Wishful thinking, it is part of human nature, right? There I was last night, laying awake wishing I will pull off a miracle and finish the half-marathon in 2:13, which was my best time for a half, back in 2012. But I no longer run everyday any more. Back in 2012, fresh off from a job that dragged on for 12 mostly painful years, well, there were some good ones, but near the end it was exhausting, I had much time to prepare for the half-marathon in Staten Island. Yes, I ran my best 5K back in August last year, by having a good friend pace me and I also used better breathing techniques. But it was a 5K, or 3.1 miles long, versus a half-marathon, glorious 13.1 miles. The cheering crowd in Times Square and elsewhere supposedly can give runners a good boost, but it won't make up that much to cover lack of training. Yet I dreamt a little. Then I decided I would just be socially unfriendly and not spend time on queue for porta-potty.
It was my first time running the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon. The high cost, $120+ I think, was a main factor for me to avoid it. There are so many other races to spend my hard-earned money on. Sure you don't get to run through Times Square but is that alone worthwhile the big fee? But last year I was supposed to be a guide for an Achilles runner who decided at the last minute to run with some friend of his, so I ended up at the cheer zone for my track club instead. It was nice to be out there, seeing all the energy. I volunteered at a water station for the NYC Half some years ago, but being at the cheer zone was different. I decided then that I would actually run it. It helped that I did all five races for the five boroughs of NYC to gain automatic entry into the NYC Half. I know, the NYC Half is so highly sought after you don't just register for them. You either earn a guaranteed entry or try your luck with lottery, or some other means.
There was a big snowstorm on the Tuesday before the Sunday race. Then the weather report said there would be more storm or lousy weather on the weekend. Ay yay yay, just my luck, another messy run like the Staten Island Half 2016. Luckily, it turned out there was no precipitation whatsoever. Just so very cold! I try to make the races as simple as possible so I went without bag check. First time ever I had a disposable layer on, both the top and the bottom parts of the body. I hate the idea of throwing away clothes that are still wearable but I have too many pieces of clothes anyway. Besides, NYRR does a good job of collecting the throwaway clothes for Good Will. I placed my pieces neatly on a rail, near other people's stuff, I am sure they will find a new good home. I just had the scary feeling that I left something valuables in those clothes, but I made sure there was nothing.
I was in Wave 3, Corral D. At NYRR races, a slowpoke like me is usually in Corral K, but because the NYC Half had three different Waves, it appeared like I moved up several Corrals but I know better. It was nice to bump into track club members: Jackie, who was a volunteer team leader; and Murray, who was assigned to the same Corral and Wave with me. Murray planned to run at a certain pace but we started out together and he periodically said we were too fast than his planned pace. Around Harlem Hill I went ahead with my pace, which was not that much faster, but I wanted to at least beat my 2:30 from last year's Brooklyn Half. I ran a few more Half-Marys since Brooklyn but I was sort of a pacer so my finish time was 2:45 or 3:00. I ran slower going uphill then tried to make higher leaps as I came down the hills. I walked twice to wolf down the Gu's that I brought with me, and maybe again shortly afterward to grab water or Gatorade to wash the stuff down. I think I stopped one more time at Mile 12 to get another drink, last one for the long stretch home.
I did stick to my plan of not stopping for anything other than walk breaks. I acknowledged when called but did not stop for photos. That's the extent of my being unsocial. It was good to see Jackie again around the 72nd Street Transverse in Central Park as she tried to get out of Central Park to get to the finish line. I loved how Joe at 42nd Street cupped his hand to better holler at me. I don't run with headphone and keeps my eyes open so I usually catch everything. Actually, I probably saw Joe with his cupped hands before I heard him. Also on 42nd Street I spotted Linda from the back and asked for confirmation while she was re-fueling, nom nom nom. I knew Joyce would be at Mile 9's fluid station, with the Back On My Feet group. She perched high on something so it was easy to spot her and we exchanged greetings so it was good. Another wishful thinking, I thought there might be a chance my club's cheer zone would still be around when I got there. But it was a cold day and for us Wave 3 people that would mean the cheerleaders have to be there for like three hours. I had a PPTC hoodie on so occasionally other people would call the club name and I would respond with a fist pump or such. All the words of encouragement really made a difference, even if it didn't make me finish faster, it sure kept me going.
Strava app messed up and didn't record the tunnel portion of the race. Instead, it said I went quickly uptown to Chambers Street then zoomed back at the tunnel exit. It also went bonker in Times Square. Altogether, per Strava app, I ran over 22 miles at 6 or so minutes per mile. Of course I didn't. It still said I did 2:30, but since I stopped Strava after a few steps past the finish line, it turned out I made sub-2:30, or 2:29:43 to be exact. Sigh, such is the life of a slow runner, had to forgo toilet visits, sacrifice most social interaction, i.e. no stopping for photos, just to squeak by some goal. Some fast runners would have stomach cramps, wait on long lines for the toilets, then still P.R. by 15 minutes. But with this sports, it's usually just the runners against their younger self so I'm good.