NYCRUNS Central Park Half Marathon Recap

I haven’t been very good about blogging lately (as well as taking non-baby pictures, so please excuse the lack of pictures in this post). My training for the LA Marathon isn’t stellar, that’s okay though. I’ve accepted that the race will just be a fun-do-not-get-injured-really-really-long run. I’m so exhausted most days and in my down time, I am either trying to sneak in a couple of hours (or in most cases 30 minutes) of work or watching mindless television. There are still a number of posts that I’d like to share and some that I have promised to share for a while but haven’t gotten around to it yet — i.e. my review on the Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones. And now to add to that list, I am wearing a Garmin Forerunner 35 all the time even when I am not running. Wonder what happened to my Apple Watch or the Garmin Forerunner 220? Well, I guess you’ll have to wait patiently for me to write up that post!

However, in other news, I ran my first official half marathon postpartum on Sunday. This was also my first NYCRUNS race ever. So on Sunday, I ran the Central Park Half Marathon. The course was slightly different from that of other Central Park half marathons that I have run. Instead of two full loops of the park, this one was two loops from Harlem Hill to the 72nd Street transverse and a partial third loop ending at 102nd Street on the East Side.

In my one race experience with NYCRUNS, they are very different from NYRR. The races are not nearly as crowded even when they sell out. Also, the races do not sell out far in advance. In the example of this one, the race didn’t sell out until the day before and the field was less than 2,000 people where in the case of a comparable NYRR half marathon, the race would have been sold out further in advance and there would be likely nearly double the amount of people and in some cases way more. As a result, bib pickup and the logistics are not nearly as elaborate.

The bib pickup for this race was at Paragon Sports the day before and available morning of the race up to 30 minutes before the start. I opted for morning pickup and the process was smooth. There were barely any lines and while the pickup didn’t use any fancy technology like NYRR uses now with the QR codes, it was still efficient. After bib pickup, I waited on line for the port-a-potties which were not available near the start area (96th Street and West Side) instead were all at the finish area (102nd Street transverse). From there I picked up my race t-shirt and dropped off my bag. I jogged over to the start area (since when I did become one of those obnoxious runners that I used to make fun of who ran before races?) and had over 20 minutes to spare before the start. There were no corrals and everyone just hung out while waiting for the start of the race.

As I was starting the race (about 3 minutes after the gun went off), I was thinking about how if you’re someone who truly appreciates the corralling system — meaning you put down your actual anticipated pace and start in the assigned corral — then you wouldn’t enjoy the type of start at the Central Park Half Marathon. Without corrals, you’re next to people of all different paces and if you rely on the person next to you or the crowds to help pace you to a more conservative start, well this would be tougher to gauge. Sometimes I’m that person and in the case of the race on Sunday, I was really concerned that I went out too fast and I might have a bit since my fastest mile was mile 4.

Anyway, I ran a consistent race. My pacing was a little slower going up the tougher hills in Central Park – Cat Hill and Harlem Hill. It’s great knowing the course so well that you can expect the hills and adjust your pacing accordingly leading up to them. The course was not crowded so I really ran the race in my head, mentally free and did not have to worry about dodging people. The water stations were roughly every 2 miles, so that threw me a bit when I really wanted some water around the same time as a gel (by the way, the Honey Stinger Chocolate Energy Gels taste incredible especially if you love chocolate and when they’re cold – tastes like fudge!) towards the end and couldn’t remember when the next one was. As for the signage, I always run with a watch (for good or bad) so the mile markers and elapsed time clocks are a little less important to me but I usually prefer to look at them than down on my watch if I can help it. There were no elapsed time clocks in this race but there were mile markers.

I saved a little gas for the last stretch as my second fastest mile was mile 13. Overall, I’m incredibly pleased on the outcome – 2:03:59. This is over 7 minutes off PR time but I wasn’t expecting that due to the lack of training and speed work but this time is faster than my first half marathon time and back then I was in the peak of marathon training. Now, if the LA Marathon was a half instead of a full, I might actually feel a little more confident!

Post-race, NYCRUNS did a great job. There were heat sheets and medals and you can quickly navigate through all that. There were no bottlenecks between you and the food. I was able grab to a cup of Gatorade, bagel and my bag really quickly. I didn’t stop to enjoy but did notice a station with cream cheese for the bagels, hot chocolate, strawberries, and energy gels. All in all, I was pleased with the race experience and while it lacked the excitement of being able to run into so many people you know from the running community, it was low-key and easy.

Tell me about your non-NYRR race experiences in the NYC-area.

It’s okay to run on the treadmill…

As “hard-core” (or whatever the right word is) runners, we keep telling ourselves that we cannot run on the treadmill. The treadmill is boring; it doesn’t mimic outdoor running – i.e. weather, incline, etc; it will not prepare you well for race conditions and more. However, I am here to tell you that it is okay to run on the treadmill. Not all the time if you’re training for an outdoor race and especially if you’re gunning for a time goal but it is okay more often than not.

Yesterday, I was signed up for the NYCRuns 10-miler in Central Park. I was going to run a 2 mile warm up and then 2 miles afterwards to cool down to wrap up a long run of 14 miles. I went to bed on Saturday night with my bags packed and clothes all laid out for the morning. I woke up at 5:30AM ready to conquer the run and followed my morning ritual – breakfast, coffee, and pump. However, as I sat here in the morning, I became more and skeptical about whether it would be worth the trip out to the city for the race. The temperatures were frigid in the single digits with wind chill much colder and with the snow from the day before, the roads outside my window looked very slippery. Ultimately, I decided to not venture in for the race and instead run the miles on the treadmill.  (Side note – NYCRuns did not send an update or post on social media about whether the race would continue as planned and the conditions in Central Park until 3 hours after the start of the race.)

This list is by no means my justification for skipping the race but as I kept thinking more and more about the benefits of freezing my butt off in perhaps slippery conditions, I realized that at the end I chose the safer bet and still managed to get my run in. A win-win given the situation. So with that, here are a handful of reasons why it is okay to run on the treadmill.

—Weather and/or are perhaps dangerous. For example, frigid or extremely hot temperatures, slippery roads, lightning (Disney cancelling the half marathon this weekend is a perfect example), hurricane, and more.

—Weather conditions are not ideal and your race locale temperatures mimic indoor running. If you’re training in the winter for a race in a warmer climate and the conditions outdoors are not ideal, then it’s an even better reason to run indoors. In my case, I’m training for a race in Los Angeles in March which will be much warmer than single digits. I opted to wear my race day attire for the long run yesterday so I can feel confident that everything will be comfortable.

—Too early or too late for an outdoor run. For most people it is tough with schedules to fit in runs in daylight especially now that it gets dark so early and the sun rises so late. It’s always best to opt for safety especially if you don’t have a friend or group to run with.

—Time constraints. We’re all guilty of having back to back plans especially on the weekends and if running on a treadmill means fitting in the run and being able to make it to your other plans, then by all means, running on the treadmill is better than not running at all.

—Skipping a run is worst. Would you rather have the endorphins or not?!? In a perfect world, I’d ask for 50 degree and sunny and light wind conditions every morning with no other plans until later in the day so I can fit in all of my runs outside, but it’s a not a perfect world so I’d rather find a way to run than not.

I fully acknowledge that training for a road race solely on a treadmill would be tough and as a runner, you need to be ready to run in all weather conditions as you never know what you’re going to get on race day. However, the flip side is that it is okay to run on the treadmill if safety and not skipping a run is more important.

How do you feel about running on the treadmill?