A little over a week ago, I was finally about to run my first Half Marathon, ever; it would be the Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Fred's Team Presents Grete's Great Gallop , in Central Park. Just one week before I had finished the Bronx Ten Mile and the two weeks before that I had little to no run time in do to a vacation run-amok. Not only would this be my first 13.1 miler, it would be my first 12 and 11 miler too.
That and I discovered I would have a last minute entourage/cheer group of eight people. Needless to say I was pretty nervous.
The night before, I laid out everything I might need for the morning, as usual....
... but when I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, my first thought was, "why are you doing this? 13 miles is ridiculous!" Of course, 6:30 a.m. race morning is way too late for second thoughts and I was glad I had laid everything out because auto-pilot was far less stressful at this point.
Did I mention the weather? This morning happened to be A. Dreary. All morning it was overcast and either constantly threatening to open up with ungodly drizzle. B. Humid. I don't know where it came from, but even though it was only in the mid-sixties, humidity was at 90% and it felt gross.
To prepare, I ate my normal granola bar and half of a banana for a little extra oomph. I also usually try to drink about a full water bottle before my morning races or runs to compensate for 8 hours or so of without water during sleep.
Finally, the Mister and I hope in the new-again ol' Super Bug (whole 'nother story), and headed toward the park. We quickly found the rest of the group, which included my brother, aunt, mother, stepfather, and three young family friends (who were absolute troopers, in my opinion, for waking up so early to watch runners literally run circles for two hours).
Our reunion was short lived, as I headed off to the Lines of Doom, otherwise known as the pre-race porta-potty gauntlet. This turned out to be slightly more eventful than I would have imagined. It went like this: the gauntlet was composed of maybe forty porta-potties in a row, and there were about ten lines of about 30 runners. Each line then filtered politely into one of the nearest units as it became available, in theory anyway. Two young ladies went down between two lines to form their own "new line" with no one in front of them. And let me tell you, that did not fly. After some brief crowd uproar, the gentleman behind me, in one of the best New York accents imaginable, yelled "Ladies, ladies, no! You can wait in line with the rest of us." The young women paused and then, somewhat resigned, walked back past us, to the end of the line. Order restored, the rest of us in line chuckled and found some of the early morning pre-race tension broken.
Only briefly though, because less then ten minutes later we found ourselves in our corals at 8:59 listening to the national anthem and awaiting the start. And waiting.... and waiting. We inched forward, and then waited more! The way this coral was situated, not only could we not actually hear the start, but it would be a full six minutes before we were moving at a light jog and over the starting mat. This was it! This Half Marathon was happening!
And I was stoked.
For me, the central park loop is one of my favorite weekly runs. Of course I usually run it counterclockwise, and I usually only run it once. This was definitely a race full of many firsts!
Another first: I finally figured out how to use the split feature on my watch. As I discovered during my first longer race (the 10 miler,) the first half is mentally challenging because I am thinking of all the miles ahead. To diminish this effect, I tried to focus on 1.) my new pace feature and hitting a steady pace somewhere around 8:30 per mile and 2.) the fact that a six mile loop is actually something I am comfortable with. The second half of a longer race, I anticipated, would be physically more demanding. To prepare for this I concentrated on taking a little water and or water/Gatorade mix in every mile or so, and I ate 1/2 a Cliff bar around mile 7.
And Grete's Great Gallop was great. I especially loved the spectator who situated herself right above the cat statue at Cat Scratch Hill. She made me laugh, both times past, partially because I imagined how much her runner must have appreciated her unique position. My own cheering squad, surprised me by running back and forth across the park, so I got to see them not twice, but four times. It also kept me on my toes (literally) as I knew I couldn't slack off for the next x-amount of miles because they were always just ahead.
And then their was my goal. I had decided a few weeks back that I would like to finish sub 2 hrs. I had run the 10 miler in 1:29:49, so hypothetically, it was realistic for me. But I wasn't sure if I could maintain a quick enough pace after that point to keep me under 2 hrs. And at one point, I was convinced I couldn't.
But at that point, I didn't care. I was enjoying the race so much, I thought to myself, "2:05:00, 2:10:00, that's cool and I don't care." Fact, my math during gets hazy (Apparently, my mind also gets hazy as I repeatedly read the backs of runners shirts- which said "Imagine a world with out cancer"- as "I'm a gine...." "I'm a gine?" I kept thinking, what does that mean?" But I digress).
1:58:15! Boom! I was stoked. I surprised hazy-math race self, meet my goal, and delivered on my ETA to my family. Done, done and done.
My splits were 8:46, 8:39, 8:32, 8:50, 9:29, 9:14, 8:29, 9:46, 9:11, 9:13, 9:26, 8:43, and 9:49. Overall these splits are more consistent than I would have imagined possible on a hilly course combined with the fact I never had a chance to train with accurate splits before. At the same time, I am excited to have a baseline down, so I can work towards becoming steadier and punctual for future training.
All in all, it was a beautiful course, an amazing cause, an exciting new distance, and I was lucky enough to experience it all in the company of my family, my friends, and my Mister. And that, is just about as good as it gets.