Races

Central Park Half Marathon race recap – new PR!!

My heart is so full. This race was exactly the race I needed for that mid-marathon cycle inspiration.

Final time: 1 hr 57 min 37 sec – A NEW PR!!! (previously 1:58.33 from 1.5 years ago).

My expectations for this race were somewhat scattered beforehand. It’s the halfway point in my marathon training cycle, so I wanted to see where I was at and use my half marathon time to help predict my full marathon time. In the back of my head, I thought it would be great to get another sub-2 hour half marathon under my belt (I’ve had one other sub-2 half, and that was my previous PR), and to also possibly get a PR. But I didn’t really put pressure on myself to meet these goals. I wanted to continue towards the bigger picture of training for the marathon, and so training this week continued as usual with no tapering for this race.

Before the race, I had a pretty sleepless night. Typical. I never really get good sleep before races because of the excitement. The alarm went off at 7am and I began race prep: ate 2 bananas + coffee, got on my outfit, applied chaffing creme, packed my backpack, and was off. The nice thing about local races – you can keep your normal routine!

The subway was down, so I took the bus up to Central Park. Took the quality bus time to get my race bib ready.

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I got to the park with around 45 minutes until race start. Perfect amount of time to use the porta-potties (twice!), check my bag, prep my belt, and get to the race start. This is the third year in a row I’ve done this race, and I’ve also done countless NYCRuns half marathons, so I must say I’ve gotten pretty good at timing pre-race rituals.

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10 minute walk to the race start. The race course changed this year to be 2.5 loops of upper Central Park…I was a bit nervous about this because this meant tackling the absolute worst hill in Central Park (and all of NYC in my opinion), TWICE! I’ve practiced this hill on several long runs so it was helpful to know what I was getting myself into.

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One of the biggest struggles of winter races is staying warm before the race. I tend to run warm and opted for shorts + a thin quarter-zip + ear warmers for the race. I made an effort to keep my warmer clothes on as long as possible and ended up waiting in my skimpy race outfit for approx 20 minutes. Not as bad as I thought it would be! The cold definitely got me excited to just start running.

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Then, we were off!!

My mantra for the race was to be present. The previous night, I listened to Kelly Robert’s new podcast. Kelly talked about how you cannot change the past or control the future; all you can do is work on the present, and the races that are truly “personal bests” are when you are in the moment, have fun, and know you did everything you possibly could. I couldn’t agree more – this exactly became my thought process for this race.

Every single race in the past, I would dwell on the pain and think ahead wishing I was on the final mile, but this time, I wanted to embrace every single moment, good or bad. I knew that as long as I did everything I could, I would come out feeling satisfied. And so, I plugged in my headphones, focused on one mile at a time, and just getting one foot in front of the other 🙂

Miles 1-3: warm up. The first three miles I took as a warm up. The beginning of the race was a bit congested and I didn’t want to weave through people left and right. Also right off the bad, I had to pee…which didn’t make the beginning very comfortable. I knew I couldn’t afford the time to use the bathroom, so I just sucked it up, and eventually the feeling went away 🙂 (does that happen to others to? It happens to me almost every race #smallbladderproblems). I felt strong and comfortable this portion, and aimed to start picking up the pace afterwards.

Miles 4-6: terrible hill + revised race plan. The pain started setting in mile 4 – the good kind of pain. The pain that helped confirm that I was pushing myself. Mile 5 had the dreadful, long hill I mentioned, and I focused on keeping my cadence steady while not over-exerting effort here; I still had a long way to go! After finally tackling the hill on the first loop, I realized I needed to revise my plan a bit…I decided to monopolize and run faster during the downhill and flat portions of the course. Central Park is pretty hilly, and if I was going to lose some steam on the uphills, I needed to make up that time elsewhere. Loop 1 was done, and I went ahead with this plan for loop 2.

Miles 7-10: steady blur. The second loop felt like a bit of a blur. I was in the zone, keeping a steady not-too-comfortable pace the entire time. The uphills took a bigger toll on me during the second loop, and compensated through quick leg turnover during the flat/downhills. I took an gel at mile 7 which did wonders. This was my only water stop for the race.

Miles 10-13: turning point + racing my heart out. I checked my watch at mile 10 and I had just passed the 1 hr 30 min mark. This was the turning point for me. I knew I was likely in for sub-2 (yay!), but this was when I had to decide if I was going for the PR. My legs were tired from all the hills, and it was tempting to just keep my current pace to the very end; if I did, I knew I’d likely not ring in past my best time. And so I decided to GO FOR IT. I wanted to look back and not regret a single second of this race knowing that I put everything I had into it. The next three miles I gave everything I had.

At mile 10, I picked up the pace substantially. Then miles 11-12 were full on sprints. I also decided to stop looking at my watch from this point. I literally could not move my legs any faster than they were going – it was a kind of surreal. The pain was somewhat lifted towards the end, and I crossed the finish line with everything I had. I was so scared to look down at my watch for my final time, but when I did and saw I shaved off 1 minute from my PR, I was ECSTATIC!!

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I remember my previous PR from 1.5 years ago, it was right after my active summer traveling across Europe. I was the healthiest and lightest I’d ever been…I fought for the sub-2 so hard that race and wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to reach that point again. With that said, I’m so happy to tackle a sub-2 once again, pull off a PR, and realize that I have NOT peaked! The whole race was so much fun, and I felt so present the entire time. I’m beyond grateful to see my training so far produce some gratifying results.

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6 thoughts on “Central Park Half Marathon race recap – new PR!!

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