What’s a good idea two weeks after the Dopey Challenge? Running a half marathon in Central Park, of course!
Why did I sign up for this? lol
Okay, to be honest, this race was to serve as a test for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge in April when I’ll be running both marathons 13 days a part. I figured doing this race was the best simulation I could possibly get right now.
The Fred Lebow Manhattan Half is the first of New York Road Runners’ Five-Borough Series and consists of three loops in Central Park. None of them are quite full loops, though. The first two loops are laps around the 72nd Street transverse—rather than all the way down to 59th—up to Harlem Hill. The final loop follows the same route, but hits the finish at the 102nd Street transverse, before you get to Harlem Hill again. So it’s two Harlem Hills, three Cat Hills, and most of Central Park West’s rolling hills. It’s not an easy course, but Central Park is great to run in, for sure! And besides, I’m training for two hilly marathons, so I need all the hills I can get.
The race started at 8am and we decided to take public transit to the start, so we had to wake up at 5:15am and be out the door by 5:45 in order to make sure we’d make it in time to check our bags and get to the start. NYC is great, but subway reliability isn’t exactly our forte.
As for my legs, they were certainly tired. I think they’ve been recovering from Dopey better than I could even hope for, but I pushed them a bit too much on Thursday night’s run so that wasn’t helping. My hip has also started bothering me a little in the last few days, but I’m hoping what I learned last year will help me rehab it better.
We got to Central Park with plenty of time to hit the porta potties, take off our layers, and check our bags. However, we did have a bit of a scare when there was a ridiculously long line to drop bags off. It was really weird, but went quicker than it looked like it would.
After dropping our bags and walking to our corral, we had about ten minutes to go before the race started. Pretty solid timing!
For a mid-January race in NYC, you couldn’t ask for better weather. Mid-to-upper 30s with very light wind and lots of sun. Close to perfect!
The race started exactly on time, as most NYRR races do, and there were no stops between corrals, at least not before our corral, C, got going. Of course, the race started going up a small hill right off the bat so that was a nice way to warm up. Not.
Danielle and I planned to stick together and run between a 1:50 and 1:55. That was about the most I felt like I could or should ask of my legs on this course and just two weeks out from Dopey. Unfortunately, Danielle doesn’t run as even of splits in races as I tend to. I felt like I was constantly holding her back as she was starting to go.
The first lap was fairly uneventful. My legs were tired and I was already wondering if this race was going to be a mistake. The hills were exhausting me right away. And my hip was bothering me from the start. Cool.
I just focused on keeping an even effort on the flats and uphills while dialing back the effort on the downhills and using them for recovery as much as possible.
As we came around and started the second lap, I reminded myself that I just had to do Harlem Hill once more and, the next time I would be passing this point, I’d be on my way to finish.
I didn’t count down miles in this race, I counted down laps and hills. “Two Cats and one Harlem, down. One and one to go.” And then in the last mile, I counted down the streets between 90th and 102nd.
The second lap was more exhausting than the first, but I was settled in and knew I was into the second half. As we approached where we’d be finishing on the next lap, we were wondering if the male winner would be coming up behind us and if we’d get to see him. No dice, though. We were still about a minute ahead of him—he finished in 1:10:xx.
The second time up Harlem Hill was harder than the first, but I knew getting over it would mean the rest of the race was metaphorically downhill, even if not literally. Harlem Hill is the much tougher of the two big hills and I knew I’d have enough for the last trip up Cat Hill.
My legs were exhausted for the last lap, but I was able to keep steady through the entire lap and stay focused. We passed by the Reservoir and I knew we were getting close. For the first time, I started looking at my watch to see just how much farther it was to go.
Approaching the turn off for the finish, I was glad to be done, but happy with my time. A 1:48:10 on this course with my still Dopey legs wasn’t too shabby. I grabbed my medal, shoved a bagel in my mouth, and met up with Danielle who had pushed a bit to finish ahead of me.
My splits overall look a bit all over, but most of that can be blamed on the hills. As for how this race went in terms of being a test for Boston 2 Big Sur, well…oof. I’m a bit worried about that. It’s doable, for sure, but it’s going to be tough, I’m going to need good training, and I’m going to have to execute race plans for both races well.