Race Report: NYRR Half Marathon – Manhattan

Yesterday we ran the first of five half marathons in NYRR’s 2008 “Grand Prix” series. This was another opportunity for me to race in Central Park as part of my preparation for the More race in April.

This race replaced a scheduled five mile tempo run. I originally thought I’d run eight miles of it at easy pace, then do five at tempo pace. But as race day approached, I realized I couldn’t accept the idea of entering a race and not racing it. Since I seem to be handling the mileage and intensity of training with no issues, and a lot of my miles this week are recovery miles, I decided to race this one all out.

We drove in and managed to find parking up on 104th Street, which turned out to be perfect, since the start was at 84th. So jogging the mile to the start was a good warm-up. It was freezing, though. Wind chill was about 20F, but fortunately the wind was fairly calm.

NYRR imposed an 8:00AM deadline for baggage check, one half hour before race start. Since we figured we’d just have to stand around freezing for half an hour anyway, we elected not to check a bag with some warmer clothes. Big mistake! Post-race we were freezing, and by the time we got back to the car we both had difficulty unlocking it due to our frozen, claw-like hands. (It didn’t help that my gloves were wet since I’m still spastic when it comes to dealing with cups at the water stations.)

Pre-race ceremonies and announcements were mercifully short, highlighted with a quick hello and good luck from Meb Keflezighi. And then the horn sounded and we were off.

Each time I race in Central Park, I gain more appreciation for it as a race course. I’m now becoming familiar enough with it that I can mentally break it up into about five distinct “sections” and plan a pacing strategy for handling each. What’s tricky about this is that every race so far has run counter clockwise. The More, however, runs clockwise. This is why I have two tough training runs scheduled in the park, so I can run them clockwise and figure out how to reverse everything I’ve internalized about these race sections come race day.

Anyway, the overall race course consisted of two full loops around the park, followed by a partial third loop with the finish on the east side of the 102nd Street Transverse. My pacing plan consisted of doing miles 1-10 at 7:30, then evaluating the state of things at the conclusion of mile 10 to see if I could pick up the pace to 7:20. The uphill stretches along the northern and eastern sides of the park threw off the paces a bit. But I was able to maintain an average of 7:35 and I really picked it up in the last few miles, which was a goal. I want to work on being able to run very fast in the last miles of long races.

As for the actual race experience, it was positive. I focused on trying to stay on pace on a mile-by-mile basis, never thinking about the number of miles left — just getting to the next one in good form and still feeling in control of things. At mile 10 — the “turning point” mile — I felt good and going faster wasn’t too much of a struggle. The section from mile 11-12 is one of the tougher ones, with a long, gradual uphill. But I rallied at mile 12 and started blowing past people, running at a pace of 7:04 for mile 13 and 6:39 for the last few hundred yards.

As usual, I had three goals going in: dream, realistic, and bare minimum:

Dream: 1:38:00
Realistic: 1:40:00
Minimum: 1:44:00

Finish time: 1:39:32

This time, by the way, is nearly 11 minutes faster than my previous best half marathon time. To put things into further perspective, two years ago I was training for my first half marathon with a goal of finishing under 2:00:00. If I can just chop another 10 minutes off, that puts me in age/gender group award territory.

Here are the mile splits. My watch was way off in terms of race distance (it recorded 13.45 miles), so things are a bit wacky:

Mile 1          7:22
Mile 2          7:42
Mile 3          7:27
Mile 4          7:21
Mile 5          7:26
Mile 6          7:36
Mile 7          7:23
Mile 8          7:37
Mile 9          7:36
Mile 10         7:20
Mile 11         7:21
Mile 12         7:23
Mile 13         7:04
Mile 13.45      3:00

Finish time  1:39:32

Average pace    7:35

And the stats:

  • 795th overall, out of 4989 runners: top 16% of all finishers
  • 112th woman out of 1874 total: top 6% of all female finishers
  • Among 40 to 44 year olds, I was 21st: top 10% in my age/gender group
  • Age-graded time: 1:33:50

Jonathan had a good day too, with a finishing time (and new PR) of 1:23:57. He was 101st overall, the 98th man in (yes, there was a handful of very fast women out there yesterday) and fifth in his age/gender group. He also finally bested a local age-group rival he’s been trying to beat for the past two years.

4 Responses

  1. Wow! Impressive times and racing. Then again, you’re running 86 miles a week. Wow!

  2. [...] since the Steamtown Marathon: The Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. I had a good race there last year and, weather permitting, I hope to do well again this year. I don’t have time goals yet, and [...]

  3. Good report of one of your breakthrough races.

    It is really interesting when one runs in that “top 3-10%” window how hugely each race differs in their depth of field.

    I only say that because I just ran a half with a really WEAK field, and they seem to have that every year. 1:37 wins the 35-39 age group for chicks, and that’s just weird to me. I was 1:38:30 but 98th *overall* out of 5600 – that’s just bizarre. Do all the fast sub-elites hate OKC?

    Have you seen races that are not tiny that are equally “weak” in their local-elite/age-grouper attendance?

    • Absolutely — the one I’m running on Sunday, for instance! The NJ Half is very soft, and that was around 2,200 (is that tiny?) women last year. I came in 13th last year with a time of just under 1:35 (fifth in my AG, seventh female master).

      In general, any NYRR race is going to be more competitive than your average local race. If there’s money at the finish line, it’s also obviously much more competitive. The Fairfield Half Marathon, which has cash prizes, was swept by a bunch of second-string Africans when I ran it last year.

      Also, as you’ll discover in a few years, the women’s 40-44 age group is wildly competitive compared to the AGs directly below and above it.

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