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My first half marathon

A few months ago I decided to try to run the NYC half marathon. My friend Justin from Boston asked me if I wanted to run it. I wasn't sure if I could make it since I'd only been running a few miles at a time up until then, usually max of 4-5 miles. 13.1 miles seemed like an impossible distance to run. I think the farthest I'd ever run in my life before is probably 6-7 miles which had been many years ago.

I decided to go ahead and enter as motivation to possibly be able to make the distance. It was kind of at the last minute and I figured it was a lottery system but both of us were accepted. I later found out 12,000 or so out of 25,000+ entrants made it in.

So I started training a bit for the race. Got up to 6, 7, 8 miles. Week by week. The 2 weekends before the race I did long runs of about 10 miles. I still wasn't sure if I could make 13.1 miles.

The day before the race I did my best to eat enough food for energy. We had a pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant called John's in the lower east side before watching The Dark Knight. A side comment about the movie, I felt it was too long and all over the place. However, Heath Ledger was as great as they say. But, I digress. I also fueled up on cliff bars and as much water as I could drink. I was kind of nervous about the race so it took me awhile to fall asleep that night. Had to wake up at 5am to be ready for the race at 7am that Sunday morning.

Woke up on time and I felt good. Ate some oatmeal and vitamins, more water.

NYCHM08 Spectator Map_out7-21-08

I hadn't looked at what the course was going to be until a few days before the race. It turned out the first 7 miles or so was around the loop in central park which I had been running pretty regularly in training. I felt positive about the familiar area. I had often put off the run until later in the day when it was very hot so I was prepared for more extreme conditions than the early morning race. I had run about 2pm on the previous Saturday a 10 mile run in the extreme heat of the day and it was rather rough. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make 13 miles at that time. It was much too hot to be running at that time but it proved to be valuable training for the race.

The second half of the race started from the south of the park down 7th avenue through Times Square. Then, it went all the way west on 42nd to turn south on the west side highway along the Hudson. The race concluded with a long stretch down the highway all the way to Battery Park. I felt it was the best course I could ask for. Familiar territory with the second half being very flat.

When the race finally started at 7 after much waiting around. It took us about 15-20 minutes to actually get to the starting line from where we were in the pack. I was very excited to finally get going and felt as good as I could have. I made myself keep a reasonable pace. I was using the Nike+ system that I have been using the whole year. I tried to keep around just under a 10 minute mile pace. Naturally I tend to run about 9-9:30 pace but I hadn't run 13 miles before and I wanted to be sure to have enough to make it.

Justin and I were running the same pace for about the first 5K. Then we got separated and I went ahead. He found the heat and hills in the park to be pretty challenging. When I finally made it through the bottom of the park onto 7th avenue I was feeling like I could make it. At this point I wasn't breathing hard at all which I hear is key to being able to finish. I pushed up to a 9-9:30 per mile pace the rest of the way. There were water stops every couple of miles and I got water at every one just to make sure there was no chance of getting dehydrated. Along 7th avenue I passed the place were I used to work on 53rd. There were several bands playing along the way there as well as the cast of Mamma Mia singing and dancing. An impressive amount of people lined the street that was covered in paper water cups. This made it even easier to keep going.

As I made it to the West Side highway going south I knew there was no way I wasn't going to stop, no matter what. I knew my body was getting drained but adrenaline, pasta, oatmeal and cliff bars were providing good energy at this point. I passed Chelsea Piers and I knew it was only a few more miles to go to Battery Park from there. It was hard to believe I had been up to near 110th at the top of the park and now was passing the 20's all on my own feet, running without stopping.

Once I made it to 11 miles then past the 20K mark I allowed myself to speed up. I could feel I still had some energy left in the tank. My goal was to finish between 2 hours 10 to 20 minutes but I know felt I may be able to break 2 hours at this pace. I then saw the 800M to go sign and I started to run faster, then at 400 then 200M I put everything I had into that last stretch of road. When the finish line was in site it was an amazing feeling. I crossed the finish line and started walking and I realized what I had done and how far I had gone. I stopped the Nike+ and Lance Armstrong congratulated me for my farthest run to date.

Here are my race results from the split times shown on Nike+.

I found Justin and we milled around to get free stuff for a bit in Battery Park, then rode the 2 train back uptown to my place. The nap I had after that felt very rewarding, a good sleep. I decided I want to try to get into the NYC marathon next year. I hear its hard with the lottery but if you run something like 9 road races or are sponsored by a charity you are guaranteed to get in.

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