Race Review: Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon

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January 25, 2014

The last time I raced half marathon was in the fall of 2010. I ran the super girly Diva Half Marathon in Long Island and ran a PR, finishing the race around 1:35. I’ve run half marathons since , but I was pacing friends or running part of the Runner’s World Festival (meaning I already ran a 5K and a 10K the day before). On January 25th, I ran the Fred Lebow Half Marathon in Central Park.

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to race a half marathon in the past few years – it’s that I haven’t really been able to. Although I fill my schedule with 26.2’s all over the country, I really love the half marathon distance. It’s undoubtedly my favorite distance to race. Being used to running twice the distance, half-marathons are over pretty quickly and a doable distance to test fitness and endurance. It was also the first distance I ever raced: the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon in 2007.

I started running more marathons to knock states off of my list and less shorter distance races. The last two half marathons that I signed up for with the intention of running a PR never happened for me. I was injured before I could even make it to the starting line. So when last Sunday rolled around, I wanted to run hard and shoot for a PR. My backup plan (I always have one of those) was to run the race at marathon pace.

Although I’m glad I ran the race and braved the elements, it ended up being a tough day. It was 16 degrees at the starting line, and my feet got wet before we started the race from walking through the snow. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been that cold in my entire life. Besides the friends I traveled with, everyone else that planned to do the race backed out because the conditions were not ideal. I signed up and paid for it, and was happy to run it as a training run for Boston regardless of the weather. I don’t love running in this crazy polar vortex, but let’s be real: if it’s 16 degrees at the start in Hopkinton (stranger things have happened) on April 21, I’ll be there.

Packet pickup was somewhere in the middle of Central Park off of 63rd Street. We received a bib and a really strange hat (see the picture of Fred above) to commemorate good old Fred, but something I’ll never wear. There were no shirts or medals given for running the race. Thankfully, we found a little cafe in the park to hang out in before the start, but I never warmed up. I actually contemplated not running and waiting in the cafe for my friends: I was cold, tired, sore and dehydrated. I brought water with me, but I was just too cold to drink it.

The race started on time and I ran the first 10K way too fast because I was just so freaking cold and really wanted feeling back in my toes. The race is 2.5 loops in the Central Park, and I forgot just how hilly that park was. I’ve run there before and those hills always sneak up on you. When I think about running in the city, I always think “flat”. Everyone was talking up the hills before the race but I wasn’t worried – I love hills. I enjoyed running in Central Park, but one loop would have been plenty for me.

I knew as I hit the 10K mark and started the second half of the race that I was probably going to have a rough time. I hadn’t drank any water before the race – just coffee – but assumed I would use the course water and Gatorade. I learned a pretty tough lesson that day when I grabbed a cup and tried to drink, only to find that the water was frozen. The Gatorade was also starting to freeze so I was basically crunching on Gatorade ice chips. I gave up on trying to hydrate after the second water stop and just focused on finishing the race and finding a hot cup of coffee.

Based on the weather conditions and having to wake up super early (um, hello 3am) and drive a good distance to get to the race, I think this was the hardest half marathon I’ve ever run. I’ve run hillier ones (the River Towns Half Marathon), but this particular course mixed with the poor weather conditions made it difficult. My finish time was 1:37:55 – not a PR, but surprisingly my second fastest half marathon to date. I was on pace to PR for the first loop, but tossed out that idea on the second loop and just focused on getting in a marathon paced run and beating some chick in a pink tutu (success!). My finish time was slightly faster than marathon pace, but still no PR.

I could sit here and run through a laundry list of reasons and excuses as to why I couldn’t run a PR. By the time I started the race, I wasn’t in the mood to run – I just wanted to be warm! In reality, I didn’t have it in me that day. No excuses or explanations, it just wasn’t my day – and that’s totally fine with me. I’ll never do this race again, but I’m not sorry I did it. I had a blast with my friends, got in a killer training run for Boston, and got to spend some time in NYC. It was a great experience.

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