Chasing the elusive PR at Queens Half Marathon

Two Sundays ago I ran the Queens Half Marathon put on by NYC RUNS here in the borough of Queens in New York. It was only my second race with this organization, the first being a not-very-wow experience, but they offered a certified course to qualify for the NYC Marathon 2018 so I wasn’t averse to sucking it up to get my coveted entry. Two things happened that sorta surprised me – if that’s the right word. Firstly, the race was run way better than I expected, not by me, but by the organizers and amazing volunteers. And secondly, despite the great course, I was once again disappointed with my inability to PR and get the qualifying time I needed so badly. I have to say, this year has not been kind to me in the PR department, pun intended, I’ve had too many near-misses. Though, in all honesty, it hasn’t been all bad even though those good races haven’t amounted to much really. However, I was happy that this race was at least a good one, one I wouldn’t mine running again next year minus the cold.

Race morning dawned with frigid temperatures and had hundreds of us, who were brave enough to get out to the start in Flushing Meadows Park for a god-forsaken 5:30 am, shivering and wondering who the heck we had murdered to be deserving of such punishment. But in true out-of-our-minds runner’s style we sucked it up and passed the time trying to warm up and blowing out icy breaths. Properly corralled, we started out around 7:10 and pretty soon took to the streets of Queens. Because I’ve never raced in the Queens community before, I was really thrilled to be out among other runners embracing, what I consider, my home. Surprisingly, in spite of the chilly temps, there were quite a bit of supporters out cheering at various points throughout the course. We were also treated to random pop-up bands – small as they were – you really learn to appreciate all supporters when you’re out there slugging it out, and really incredible volunteers, who despite the cold, were out on the course at intervals handing out water, Gatorade, gels and tons of support. They were simply amazing, and helped to make sure that we had a fantastic run.

For my part, I felt I had a very strong race for the first nine miles after which things got a bit dicey. I had two hiccups with my gel falling around mile 9.5, after a few steps I missed it and had to run back, then the water cup slipped out of my hand at mile 11 and I stopped to grab another. On both occasions, I lost momentum and felt that the run got harder and my pace slower. The last mile saw me struggling to keep pace and I really feel it was then that I lost the battle for a 1:37:00 finish. Up till mile 9, I was able to lose myself in the new course and enjoy running though Queens neighborhood, parks, and around the cemetery and the botanical garden. It was when we entered Citi Field and had to meander our way through and back to the start that I had a more difficult time. As is more often the case than not, I fell short of a perfect run but managed to have a good time for the most part. The last 800 meters proved to be my fastest and most enjoyable coming into the finish area to the cheers of the crowds lining the path, marred only by my glace up to the clock, which indicated that my PR dream would not be realized that day after all. I was off by two minutes and six seconds.

We were met with food in the finish area after collecting our medals and really the only thing missing was hot drinks, since it felt even colder then and I felt like I’d have given up my medal for a hot chocolate at that point. Suffice to say, we had to settle for heat sheets and messed up as I was about my time I was in no mood to hang around and chit chat in the cold. Thus, I hustled off to collect my gear from the baggage area, change into something that wasn’t wet, and get the heck out of there to find some warmth. Eternal optimist that I am, I think it wasn’t too bad of a day’s run, after all there’s always tomorrow.

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