Race Recap: 2012 Manhattan Half-Marathon

Ed. note: This FanPost is brought to you by my brother. Please welcome him to Stride Nation! - Cory

On Saturday, I ran the Manhattan Half-Marathon, the first of the New York Road Runners (NYRR) 5-Borough Series. Steady snow had been falling since around 2 a.m. and continued throughout the race.

In the interest of safety, NYRR had turned the race into an "unscored" event (what some call a "fun run") at around 5 a.m. This meant that there would be no clocks on the course and no official results. I knew this before I left on the 45-minute subway ride to Central Park; I briefly considered going back to bed, but then I told myself that I hadn't trained for the past two months for the privilege of taking the easy way out!

When I go to Central Park for races, the subway tends to slowly fill up with runners as it makes its way from Brooklyn to uptown Manhattan. Not this time: one runner got in at 23rd Street, and that was it. Am I doing something really stupid? I wondered. I was relieved when I saw plenty of people milling about the baggage claim area; in all, the number of runners was in the thousands, according to NYRR. I was also happy to see a few of my teammates from Prospect Park Track Club before the race.

The race got off to a slow start. There were no corrals, so people lined up where they wanted, which meant there was a lot of ducking and weaving in the first mile or two. The Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy did a great job of plowing the course, and you could still see some pavement as the race began. That was not to last.

My goal going in was to run the race in 1:34 (a 7:10/mi pace). Once I surveyed the situation, I ratcheted that back to 1:40 (7:40/mi), and I was doing very well after one loop. (One loop of Central Park is 6.04 miles.) I struggled only on the uphill portions; it was hard to get a grip - a bit like running through sand - and my quads would burn whenever I tried to push myself. The snow stung my face at times, and my hands were starting to get wet through my two pairs of gloves. (Note to self: buy waterproof gloves.)

Loop two was much more difficult; the great work done by the plows had disappeared under a bed of fresh powder, and there were fewer people around to draft behind. Suddenly my goal was to finish in under an 8:00/mi pace. I could have used an ice pick on Harlem Hill, the tough climb in the northwest corner of the park. But once I reached double digits, I knew that only a 5K remained, and that I could power through the pain and the bitter wind.

I finished in 1:44:30, a 7:58/mi pace - which, given the circumstances, I thought was phenomenal. I walked very slowly past the Gatorade tables (I had four cups of yellow slush) and the bagel stand, trying to keep my brain from shutting down. But I did it! And I had a blast doing so, perhaps the most fun I've ever had running, even though I'm now sore in parts of my legs that I never knew existed (mostly in my knees and in my upper legs).

I met up with some of my teammates after the race, and we took some pictures. We all had turned into icicles: my glasses were iced over and had frozen to my hat, and my teammates with beards now had significant amounts of ice on their chins. But we were all in good spirits, and were happy to have shared this experience.

A number of people made this event possible and much more fun than it would have been. First, the coordinators and the volunteers, who braved the elements to make the race work. They were there at the baggage check, at the water stations, and on the sides of the course, directing runners where to go. Then there were the fans: hundreds of teammates, family, and friends stationed all around the course, ringing cowbells and shouting words of encouragement to those plowing the snow with their feet. I am very grateful for all of these people.

This was my first experience running through a snowstorm, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I've now run two half-marathons: last July's Queens Half, where it was 80 degrees and muggy, and Saturday's white-out. I'm hopeful that a plague of locusts doesn't disrupt my next, the NYC Half in March.

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