Taking NYC Half Marathon Lessons to Boston

Three weekends ago over 30 thousand runners ran the new course from Prospect Park, Brooklyn through the streets of New York City, into Times Square to finish NYRR’s (New York Road Runners) famous NYC half marathon in Central Park.

It’s a morning that I will remember for some time to come. Starting out cold and windy, runners were left to improvise at the start with triple layers, blankets, heat sheets and various oddities with one aim in mind, that of not freezing to death, or at the very least, keeping the blood flowing so leg muscles wouldn’t cramp or freeze up. The weather wasn’t that much of a surprise, this race has always been a cold one, but what threw a lot of us off was the brutality of the cold, which was February-like in its intensity. With real-feel temperatures in the teens there wasn’t much we could do but run, run and hope like hell that it would warm up a little and the wind would be kind. This leads to lesson 1: Plan B is hugely important. Extreme temperatures requires plan and goal adaptations, which quite likely means a change in running strategy.

The new course proved that most times different is good. It made for interesting running with new sights, or at least sights seen from a different angle, and many unsuspecting spectators in midtown Manhattan. Bless the hearts of all those who came out in their numbers to support and cheer along the course. They helped me navigate the head and cross winds and to dig deeper when the going got rough. I felt that if they weren’t running yet were willing to brave the cold to support those who were, then it was only right that I give it my best shot. One thing I definitely will take with me is lesson 2: No future pit stops to use the toilet. I’ve always been good at running without that necessity but for some strange reason, that morning, coming off the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, at around mile 3, I had to go. Huge mistake; for though there were toilets lined up on the side, and while I jumped the railings to get to them, since there was no visible entry, and almost face-planted for my efforts, they were all locked save for one – the last one I tried out of a whole slough.. I sincerely lost about 8-10 minutes there and never really recovered. On the other hand, I felt really good about my hydration, there were adequate water stops, a gel station, and amazing volunteers behind those tables along the course. It is absolutely true that the race would not have been what it was without them. Lessons 3: Giving back blesses not only the one who receives but the giver as well. I am super appreciative to volunteers who give of their time and sacrifice their comfort for us runners.

As I head into Boston this weekend, I’m also mindful of being thankful for the opportunity to be there and to be able to participate in this amazing race for the third time. I remain committed to running my best race and to lesson 4: Never take a race for granted, no matter how much times you’ve run it before, or get complacent with a course. Have a healthy respect for it and always approach it with a strategy that it may become necessary to tweak.

It’s so important to see the opportunity for learning and development in every area of life and running is no different. If the goal is to be a better runner then there’s no better place to learn than in the field.

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March-ING on!

Source: pop sugar.com

Gotta say I’ve been ready for Spring since the ending of January. And now that March is here, I’m talking myself into its sights and sounds wherever I go. But darn it… the weather just won’t cooperate. I can do rain. What I can’t do is cold rain and the snow/sleet that accompanies it, along with the crazy wind we’ve been getting. One can only hope it’s on its way out. Meanwhile, there’s been lots of running so as to keep up with my first official race of the year – the NYC Half Marathon – happening this Sunday.

Ambivalence seems to be the order of the day as I’m not sure how to feel. Part of me is excited about the new course for this race – a new course is always a thrill – on the other hand, past experience has left me in chills. Literally. The timing of this race almost always ensures it’s a cold one. One can only hope for a miracle of sorts this time around. Weather projections aside however, there’s the usual pomp & excitement that comes with runners taking over the streets of NYC – running through Times Square never gets old, and now we get to explore different parts of the city as well. No more West Side Highway and Seaport or Financial District for me. I think many of us will not miss that too much, if at all, since running near the water is no one’s idea of a fun race on a cold day. That being said, I’m not sure if it’s wise to describe this as a fun run. Well..maybe so, maybe not, it all depends on perspective. Since I’d love to run a PR I’m not looking for too much of excitement. But hey, I’m not opposed to having a bit of fun out there on the course if time allows, which it probably won’t and that’s not the view of a pessimist. On the contrary, I’m always optimistic about my runs, maybe too much so some might say. In any and every event, I’m hoping for a good race and plan on spending this week relaxing the running, doing a bit more cross training, eating well, and getting to bed earlier. Notice I didn’t say early, because that’s near impossible, but earlier will ensure I get between 6-7 hours sleep per night in order to be able to execute a good race.

