the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon in early March in 2:41 and the National Women’s Half Marathon in late April (recap here) in the exact same time. Worse, I had ran my very first half, the 2013 Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon in DC, very under-trained, and had finished that in 2:43. At least, at the 2018 Rock’n’Roll half, I had fun and enjoyed the race so my initial plan for Brooklyn was to just try and have a fun race without worrying too much about my time, hoping I could still shave off a few minutes. Of course, mother nature had other plans for me and it was obvious given the weather that “having fun” wasn’t really going to be an option. So I decided I would try and run a good race instead. I wore the pace bracelet for 2:35 and thought I’d follow the 2:30 pace leader for as long as I could (that strategy had worked well for me at the 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 miler — recap here) hoping to finish somewhere between 2:30 and 2:35, which would be a solid PR for me and a result I could finally be proud of. Turns out, as a French citizen, that I couldn’t possibly run 21 kilometers behind this lady…
So I was on my own in the rain with my Garmin to help me make sure I stayed at as close to 11:30 minutes per miles as I could. I didn’t cross the start line until a few minutes after 8AM. That meant Caitlin was probably halfway done by the time I started, which sucked. The rain was pouring pretty hard in the beginning but I still ditched my garbage bag right away and started running with everyone else. The first half of the race has you running around Prospect Park and then through it. Given the early hour and the weather, it was not surprising that there weren’t a lot of people cheering along the way, mostly just people walking their dogs, but I appreciated every single person that was there in the rain. The park has a few inclines and declines but nothing too bad and there were ample water stations right from the beginning, which I really appreciated. Prospect park was pretty boring though the rain did kinda stop for a little bit, which I appreciated very much. I was glad to be out of the park though, and into the second part of the run: racing down Ocean Parkway. It’s basically straight course down a 6-lane avenue. There’s a ton of space to run, but not a ton to look at for distraction. Again, there weren’t a ton of people cheering or spectating which meant I really only had the race to focus on. The rain started coming down strong again at that point, but despite being drenched I was actually trudging along as a decent pace between the 10-11 minute per mile range. My fastest mile was miles 3 at 10:05/mi, my slowest ones, miles 5 and 6 were 11:11/mi and 13.16/mi. Mile nine was also a bit of a struggle at 11:09/mi. Otherwise I ran in the 10s and I all I could think about while running down Ocean Drive was that I could realistically finish the race with a 20 minute PR. That was a huge motivation to just keep going and not slow down!
In the end, I finished in 2:24. I missed the Royal Wedding for a 17-minute PR. Most importantly, I finally had a race result I could be proud of, especially given the less than ideal conditions. I had something to show for all the training and running I have been doing since the beginning of the year and that made it all worth it.
Calla and Nicole were supposed to meet us at the Boardwalk with dry clothes and umbrellas (and my phone charger) but given the weather they stayed in bed to watch the royal wedding. And I can’t blame them. While I had to wait at the start, Caitlin had to wait at the end and she was frozen by the time I got there (a solid hour and half after her!) so once we found each other we didn’t stick around too long. It was a bummer because the party at the finish line looked like it would have been a ton of fun… had we not been tired, wet and cold. I guess I’ll have to go back to Coney Island under better circumstances.
The next day, the sun finally came out. Hurrah! I had almost forgotten what it looked like 😉 We went back to Brooklyn for brunch at Chez Ma Tante, a French-Canadian neighbourhood bistro in Greenpoint. The pancakes were worth all the accolades they’ve been getting! Calla and Nicole brought the sign they had planned to use at the finish line along for brunch! How cute is the sign? Though I don’t think it would have survived in the rain 😉
And of course, we took our medals on a little photo shoot to make up for the pictures we didn’t get to take the day before and I *finally* got to have my Coney Island beer at The Brooklyn Barge! No Nathan’s hot dog though…
Would I run this race again? I dunno…. there are SO many races. If it were a local race, I definitely would and I would make sure I can attend the expo as well since the New York Road Runners does a great job making sure it’s a special event, almost a pre-race party. And I’d love to see what kind of party at Coney Island we all missed out on because the weather was so awful. I guess I have a whole year to figure that out.
Next up for me is the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon on June 2nd. It’s likely to be very hot and humid by then in Purcellville so it will be a very different race but I hope to prove to myself that my 2:24 finish at the Brooklyn half wasn’t just a fluke and finish in under 2:25.