Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Half Marathons...

It's half-marathon season! Okay, well not quite, but many of us in the NYC area just finished the Manhattan Half-Marathon in Central Park or are already training for the NYC Half-Marathon that runs through Times Square. With that said, after ten Half-Marathons, I'm finally beginning to understand what it's all about. There are many things I've learned along the way and clearly many more that I still need to learn but here's what I've learned from each of my halfs to date:

1st: Brooklyn Half 2:25 The most important night of sleep is actually two nights before! Not the night before. Who knew? I surely didn't. The race was on a Saturday, and that Thursday night, I got a call from my friend, Pete. "Hey I got tickets to this great open bar event at Marquee. It's been rented out for the night..." My answer was, undoubtedly: "I"m absolutely in!" Not a big drinker in general, I managed to get myself completely sloshed. Probably the worst/greatest night ever. Friday was spent recovering with a huge jug of Gatorade. Saturday I felt the pain from mile 1 to mile 13.1 but I finished and officially became a half-marathoner!

2nd Norwegian Festival: How fast can you hop back into a half-marathon? I had taken off about six months due to a stress fracture and then decided to jump right back in it. I was aiming to run a full marathon with only two and a half months of training (didn't quite happen). After four weeks of training, I stepped out there and ran this half, and to my surprise, despite having to stop and walk part of that 12th mile, I finished almost ten minutes faster than my first.

3 Staten Island: It was one weekend after the Norwegian Festival and I was on a roll! I went out there and yet again set another PR. I ran this race without stopping and finally broke 2:10! Lesson learned that if you can push yourself, you can succeed.

4 Manhattan: I was trained! I was ready to go and I was not planning on racing this event. It was absolutely freezing out. I ran the first six miles at a comfortable pace and then just took off, once again a new PR! Little did I know that this PR was going to be the one that took me years to break.

5 Bronx: Two weeks after the Manhattan half, I decided I was so close to the two-hour half that I had to do it, I had to run two hours. I prepped myself, I tapered, I was ready. I just wasn't quite ready to be a two-hour marathoner! I went out too fast for the first time, and pulled a muscle. Off to the side of the course, I saw everyone passing by me. I finally got back in there after stretching and jogged it to the finish. It was awful, and of course still cold.

6 Jersey: Still determined to run in two hours, I brought myself out to Jersey to run a flat "easy" half. I had a friend who agreed that he'd try to pace me...new lesson: do not run with someone you have not run with before at a race! He pushed me too hard and I ended up finding myself once again walking through parts of the race. Needless to say, I did not meet that two-hour mark.

7 NYC Half: And I'm still trying! Two-hours, here I come I kept saying to myself. I went out in the blistering heat to a course, about which everyone insisted, "You can't PR in August." They were right. You can't PR in tremendous heat if you're not one to like the heat. I was right on track for my first loop of central park, however by the time the race hit the West Side Highway at mile 10 - I felt the blistering sun, there was no shade, it must have been 80° and I fell apart. I kept running but at much much slower pace and once again missed that two-hour point!

8 NYC Half: I ran it for a friend. I learned my lesson the prior year about trying to PR in the heat. I wasn't ready to break two hours and was ready to help someone run their first half marathon. I ran from the start to the finish with her, running ahead to get her water, supporting her, and telling her how great she was doing till we finally reached that triumphant finish. I realized then, for the first time, how far I had come. This was the slowest race I ever ran (and hopefully always will be) but one of the most impacting.

9 Queens: I was getting ready for the NYC marathon but was really on cruise control. I had started thinking that I wanted to run for speed but wasn't ready to actually start at that point. I was aiming for an easy run, and long and behold, I felt it, I was having a great day. I just went for it, and finally, there in Queens, I broke two hours!

10 Staten Island: About three weeks later I beat my Queens time by two minutes!

And finally last week's half marathon: Manhattan Half. I trained, I put everything into it. I took coaching, I took speed classes, and then I got a cold! I ran it sick, despite the sniffles, I was determined. Three months of serious training rewarded me with an almost twelve-minute PR!

To 2010 and all the new half-marathons it will hold. You get what you put in, and I have finally realized that!


  1. Btw, tell me about your half marathon experiences, lessons, etc. I'd love to hear them!

  2. i agree with putting time in to get good results... although sometimes ive PR'd without any training. its a weird science. my new thing w halfs is to wear racing flats which seems to help my time.

    congrats on all the halfs, im impressed!

  3. WELL DONE!! I have been running for two years! Love my half marathons and love my full marathons! Running the Goofy's Race and Half challenge at Disney World next year. Very exited for it! Your blog is so positive and hits on a lot of the topics I have been thinking about!

    Great job and keep it up! :)

  4. Love your blog.. yes you DO get what you put in and I think it's great to focus on 1 type of event and really get good at it! Keep up the great work and have fun running out there!

  5. thanks guys for all your comments! i love seeing them and glad to know you can relate! I think this is what i love most about blogs and twitter, beyond majority of my friendship who can't relate there's such a great community of runners online!

  6. Fun to read your story. I tried to break two on my first half, even though I got an injury two weeks before that made it so I couldn't walk. First major lesson learned. Do NOT run with a serious injury and if you do- trying to PR is stupid! Decided to run the Manhattan half about 2 months before with no time goal, two weeks before realized I might just make it, and with perfect conditions I did, just 1.59! Now I'm worried I'll never live up to that race :)

  7. you will totally live up to that race!! now you just need to take your training to the next gear. i thought i'd never break 2hrs and i'm already at 1:45, anything is possible! just be positive!

  8. Wow, great stuff! I think for me each race has a different thing to learn from. You're never satisfied and there's more to strive for.

    Last year I didn't train for the first half of the year (life got in the way) and ran a personal worst half in May (Brooklyn - two days before I moved). Just 3 1/2 months later I ran a new PR in a half. I think it comes down to if your head is in the game.

  9. Thanks for blogging. Good stuff.

    Check out my blog on reaching for running Nirvana; the Boston Marathon.


  10. Great post (and congrats on your PR!) I actually think the half is my favorite distance-when I'm in decent shape, that's the one distance I can run consistently well and it doesn't take forever to recover from.

    My first half was the Manhattan Half in 2004...back when it was at the end of August, and was crazy hot!! All I wanted to do was break 2 hours, and I was happy to do that and then some!

    My strategy for halfs-pace for 10, race for 5K. Works for me :)

    And the one lesson I learned-proper fueling is essential!! The Queens half in 2007 was the day after Yom Kippur, so I was not properly fueled...that plus a crazy hilly course led to a lovely PW :) (but hey, at least it made for an entertaining race report!)