Ah, the best laid schemes of mice and men. The Bronx Half-Marathon this past Sunday was my second race in a long time. It was held not too far from my first home in the U.S., in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx. I thought by then I would be familiar with the format of the race and would arrive early to snap a few photos of the old neighborhood. I got my bib number, tank top, and timing tag (D-tag) on the Thursday before the race. That same night, I got the bib attached to the shirt, D-tag looped securely around my left sneaker's lace. The night before the event, I packed a change of clothes in a small duffel bag. With the Queens Half, I packed on the morning of the race and only realized I forgot the change of clothes when I parked at the event. Nothing would go wrong this time, so I thought.
I got up early at 4:30 in the morning and out of the house by 5. Less than half-way there, the car complained that gas was low. (A subway stop is close to the race start line but traveling from Brooklyn to the Bronx on the subway really early on Sunday is probably not a safe thing to do.) I knew that normal usage would allow the car to go another 15 miles or so even after the low-gas indicator came up. However, I really don't like to take chances. Who know, I might have enough gas to get to the race but maybe it won't be enough to go back. I lived in the Bronx for only a few months and rarely visit the borough so I am not familiar with locations of gas stations. Better get gas before arriving at the Bronx Half.
I figured it would be safest to get off the highway while in Manhattan. The idea of getting off the Gowanus and visit some gas station on Brooklyn's Third Avenue or Fourth Avenue, at 5+ in the morning, was not very attractive. I got off the FDR Drive at the Queensborough Bridge exit and went straight for the gas station at York and 65th Street (?). Alas, the attendant was AWOL and all the pumps were unusable. Only one prompted me to swipe the credit card but by the time I backed my car near that pump, it timed out on the prompt for zip code and it too was not usable. In the end, I went somewhere I was familiar with, Washington Heights, where I occasionally go with the in-laws to visit the clan's matriarch. The original plan was to cross University Bridge but in the end I went with the 155th Street Bridge instead. Good thing I had a good sense of direction so even with all the bad turns I still made it to the Bronx before 6 AM. One hour to race time!
The Queens Half-Marathon took place mostly in Flushing Meadows Park, with some free parking spaces on the park's inner perimeter. With the Bronx Half, you only have a handful of paid parking lots and whatever little street parking you can find. With all the delay in getting gas for the car, I got there too late to find parking. I ended up parking two subway stations away, at University Avenue and Fordham Road, on the edge of Devoe Park and looking at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church. It was a long walk to the race!
Thanks to the timing system, even though I was technically late to the race, my own race did not start until whenever I crossed the start line. That was when the computer would detect my D-tag and start to log my time. Of course at some point latecomers would not be allowed to run, but I was not that late. I did a little stretching within the race corral, on the side, with others eager running past me. I finally crossed the start line at around 7:15 A.M.