I was running Brooklyn when we wore cotton T-shirts and nylon running shorts. So yes, I was running Brooklyn before it was cool!
On FB popped up my picture from the 2016 Brooklyn Half. My knee wrapped in ice and adorned with my medal, it was during the same year that I started my epic training for the New York Marathon. I had been relatively out of the running game for a bit; only doing a loop here and there in Prospect Park (3.35 miles) but not seriously training for anything nor participating in any road races. It had been like that for almost a decade. But that year, 2016, I was accepted by lottery into the New York Marathon and thought I would use the Brooklyn Half to shock my ass into training gear. I have not stopped the more ramped up training since.
Pre-Race Party and Socks
My Brooklyn Half experience started with volunteering at the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon Party (a.k.a. race packet distribution). I did this because it offers a guaranteed entry to next year’s race. The “party” was held on Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Not a quick walk from the subway but a nice walk towards and then along the waterfront. There has been much flood mitigation and “nature” restoration with small gardens, including salt marshes and native woodlands, a mini beach at Pier 4 and places for watercraft launches. It was an area that was first industrial and then largely unused for a while and is now fully restored and public.
My shift was the 11-3pm shift, it started an hour before the packet pick-up actually began. We expected large crowds because the NYRR sent out an email warning of heavy rains the next day urging race participants to pick up the packet on Thursday rather than Friday. I signed up for the t-shirt distribution and was charged with showing runners t-shirt sizes and offering the opportunity to try one on for fit before committing to a size. For some reason I ended up with the extra-small. The size that very few people are yet many claim they aspire to be. If you are petite, fine. But if you are an average sized grown woman, there are plenty of other things to aspire to! Most people went directly towards the small and medium, and since the shirts were cut small, the majority had to up a size. I took a large because I like a looser fit and I don’t plan on wearing this shirt to the night club. After several hours of managing shirt try-on, the next shift relieved us and it was time for me to join the throngs to get my number (as well as my friend Noel’s since he didn’t want to get wet before the race on Saturday :). Got my number, saw some familiar faces and then headed to Trader Joe’s for some carbs to cook and eat at home.
NYPD Picking up their race packets
Preview of the course
Rain was in the forecast for Saturday’s race. We kept watching our apps to see if the forecast would change. On the PPTC Facebook page and listserv numerous discussions flew back and forth about what to wear for this race; how to prepare for running in the rain. I realized that I only had cotton mix socks and remembered hotspots from last year. I headed to Jack Rabbits to by some wool and/or synthetic socks and was also happy to get a pair of Saucouny Ride 10s on sale. I don’t need to be trendy with running sneakers, I’d rather get a pair that I know that works for me and on sale (even on sale, running sneaks in Calgary are…whoa!).
Race Morning Garbage Bag Walk
When I went to bed, the sidewalk that I could see from my bedroom window was dry. It was still dry when I woke up at 5am but the leaves were wet and shook as each drop lightly hit. Eff. It IS raining. I decided to wear my PPTC shirt, capris, and cotton throw-away top; new Smartwool socks (feet taped and plastered with Vaseline), and CIBBOWS hat. I thought about gloves as my hands tend to get cold but opted out because I thought damp gloves would make my hands colder. I asked my building super for a large garbage back the night before that I fashioned into a make-shift raincoat. As my friend and neighbor Noel and I approached the start area, it was a merging sea of plastic bags and raincoats. The rain started off misty and slowly graduated to a steady fall (this race started near the Brooklyn Museum, a quick walk from my Brooklyn apartment building). My sneakers were already wet when I made the decision to wrap plastic bags around them. Not a great decision or not great wrapping as they fell off in about a block. I decided to check a bag (which I only do for either extreme cold or rain in these large races).
After passing through the security checkpoint, many of the runners were huddled under the trees. It was still spring so the leaf cover was not that dense so the poor trees were not offering much shelter from the increasing rain. If there were thought clouds above everyone’s head, I am very sure they would be filled with cuss words and questioning life decisions, like running 13.1 miles in the rain.
The porta potty lines were long (as usual) but there were not turning over as quickly. When it was finally my turn, I guessed why–it was warm and dry inside. I stayed in for a little bit longer than normal while being sure to hug my plastic bag close and keep looking up to avoid the view of the pre-race toilet deposits (thankfully whatever chemicals they use kept the smell at bay).
Finally it was time to start the race. After a rainy rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the runners were off. Well, kind of. Because of the volume of runners, it took a good 10 minutes before I reached the start and actually started to run. I started the race with the garbage bag but flung it off after about the first quarter mile, hoping that I would not regret that decision later.
The race started with a downhill which when really fast, I was below pace and no matter how much I felt that I was holding back, I was still under pace. Even on the uphill I was under pace. I became concerned because I knew “The Hill” was still in front of me. The Battle Pass Hill is notorious amongst Prospect Park runners. It is a long hill with the gift of a slight incline when you pass the traffic light (which seems like should be the end of the hill). No matter how many times I run this hill it always seems like a challenge–something to overcome. Every. Single. Run. So knowing that this hill was ahead of me, I had to put the brakes on. I did. And the hill did not seem that bad (please don’t tell the hill). After the hill, there are a couple of gentle gyrations and then it is a nice downhill glide to the exit of the park and a relative downhill run to the finish. Ocean Parkway was uneventful but this is also where I ran out of steam from the faster start. I need to learn how to better pace myself for these long races.
Even with the rain the rest of the race was not too bad and I even PR’d by a minute. Yay. It is always a nice feeling to first see the Cyclone and then run the last few meters of the race on the famous Coney Island Boardwalk.
Stellar (but wet) finish on the famed Coney Island boardwalk
I was happy to finish and even happier with the thought of changing into dry clothes and especially my old dry socks. The image of dry socks on my feet made me smile. However the smile became a grimace when I saw the angry mob around the UPS truck that had my checked bag. Apparently the truck was late and the volunteers were scrambling to get the bags out of the truck, organized and handed out to runners. But after running 13.1 miles in the chilly rain the runners, who were quickly cooling down towards hypothermia, were not happy. It took me about 45 minutes to get my bag, by then my fingers were nonfunctioning. Not giving a rat’s ass about modesty, I stripped off my wet clothes and wrangled the dry clothes on my damp body. My fingers could not handle unlacing my sneakers so I did not get to relish in the dry socks. I shiver-walked to the subway and now dreamed of a very warm shower. I hung my socks on the shower rail to dry. They took two days to completely dry out.
I did not take any pictures during this race because my phone was checked. So, here are some pics from prior races:
16, 17, 18 Finisher Medals
2017 Start with my teammate Zadine. I love this picture.
2016 Sore Knees Finish