Saturday marked my third running of the Brooklyn Half Marathon. A brief history of my experiences with this race:
- 2011: I mistakenly checked my bag with my iPod still in it. My roommate tried to keep me from having a mini meltdown, and I decided that I had to run fast because if I didn’t, I’d be out there in “silence” even longer. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I ran a PR that day, and I’ve since become much less dependent on music while racing (though I haven’t given it up entirely).
- 2012: This was the first year on a new course, which I loved. It was great to be able to start on the streets of Brooklyn and run around Grand Army Plaza before running one loop of Prospect Park and continuing on to Coney Island (the old course was simply two park loops before exiting onto Ocean Parkway). However, I did not love running 1:49, as I was gunning for a PR, and this was 5 minutes slower than my personal best (1:44:32 from that year’s Houston Half). I laugh at this disappointment now, as I would have been elated to run a 1:49 last weekend. Perspective much?
On to 2013. Going into this race, I knew I was not in shape to PR, or even run sub-1:50 for that matter. I was okay with that. I had trained much harder for the NYC Half back in March, but I ended up having an off day and running that race in 1:54. I knew I was trained for a faster time, however, I wasn’t very enthused about finding a redemption race. I’d been training for one race or another without a significant break since the winter of 2011, so I was ready to back off, run enough to be in shape for Brooklyn, and then pick it up to start base-building before training for NYCM.
My former roommate, Jenny, stayed over to avoid the early morning trek from the UES, so it was nice to have some company during the 6:00 AM walk to the start area. The corrals closed at 6:30, a half hour before the race itself, so I expected the next 30 minutes to be lonely since most of my friends were in the second wave, or in different corrals if they made Wave 1. As it turned out, Betsy was in my corral, so it was great to pass the time discussing our goals for the day and our upcoming races. When we finally crossed the start line (nearly 15 minutes later for those of us in the ninth corral!), I wished her luck on her PR goal and we parted ways as she sped off and I began my own race.
Since I wasn’t running Brooklyn for a specific time, I opted to run without my Garmin. The last few races that haven’t gone as planned have usually started too fast as I’ve tried to maintain what I feel like I “should” be seeing on the watch, followed by feelings of discouragement from seeing slower paces and splits toward the end. I wasn’t sure how I would keep my pace under control while running blind, but I figured at the very least I wouldn’t start much too fast for my fitness level. The result? My most evenly paced half marathon ever. If I could learn how to do this during a (time) goal race, I might never race with my watch again.
The first 5K was mostly downhill, so I’m not surprised that it was the fastest split. There was a significant out-and-back when we ran up Flatbush Avenue, around Grand Army Plaza, and around to the farthest park entrance. During this stretch I distracted myself from running as I looked for my friends coming in the other direction (Success! I spotted both Ashley and Theodora on Flatbush). The second 5K included a stop to take a gel with water, but I’m anticipating that I lost about a minute between pulling over to get the gel out of my back pocket and then walking through the water station, so without the stop the split would have probably been similar to the first 5K. I did slow down in the second half of the race, but only by about 30 seconds in the 15K, and I maintained that pace into the 20K and final ~3/4 mile. The weather was overcast and on the cooler side, which definitely worked in my favor this year. Confession: I usually try to avoid stopping for water in half marathons if at all possible (same goes for all shorter distances). I know this is unconventional, but I feel like it messes up my rhythm and makes it that much harder to get going again, so I usually just push through to the finish before rehydrating. This usually works for me, but Brooklyn is typically the warmest half I’ll race each year, so I’ll usually make it to mile 10 or 11 on Ocean Parkway, take a break, and then try desperately to pick up the pace but instead end up holding on for dear life until the end. Not this year. This portion of the course is a straight shot for 6 miles, and it usually feels endless, but this time I actually enjoyed it since the sun wasn’t beaming down on me the entire time. Despite not being at my speediest, each mile marker seemed to show up so quickly, and before I knew it I was at the 20K and it was time to yank my headphones out so I could hear the crowds as I made my way up to the Coney Island boardwalk to sprint toward the finish line.
Timewise, maybe I would have run slightly faster if I’d had my watch, but my goal was to run a smart race with letting myself get preoccupied by paces, tangents, and whatnot. Mission accomplished: My average pace this time was only 2 seconds slower than that of the NYC Half (8:49 vs. 8:47), but (surprise) it felt much better to maintain that pace the whole time than to start much faster and rapidly decline like I did in March.
After the race, Betsy spotted me again, and I learned that she got her desired 1:44 (guess we’re PR twins now!). We chatted for a bit before she headed back to Manhattan and I made my way back to mile 13 to try to catch my friends in Wave 2 as they finished their race before we gathered for the obligatory group beach photo.
Final verdict on Brooklyn 2013: Third time’s a charm, and I’ll definitely be back for what I like to consider to be my hometown race.