07 October 2012

NYRR Staten Island Half-Marathon 2012

Somehow I had the feeling that I would achieve a personal record (P.R.) at the NYRR Staten Island Half-Marathon 2012.  It was the first race I ran after becoming unemployed.  I had some extra time to run more often and longer, usually in the morning, with the afternoons spent on tweaking resume, submitting it to job engines etc.  The cool weather, below 80° with no sun, helped, even if it was no where near the 9°F that helped me PR at the Manhattan Half-Marathon in 2011.  For that race, I dressed in layers, with gloves, and was soaked in sweat by the time I finished, in 2 hours and 23 minutes.  I had to run continuously, both to save time and also because I had not discovered on-the-run nutrition.  For today's race, by race time I only had one layer, a singlet and a running shorts, with the long-sleeved layers with baggage check.  Usually I don't eat at all before a race, but since there was much time available, while waiting for the ferry I had a bagel and coffee.  Better training, cool weather, fewer clothes to better dissipate the heat, and pre-race nutrition, all that combined to get me to have a P.R. of 2:14:39, nine minutes from my previous P.R.

The night before, I got everything ready.  D-tag wrapped around left shoelace, bib pinned to the Prospect Park Track Club singlet, cell phone and GPS watch fully charged, eyeglass case, home keys, some money, MetroCard, Gu packs etc stuffed into a fanny pack that I will wear across my chest.  For the pre-race down time in the cold, I set aside an outer layer of long-sleeved garments.

The day started early at 4:30 AM and I was out the door by 5.  I got to the ferry terminal before 6 and would catch a 6 AM ferry, per the schedule on the wall, but the P.A. said the next ferry would be at 6:30.  I had time to go grab an everything bagel, toasted with cream cheese, and a large coffee with milk and sugar.  By the time ferry-boarding was allowed, I was mostly done with breakfast.  In Staten Island, I had time to go the restroom then spent about an hour inside the warmer St. George Terminal.  Out on the waterfront, I had some time to take photos Manhattan Island then the 9/11 Memorial.  Last year I only had time to check the bag and jumped into the race some time after most runners were already left the corrals.  This year, I had time to remove the outer layer of clothes to check them and even went back to the ferry terminal to use the restroom a few more times.  During such a trip, I met Mr. James Lu, a local runner who is regularly seen at NYRR races and well-known for his handbells and for starting to run late in his 60s.

Mr. James Lu, the venerable late-stage runner.  Near his left hand are the hand-bells he is well-known for.

Early in the race, I saw that I was running at about 6:23 minute per kilometer.  That's a bit fast compared to the usual 7:xx I maintain during the almost-daily workout.  I didn't want to lose steam so I actually slowed down but somehow I was still going sub-6:xx min/km.  Probably the excitement of running in a big group.  At one point, the right knee felt weird, just briefly, while at some other point, in the first few miles, the left calf felt a little tinkling, so I had to slow even further, both to avoid any cramps and to avoid injury before the New York City Marathon mere weeks away (on November 4th)

I normally consume a Gu pack every hour, instead of the recommended 45 minutes.  I was going to go with the recommended time but still end up missing actually having a Gu at around 53 minutes into the race, around Mile #5.  Just before that I discovered my right shoelace was loose so I had to stop to re-tie it.  Since I already stopped and a water station was visible, I had the first Gu then, washed down with Gatorade and water.  On the way out to the turnaround mark, about 7 miles out, I looked for fellow PPTC runners to give them a shout-out.  I purposely stayed near the median of Frank Cappodono Boulevard to better spot any PPTC runners but without my glasses I probably missed a few.  Some I caught in time as we passed each other and I was able to greet them loudly, other times they recognized me first and we just waved.  The "game" helped me get to the turnaround mark quickly.  It was already past Mile 7!

I recall last year around Mile 8 the runners entered Fort Wadsworth  then exited onto Bay Street.  For whatever reason, this year we ran along the outside of the fort.  The hill at Mile 8 was brutal but after that it was mostly downhill.  I had another Gu after that hill, again with Gatorade and water from the fluid station.  Around Mile 10 all that Gatorade and water had to be expelled but I resisted the urge.  Knowing how fast I can go, given the distance left, I was sure I would P.R., only if I keep up the modest pace I was running at.  Best not to have any more Gu breaks, but I did grab a water after the bridge around Mile 12.  The last mile, as usual, felt pretty long, with one more hill to surmount.

Further back around Mile 11 I started to see finishers walking or running against the runners trying to finish.  None had a medal around their necks, so I thought there would be no medal.  It would be big slight to the borough of Staten Island if there was no medal for the half-marathon finishers, since even the Queens 10K gave out medals.  After Mile 12 I saw many finishers with medals so I had the extra incentive to finish even sooner.  I only have a handful of medals so they are big deals to me to have.  Perhaps this year the trip out was further than before, as the finish line seemed to be closer.  So ran faster I did, a lot faster than usual, even faster than my usual finish-line sprint, I think.  2:14:39 it was indeed, a P.R. indeed, by nine minutes!  Normally, shaving a minute or two from a P.R. is a big deal.  Almost ten minutes is a really big deal.  With better training and losing five pounds or so, perhaps some day I can reach the sub-2-hour mark for a half-marathon!

As a slow runner, I usually don't have my photos taken by the photographers along the route.  Them photographers usually just hang around for the first few thousand runners  By the time I make my way to the finish line, there would be no photographers along the route, just some at the finish line.  Today I decided to do a favor for the runners that came after me.  On the way to the ferry, I stopped to take a bunch of photos for these later finishers.  I would take more but the rain was getting heavier and there was a ferry to catch.  The photos don't appear as good as I wish, as the bib numbers don't show well, but hopefully the runners can recognize themselves.  Below are the photos but they are also shared at


Bib #9829.

Bib #9605.

Bib #8032.

Bib #8089.

Bib #9599.
Bib #8514 etc.

Bib #9248.
Bib #9095.


  1. I have seen Mr Lu at many runs and I am glad he is wearing looser fitting shorts now.

    1. I would have snapped a photo of Mr. Lu at the Bx 10M but that day I thought I lost my camera-phone.

  2. Anonymous9:50 AM

    Thank you for a nice narrative taking us from your 4:30 am wake up, to the ferry ride, to your quick bagel/coffee breakfast, to meeting mr lu, to the mile to mile, detailed coverage of the run, and finally to the finish line. I was there at 6am enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking pictures. I ran this race with a nagging heel pain and finished it 2:28--and managing my heel pain with motrin this morning. I have seen mr lu in every race this year, he is an inspiration.
    Mark Olgun

    1. Glad you enjoyed the narrative, Mark. It was a great day to be outdoor, great scenery along the waterfront in S.I.