On Saturday March 19th, I raced the Brooklyn 1/2 Marthon for the third year in a row. The race is a beautiful course and an excellent early season gauge of fitness. The weather was cold and windy, peaking at around 38F during the race, but the sun was out, and we were running hard, so it was really perfect weather for a race. The course starts on the Boardwalk in Coney Island and travels two miles on wooden planks along the ocean. Those first two miles are a west/east out-and-back and then you head onto the Ocean Parkway going North towards Prospect Park, seven miles up the road.
That main stretch along Ocean is almost entirely flat, but there is usually a strong headwind, and this year was no different. Last year, we had a good group of about eight runners that broke the wind, but this year, the group at the front was much more spread out, making the run to the park much tougher. I stayed with a small group for a bit, but the pace was slower than I wanted to run, so I ended up running most of the way solo.
My goal was to run more effectively in the park than I had last year, where I dropped way off pace. I was keeping a pretty even pace down Ocean, pushing hard when the wind would gust. I made it to the 9-Mile mark a bit slower than last year, since our group was able to make much better time than I was able to alone, but I felt much better and picked up the pace as I started the last four miles.
The four miles in Prospect Park are the hardest in the race, not only because they come at the end, but also because they are quite hilly and represent a substantial change from the pancake flat run on the Boardwalk and Ocean Parkway. As I passed the pace clock, I was right where I needed to be to make my goal time of 1:15, but I would have to run much harder to keep that pace on the hills in the park. The course does a spiral within the park, bringing you around the whole perimeter before bringing you towards the center. There is one long hill for basically half of the 11th mile, starting right after the 10-Mile marker. I drove hard up the hill, trying to shake some of the runners on my heels and pushing to catch up to another runner who was about 100 yards ahead.
I managed to break away from the one runner behind me and made it through that toughest mile still on pace. I picked up the pace for the 12th mile in an effort to close in on the runner ahead, who race officials announced as being in 10th place. Mile 12 was my fastest of the day, at 5:27, but it was too much too early. As I pushed hard towards the finish, two runners pushed ahead of me, and I couldn’t stay with them on the last hill towards the finish. I ended up crossing the line in 13th place at 1:14:50 on the clock. The results would later show that my net time was 1:14:46 (since the race clock starts at the gun, but you don’t start your own clock until your chip goes over the start line) and that I had beaten the competitor who crossed ahead of me by three seconds, since he had started four seconds ahead and had only beaten me by one second.
I was really pleased to comfortably beat my goal time and to improve on my time from last year by almost two minutes. My feet suffered greatly for the effort, and I’m doing my best to keep the toenails on my big toes attached, but they may be a casualty of the race. I feel really good about where I am fitness wise, since I am as faster or faster in all three disciplines than I was during last season, and I haven’t even begun race-specific training.