NYC: Running the Half Marathon

March 27th, 2010

pre-race(Note: The half marathon was March 21). Standing in the corral I looked at the people around me. Spandex-clad, mid-thirties to mid-fifties. Some had done their hair that morning, like the taller guy ahead of me. Perfectly coiffed, like this was a date.

Many talked with running partners about how friends couldn’t understand running 13 miles at 7.30 in the morning. I really don’t either; I’m not good at morning exercise. But these conversations were familiar. I’ve overheard or taken part in many with climbers. Talking this way, you feel different, special, a breed apart; it’s a means of differentiating yourself from the ‘masses.’ But really, it’s only self-validation. (at right: the line up for the latrines, pre-race)

My standing there, shivering in as the sun rose, was almost a total whim. A co-worker, who was injured, offered me her NYC Half Marathon bib earlier in the week. I accepted, with non-committal interest. It’s not that I doubted I could run the 13 miles, even though this was off the couch. My doubts were if I could do it to my expectation…and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get up that early and take an hour-long subway ride to be surrounded by so many people. But, on the other hand, when was I ever going to get the chance to run down 7th Avenue and through Times Square–in the middle of the street?

The beginning was slow; it took 20 minutes to reach the start line once the race began, and I spent every moment in the eight mile loop of Central Park passing people (except when waiting in line to pee). That meant dodging, crossing the lane, running on the curb, double stepping, and weaving through people sideways. It was frustrating and made a steady rhythm impossible.

When we headed down 7th, increasing my stride and pace, I looked up at the towers above me. Early morning light reflected off the buildings and cast shadows in their corners. It was immeasurably far from the dawn moments I’ve had in the mountains, but being able to “spread” myself from the tightly focused space I’d been in made me smile. I could now center myself and run more on my terms. I noted the blisters forming on my feet, the tightening in a hamstring, and weighed them against the distance remaining.

We ran down 42nd then out to the West Side Highway. At mile 10 I looked south and picked a building off in the haze. I didn’t know, but I decided that was three miles away and adjusted my pace and my mind. At mile 11 I opened up again, running (roughly) a 6.5 minute mile before slowing down again for mile 12–I couldn’t maintain the pace. I couldn’t help but think of my friend, Chad Kellogg, an athlete who plans his busy life to the minute. When he goes for alpine speed ascents, minutes and details matter. He would have known what he wanted for a finish time; he would have averaged the miles then factored in the crowd, and recalculated. He is a machine. I am not, but I still was having fun.

Before I knew it, the 800m sign appeared. I picked up the pace. 400m, and I picked it up again. I was passing people left and right, lengthening my stride, throwing my arms forward and straightening my torso out of its sag. 200m and I picked it up to my anaerobic threshold. My limbs began to tingle and my breath increased as my body went into an oxygen deficit.

post-raceSince I was running on someone’s bib, and the times are record, I’d left the digital timing tag behind. My stopwatch was my iPhone, and when I crossed the finish line I pulled it out of the pouch Lu (the sweetheart that she is) had given me for running. Hitting the stop button, I had an unofficial time of 1:43:29. Nothing special, but I was satisfied.

I think the best thing about the run was the opportunity to sink into myself, to find the mental strength my mind provides my body when it’s under physical duress. To a certain degree, I like this kind of suffering, and it’s been awhile. But I have to be in the right frame of mind to do it.

Running through the heart of Manhattan was cool, but if I ever run a marathon it will probably be in the mountains. By myself. (at right: a $15 foot massage in Chinatown post-race)

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2 Responses to “NYC: Running the Half Marathon”

  1. Tim McGuire says:


    Come run with Amy and me in August.


  2. Lu says:

    I so wish I was there to greet you with a kiss at the finish line


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