As the race weekend arrived, I already felt better than I did driving into Philly. I was certainly nervous, especially about the morning commute, but somehow I just felt more comfortable. This was also my wife’s first half marathon so I was eager for her as well. My mom and sister drove up and crashed at our apartment and together we had an AMAZING pasta dinner. We drank, we ate, and then we guzzled some Zzzquil so that we could attempt to achieve 8 hours of sleep before our 4am wake-up call.
We had to get into Brooklyn a little early to replace our lost bibs (whoops), but that ended up paying off because we had time to find comfort in a non-portable restroom before arriving at the start. This was my 4th Rock ‘n’ Roll (RnR) race, and so I figure it’s about time I really give a shout out to the crews that put these races together. After forgetting our race packets on the LIRR, I called the customer service line the night before the race and my call was answered on the first ring! The staff member on the other end quickly assured me that it wouldn’t be an issue and that we could get replacement bibs and gear bags at the starting line, as long as we arrive a bit early. Not only did we replace the essentials, but they were also able to replace our race shirts as well. This was an especially meaningful gesture for my wife so she had a commemorative shirt for her first half. I can’t thank the RnR crew enough for how amazing these races have been.
Now I have to say, this recap may be a bit brief, I took my time writing this report so my memory of the little things has faded a bit. Lining up in the corrals for RnR Brooklyn, I was a bit nervous, but not nearly as much as I had been in Philly. Maybe it was because I’d just run Philly so, at the very least, I knew I could finish, but lining up at the start, I was itching to go. As we crossed the start, my stride felt comfortable but I was also hyper aware of my pace. I’d burned out at the end of Philly and I didn’t want a repeat. For that reason, instead of pumping tunes during the first leg of the race, instead I opted for a John Mulaney comedy special. In training I often run with an audiobook and listening to standup turned out to be a great way to stay calm and collected, especially at the beginning of the race.
Miles 5-9 were the big “out and back” so I did feel a bit of dread as I began that journey but I wasn’t as aware of the distance as I had been in Philly. I didn’t struggle to maintain pace, or worry about my breathing, I felt comfortable. The mile signs seem to fly by and I was ecstatic as I rounded the corner at mile 7 and started heading back. This is where the game of trying to find my family began. I had started a few corrals ahead of them, and my pace is a few minutes faster so I spent just as much time searching the crowd as I did trying to crunch numbers and estimate where I’d pass them. I’ve always been terrible at mental math so it’s a great distraction in the middle of a long run. Sure enough, right around mile 9 I saw the crowd of pink shirts (we were all dressed for breast cancer awareness) and we all cheered and high-fived as we passed. It was also at this point that I realized my pace could slow to well above 10-minute-miles and still come in under 2-hours so my spirits were high.
At this point I was looping back towards Prospect Park. The first hill came in the form of a ramp up onto an overpass to cross over the road we’d run out on. Although it was relatively steep, it was a pretty short obstacle so I was feeling good about the race as I reached the top and started breezing back down. Entering the park was a different story. At first, the I felt like I was back in high school coming into the final stretch of a cross country meet. The path funneled into a narrow chute surrounded on both sides by a tightly packed crowd cheering us on. This went on for a half mile or so before the crowd thinned again and the road began a subtle uphill shift. Miles 11 and 12 were brutal. The hills were not steep but they were constant. The flat periods were just long enough for you gain a sense of relief before sending you back up an even steeper segment.
Finally, at about the 12.5-mile mark, the trail evened out, and even sprinkled in a few downhill segments. This was it, I’d made it to the end and I’d come in well under 2 hours. The course was windy so it was hard to determine just how close we were to the finish but I didn’t have any trouble holding my pace. There was a final turn and all of a sudden the finish line was only a tenth of a mile away and I remember the sighs of relief coming from the entire pack of runners around me. We perked up, and my stride lengthened as I dashed towards the finish. I’ve never gone from so elated to so nauseous as I did crossing that finish line but I didn’t care about that. I’d knocked almost seven minutes off my time in Philly coming in at 1:52:47 and it felt great!
At the finish line festival, we not only got to celebrate our finish with the obligatory Michelob, but for running both Brooklyn and Philly, we were given a SWEET new commemorative sweatshirt for free. Do I sound like a spokesperson for Rock ‘n’ Roll yet? Now it’s time to prepare for winter training but I’m happy to say my wife had an awesome experience in Brooklyn and will be joining the team for RnR New Orleans this year! See you in February!