If you had told me 2 years ago I would be running in the New York City Half Marathon in March 2023, and that it would be my 3rd half marathon, I likely would have laughed. While I grew up playing sports, back-to-back-to-back seasons, I was not a huge fan of running– I did it because I had to. Looking for a way in 2018 to get outside and stay active, I decided to take advantage of the mental perks that come along with throwing in your headphones and hitting the pavement. I started increasing mileage over the next year, ran a few 5ks, and vowed that in 2020, I would run a half marathon. And guess what happened next? Yep, Covid. I remained committed to running occasionally but the idea that I had to set my goal aside was deflating.
Fast forward to July 2022, when I completed my very first half marathon, the Shoreline Half, which began and ended in Hamlin Beach State Park in Rochester, NY. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to sign up for the Rochester Half in September. Fresh off the high from that awesome race through the streets of my hometown, I entered the lottery to run in the coveted NYC Half along with a running friend of mine. And I got in. Now the training began again, and for the biggest race I had ever been a part of.
I kept a good base after the Rochester Half, running at least 3 times a week for an average of 13 miles a week. I focused more on speed work during my short runs and keeping a solid pace on my longer slower runs. Winter running is a commitment on its own, let alone training for a race. Proper footwear in the ice and snow, layers upon layers, wearing a ridiculous light up strobe vest to avoid getting hit by cars. I swear, running is fun!
About 6 weeks out, I started to build on to my base, with my final training run at a little over 10.5 miles. I was nervous and excited, but I packed my bags and jetted off to the Big Apple. A college friend of mine lives in Brooklyn and we planned the perfect pre-race dinner at a local Italian eatery (for the carbs, of course!). The next morning, I got up early, full of pre-race jitters, and headed to Prospect Park. I was in Wave #4 – with 25,000 people running this race, they can’t just let you all go at once! The first few miles I spent getting into the zone and setting a pace. But I knew what lay ahead– the Manhattan Bridge, meaning a steady uphill climb for roughly a mile. The view at the top made it all worth it, a full panoramic picture of the NYC skyline on a crisp sunny day. Only 6 more miles to go!
The next few miles were all along the river on the shut-down FDR, passing the United Nations building. As I headed up 42nd street, the crowd noise intensified. It’s one of 2 times a year they shut down Times Square, the other being New Years. It gave me just the energy I needed! I looked over and saw my friend cheering me on and knew I had about 3 more miles until the finish line. Bands playing, flashing lights, massive billboards – all a much-needed distraction from my tiring legs. The last stretch was through Central Park, which included rolling hills and the long-awaited finish line. A sigh of relief and disbelief it was already over! I grabbed my medal, a bag full of post-race snacks and fluids, and headed off to brunch for a celebratory cocktail and nourishment.
As I reflect on this race, I think about the woman who stood next to me in the corral at the starting line who said that this race had been on her bucket list for years. It never dawned on me that I could combine my love for travel with a hobby that has become such a big part of my life and that perhaps it’s time to start a bucket list of my own. Where to next?!