Brooklyn Half Marathon: May 18, 2013

What better way to start this new healthy living/runner obsessed/loving life in NYC blog than to recap a fabulous race, right here in my city? Since running is a big part of my life and will certainly play a regular role here, I can’t think of anything more appropriate.

iloverunning

Just about a month ago on a Saturday, May 18, I ran my fifth half marathon in the last year-and-a-half (should have been sixth but I decided to forego the NYC Half to take a lil snowboarding trip in Colorado that weekend): the Brooklyn Half. Despite a 4:20am wake-up call and little-to-no knowledge of where I was headed that morning (note to self: explore Brooklyn more this summer!), this ended up being an absolutely incredible race for me. I felt healthy, strong, rested, excited, and not a bit nervous. Ya know how sometimes the running gods smile brilliantly upon you and everything just seems to work?

perfectrun

Well, for me, this race just came together smashingly, and I felt wonderful from start to finish. I can’t say that about every race I’ve ever run, so I was extreeeeemely happy with my body’s stamina and strength during this one.

I thought it was a really well-organized race, starting with the 3-day Pre-Party and Expo at this sweet old warehouse in super cool hipster Dumobo, sponsored by New Balance (woot! my faves) and full of running goodies & gear, music, food, and drinks. There’s something so inspiring and good-vibey about seeing so many runners hanging out together, bonding over a shared passion.

The race began on Eastern Parkway near Prospect Park and included a loop of the park (which thankfully had the only hilly section of the race), and we ended on the boardwalk in Coney Island — pretty sweet place to finish. The course was pretty flat, minus a hill in the park and a few little rolling sections, but nothing to cry about (and definitely nothing like running in Central Park). One thing that stuck out to me was how congested the course was throughout the duration of the race. Although the masses thinned out a bit after the beginning, it remained consistenly more packed than any other races I’ve run, and you always had people on all sides of you (I did quite a bit of dodging). Looking back, I wonder if this is part of the reason I shaved off a few minutes from my previous best, as though I ramped up into competitive mode and pushed myself to out-do my fellow runners? I think that sort of a push is definitely a good motivator.

There were water & gatorade stations about every mile or two, and they gave out Gu at mile 7 or 8. The only bummer about the race was the finish — I was really disappointed with the snacks and lack of “stuff” going on at the end. I’ve done some halves (like the Mohawk Hudson in upstate, NY) where they go all out for the runners, with spreads of food and free massages and music. There was nothing like this here, and I suppose part of it was the sheer amount of people running — but still, it seemed a bit anti-climatic to me.

Regardless, I was thrilled with this race. Out of 21,378 finishers, I came in 7,436 — and I was 2,026 out of the 10,563 women, which rocked my socks. I think a number of factors contributed to my PR in this race:

1. New sneaks. I returned to my first love, New Balance, and chose a more minimalist (but not quite Minimus) shoe, much lighter and quicker than my previous Nikes & Sauconys. They straightened out my gait, eliminated the IT band issues that’d plagued me for years, and gave me a much more comfortable stride.

newbalance

2. Boot camp/strength training/calisthenics/kettlebells. It amazes me how much stronger I became in this past year, since beginning a consistent, regimented routine of weekly boot camps & strength training. Adding this into my running schedule 2-3 times a week really boosted my running, endurance, strength, confidence, and overall health, and I felt much better while running. I can honestly say I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been and am definitely stronger than ever before, and I owe a lot of this to the strength training.

 

3.  Speed workouts and hills. Although I would prefer to run outdoors 100% of the time, I ended up doing a lot of my cold-weather shorter runs on treadmills this year. The one advantage of this was that I tried some speed workouts for the first time, and I think they helped. Along with this, I did quite a few of my longer runs in the very hilly region in upstate, NY where my parents live, and this definitely makes you a more resilient runner (and makes you appreciate the beauty of the flat courses even more!).

hillrunner

4. Music. I am a music runner, as I naturally assume most people are. I rarely embark on my morning runs without my iPhone. However, I somehow managed to survive my first four halves sans music (although I did run with friends for three of them), and I think I prefer to have my tunes to keep me motivated. I ran part of this race with a girlfriend and part solo, and I was happy to have my made-the-previous-night Brooklyn Half mix to keep me grinding away.

5. My attitude. I’ve really been trying to appreciate and love my body more this past year, and be thankful for my athleticism and my ability to run and move and sweat. I’ve thought of myself more as a runner than I have in the past, and I went into this race with a calm excitement and a resolution to do better than ever before — and I firmly believe this contributed immensely to my success. A positive attitude does wonders for the soul, and the body as well.

positivelife

I run for a million different reasons, but mostly, I run because I love it, and because there’s no problem I’ve yet to encounter that a swift jaunt down the West Side Highway can’t help diminish. I run because I am blessed to be healthy enough to do so, and I never, ever want to take that for granted.

And because when I was little, my dad used to tell me constantly that running was the only “real way to exercise,” so…there’s that.

I’d definitely recommend this race to any half-marathoners or potential half-marathoners out there!

Question: What’s your favorite race you’ve ever run? What made it so fab?

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