29 January 2011

Manhattan Half-Marathon

A question for those who regularly run in races:  Is there such a thing as stalk-racing?  There you are running in a race when you noticed someone in front of you and decided to overtake her.  You did, but then she passed you.  So you pumped a little harder and pass her again, only to have her pass you yet again, and so on and so on.  What is the proper phrase to describe that situation?  I think it is a good thing, something attainable and it keeps you from giving up the race too quickly, especially when you do not run in a group.  I hope it is not illegal or unethical because that was exactly what I did at the Manhattan Half-Marathon.

The race start time was 8 AM, but knowing how unreliable NYC subway was on the weekend, I left the house at 6.  According to some poster I saw in the subway, the D train would not go to Manhattan's Upper West Side directly, but instead in two sections.   Strangely, an F train showed up and stay on the D's regular route until midtown.  That's weekend NYC subway for you, full of surprises.

It was a cold morning.  Approaching the race corral, I overheard someone said it was 9 degrees.  The CNN screen near Columbus Circle said 14 degrees and it remained the rest of the race.  The runners anxiously waited in the corral while moving about as much as possible to stay warm.  Eventually, some local celebrity ended the National Anthem with "In the land of the freezing {wink, just kidding} and the home of the brave..." then off we went.

In the beginning, I stalk-raced some woman in a blue sweater.  At some point, either I outran her or she left me, we were not together.  Instead, I noticed a blond woman in purple, pony tail, with a white in-ear headphone, who kept passing me.  I cannot tell now who started this 2-person race, but we sure kept together and took turn passing each other, for at least the last quarter of the race.  On downhill trips, I would try to get more springy or lengthen my stride.  I would lose her only to have her overtake me later.  At the last water station, I skipped it, same for earlier stations, such was my plan to finish the race faster.  My "running partner" slowed down for water but not for long.  I suspected she only stopped one step to pick up a cup of water then kept running afterward, somehow drank and ran at the same time.  Eventually, she was on my heels again, maybe even passing me again.  Somehow I managed to pass her but this time I purposely slowed down both to (a) encourage her to keep up; and (b) to save energy for the sprint at the end.  I always sprint after Mile 13, i.e. sprint for the 0.1 Mile of the 13.1-mile race.  And sprinted I did, for the last time leaving the "stalker" behind.  Closer to the finish line, some Chinese guy said to me, "Come on, you and me", supposedly a challenge to the finish line.  "Sure, let's do it", I said, although by then my reserve energy was already gone.  I still ran faster than most of the course but I was no match for this latest challenger.  Oh well, I still managed to shave ten minutes from my best Half-Marathon time.  I did see my "race partner" but she was heading toward the park exit.  Years ago, for some 5K race, I did the same with some Asian girl and in the end she thanked me for the encouragement then we went our separate ways.  This time I figured nothing would come out of it so I didn't pursue, uh, the matter any further.


  1. I tried leaving a comment but got kicked out :(
    So here it is.
    "Another good running story. Wish I was there to be your "racing to the finish line" partner.
    Hope you survived another snow storm in NYC. It is sunny here today. There was forecast for sleet and freezing rain tomorrow and then snow on Tuesday. I am so nervous about freezing rain. I don't mind snow but terrified of glazing icy roads.
    Stay warm and have a good week,

  2. If you want to avoid it, try running along with a group on the same pace.

  3. Anonymous10:22 PM

    Your biases are evident you wrote "some Chinese guy" "some Asian girl" meanwhile "some woman" does not get any racial designation? You have both race issues and RACE issues. You have no way of just seeing people as people? You can write better than this.

  4. Anonymous, I am sorry you see my writing as racially-biased. There are thousands of runners at these races and even though I try to write about it the same day or shortly afterward, I do not recall all the details that accurately. Certain moments linger better in the mind while others just totally disappears altogether or fades off eventually. If something is clearly remembered, I mention the details to be more descriptive.