17 March 2013


In 2012, I had some extra money and poured it all into the NYRR 5-boro series.  It was no longer a 5-boro Half-Marathon series, since the Queens race was a 10K and Bronx's was a 10-miler.  Having done the entire series got me guaranteed entry into the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon, which runs through Times Square and down the West Side Highway, but I gave the NYC Half a pass.  For me, a half-marathon should be $50 max for early registration.  Maybe even $60, but $117 is way out of my league.  I suppose there are race amenities to die for in the NYRR NYC Half, but I don't mind not finding out.  I still wanted to get involved and to be caught in the excitement, so I originally signed up as a course volunteer, individually.  Shortly afterward, I found out that the North Brooklyn Runners (NRB) run-group had a water station assigned to them and welcome my club, Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC).  I cancelled my individual gig and joined the group effort.

Volunteering with the group near Mile 12, as opposed to doing it as an individual near the starting line, gave me an extra half hour of sleep.  I still had to try to get to the water station by 6 in the morning.  Much as I love the subway, and cycling, neither options are great if you have to go somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, on a very cold day.

The water station was referred to as near Rector Street and the West Side Highway but it was not that near.  More like one long avenue block south of Rector, on a traffic median outside the exit of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  I bumped into a medical table and asked for direction.  I almost went the wrong way to some other station at Canal Street.  I suppose if the sun was out I could have seen better the so-called Rector water station a few blocks away.

The race was to start at 7:30 AM, some 12 miles away, but we had to be prepared for the onslaught of thirsty runners.  Water was run from a huge hose into big plastic bags housed in plastic bins.  Pitchers were made out of used Gatorade powder bottle and used to pour water into individual paper cups.  Have too many empty cups out and the wind would just blow the empty cups away, so I found it best to have the same person pour water and place the partially-filled cups down.  Runners shouldn't drink a whole cup of water, so the cups were only half-filled, or less.  Old signs were used to create tiers to have a total of three levels of water.  We had a lot of time, and many capable hands, so the work was done soon enough.  We were not even supposed to hand the runners water, they just have to snatch the water off the table themselves.  We had to leave some room so that the runners could easily pick up one cup without having to touch the neighboring cups.  Once the three tiers were filled with water, not much left to do but stand back and wait for the runners to arrive.

And arrive they did.  First were the hand-operated recumbent cyclists, just a few of them.  Then the elite runners with their first-name bibs.  Fast runners from local clubs, like Central Park Track Club (CPTC) and West Side Runners (WSX), were not far behind. Since we were not supposed to hand out water, there was not a whole lot to do other than cheer or take photos, and took photos I did.  A fellow PPTC member had some runner-tracking app but it didn't work for me as I missed the fastest PPTC person.  I managed to snap photos of a few others.  I stood on a low wall of the median to see farther down the road but it was not a good angle and I usually had only a few seconds to get ready to shoot.  Once or twice the PPTC runner would wave at the exact second I snapped the photo.  Other times some other runner would get in the way.  Oh well, things happen when many thousands fill the road.

Ideally I should be on the course, just off to the right of the runners, like the pro photographers with their big cameras.  My measly camera won't rapid-fire and capture every single runner but I would at least have a good view of the runners from far away, but with enough time to have second-chance shots.  But being on the course would mean totally abandoning the water station, even if there was not much work to do.  Eventually, the number of runners decreased greatly and we started to rake the discarded cups etc.  Beside getting the big task done piecemeal raking also got the body warm on this cold day.  In the end, most of the nicely stacked three tiers of water was wasted and we had many blue plastic bags of waste.

It was great to be caught up in the excitement.  I definitely going for a long run tomorrow.

Lots of ice-cold water awaiting for the thirsty runners just a tad past Mile 12 of the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon.
Some of my fellow PPTC members at the NBR-sponsored water station.

It was cold enough for icicles to form while the runners were still further up the road.
Elite runners!  At least the ones I managed to snap photos of.

Here comes the elite runners with their first-name bibs!
Fast local runners were not too far behind!
F1, F2, and F3, aka Top Three Female finishers.
PPTC members showed up!  V is for Victory, or Vinny!  I missed the fastest PPTC runner of this race, could really use a spotter like in that snipers duel scene in The Hurt Locker.
Nicole of PPTC ran the rest of the way to the finish line.
Another sub-2 PPTC finisher!  Go David!
There were three tiers of water per table but it was a cold day, look at those ice on the table surface!  Not that many took the water, both because it was a cold day and it was Mile 12 of a 13.1-mile race, but a few people actually poured water on themselves.  I would do that, too, but on a hot summer day, not a cold day like today.  Hope those people had dry clothes waiting for them.

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