Race-preparedness means that I’d do well to look over the course, devise a running strategy and a few days before (like Thursday) go through my race checklist to make sure everything’s squared away and I’m ready to go. Most likely, I’ll enjoy a short, easy run on Saturday morning, about 3-5 miles – mainly because it’s become more of a tradition before my races, but also because it simply makes me feel better.

There really is no magic to this sport. You train, eat well, rest and allow the body to recover, and then just go out there on D-day and give it your best. At least that’s what I plan on doing. Wish me luck!

Ready, Set, Run-ning Gear

The United NYC Half Marathon: miles for a cause

United NYC Half Marathon Start Source: ABC online

United NYC Half Marathon Start
Source: ABC online

Last Sunday was my “miles for a cause” run, the first that I’ve run based on my fundraising efforts with 100% proceeds going to a youth charity. For this reason alone, it was a phenomenal success.  We, my donors and I, were able to successfully raise $1225.00 in just about six weeks with the limit being $1000.00.  I am tremendously pleased and humbled by the support and love shown by everyone for The Seed Project, an organization that provides sport and education scholarships for students in Senegal, West Africa, for which I chose to run. Words are insufficient to impress the positivity and good that will result in the lives that were touched by our efforts. Thus, I’m inspired to continue impacting lives one step at a time, with the hope that it will encourage others to make a difference doing what they love.

Secondary to my fundraising goal was my wish to run a PR, which didn’t happen much to my disappointment.  The NYC Half Marathon is run with much fanfare and spirit: lots of runners, spectators, media hype and excitement; sort of like its bigger counterpart, the NYC Marathon, only on a smaller scale.  With a field size of around 20,000, it’s not hard to see why.  Like the marathon, there are runners from all over the world, dozens of charities to choose from and it delivers a spectacle course. From Central Park to Times Square, then running along the West Side Highway to the heart of the financial district in lower Manhattan, it’s NYC 101, and impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Also, it’s not everyday one gets to stop traffic in Times Square with the hope of getting caught on the big screen.  I dare say that is the highlight of the race for many, that, and collecting the finisher’s medal.

Secondary to my fundraising goal was my wish to run a PR, which didn’t happen much to my disappointment. While it wasn’t a particularly difficult course, there were some, what I call, challenging moments: the hills in Central Park and the 4-mile stretch of the Westside Highway presented the most challenge and while I could factor in a number of reasons why this was so, I’ll just focus on adjusting my strategy for another race of this length. That being said, I finished in 1:38 while we enjoyed great weather during the run and I couldn’t help recalling the last time I ran that race in 2013, it was a freezing 18 degrees. However, at the finish it got quite chilly as the winds picked up and it turned out to be a very cold day from then on and I could only feel for those runners that were still on the course. I ended the day hanging out with the fundraising team at an after party hosted by the organizers in the seaport area. I really couldn’t be happier with my efforts..well maybe with my time..but I’ll gladly accept that to be able to give those kids in Senegal a better chance at life.

IMAG1228~2

Carpe Diem: Run with It

Source: blulabelbungalow.com

Source: blulabelbungalow.com

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.”
-Michael Johnson

What a difference a week makes! From banks of snow and tunnels of cold air to kisses of sunshine and the keen almost-there scent of glorious Spring. Admittedly, there are still traces of snow on the ground but the rain is doing its thing, so am I, and so should you; which brings me to outdoor running and races. With the advent of Spring, there is a lot of running going on in these parts, and forgive me for being an overly enthusiastic runner, but, I am once again super-excited to be living in the running capital of the world.

Living in New York affords one the year-round opportunity for running, though I try to pretend otherwise when winter comes around. However, that is only for self-preservation as there are countless runners who brave the chill and ice to religiously get their daily runs in. Don’t ask me how or why, as the couple of times that I’ve given in and done so have left me convinced that it is not for me. In a perfect world, there are ten months of Summer, one month of Spring and one of Fall; no worries. Winter aside, it’s time to put your game face on. I’m so into what’s ahead that I’ve had a few shopping sprees specifically dedicated to running gear; nothing like new shoes, leggings and racer backs to get you into a total running frame of mind.

To get things going, I’m looking for a PR on Sunday at the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon. The weather looks promising, I feel fantastic as I’m revelling in racer-mode, only possible with a half marathon or less, the course is awesome -#TimeSquare- and so I expect great things to propel me into next month’s New Jersey marathon. Did I mention that I’m looking for a faster qualifying time for Boston 2016? That’s my next goal in the next race. Stay tuned for more on that. Till next week, seize these beautiful running days!

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