Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Race Report: the Narrows Half

In the 5 to 7 weeks before each marathon I try to run a half-marathon tune-up race.*  For this training cycle, I had planned on running the Staten Island Half next weekend but I mad the mistake of holding out on registration and the darn thing sold out.

With only a limited window for running before I need to start getting ready for my taper I looked for local races and stumbled upon the Narrows Half as an obvious choice. Back in April I volunteered for the first iteration of this race and as a result scored a free entry into another NYCRuns event. So, on Tuesday last week I signed up.

The course is flat as can be, a double out-and-back along the Belt Parkway Promenade, beginning and ending at the 69th Street Pier just off of Bay Ridge Avenue. If it's windy, though, it's a tough spot since there are no trees or buildings to block the wind. And with no shade, you kind of hope for overcast skies.

I had to wake up extra early on Sunday since the race was an hour away, but it was probably a good thing since it gave me extra time to digest my usual peanut butter and bagel.  By 8am I was in Bay Ridge with plenty of time for my pre-race warm-up and bathroom visit(s).

The race was scheduled to start at 9, though the race organizers delayed the start 5 minutes because of lines for the porta potties. I lined up towards the front and prepared for the horn. As soon as it sounded I took off.

In the first mile I felt great. This course is super flat and the wind was at my back so the first mile was my fastest in 6:16. The last half I did was Brooklyn which didn't go so well from a racing perspective. As such, I wasn't sure what kind of pace would be realistic but figured there was only one way to find out. I did mile 2 in 6:21, shortly before our first turn-around just past the bridge (the first out-and-back is roughly 5 miles, the second roughly 8).

I talked to another runner (I'm pretty sure he was Australian) for a bit who said it was his first half--he'd never raced over a 10k before--and I wished him luck. We both agreed that running into the sun it felt surprisingly warm.

Although I didn't feel as though I had slowed down, apparently the wind had some affect because the next three miles (3, 4, and 5) were all around 6:30. I'd finished the first 5 mile loop feeling good but knew the second longer loop was going to be much more difficult.

At this point I began picking off other runners. I was trying to stay steady, resisting the urge to speed up or slow down unnecessarily.  I did mile 6 in 6:28 and mile 7 in 6:22. I could see the turn around point, just before the Bath Beach Toys 'R' Us, but knew it was still two miles away. I hadn't looked back in a while so I had no idea how close the next runner was, but I managed to pass another one in front of me.

I did mile 8 in 6:25, and made it to the turn-around and mile 9 in 6:26. Shortly after the turn around a CPTC runner gained on me. I was getting tired at this point and kept assuming he would pass me and that would be that, but I did my best to hang on. Mile 10 was 6:33. I could see the bridge, knowing that it was shortly before mile 11.

We passed another CPTC runner who sort of fell in behind us. I was no determined not to let them pass me if at all possible. At mile 11 I looked at my watch, 6:45.00--Dang it! I exclaimed (okay, I said something else, but I'm not printing it here).

The view on the way to the finish.
Because of the winding course, you couldn't see the finish all that far out, but having run the same stretch three times already, I had a good grasp on the final two miles. I started to speed up, doing mile 12 in 6:38. With just over a mile left, I tried to pick it up again.

The wind wasn't too noticeable, except that it was much cooler running into it, but I could still feel some resistance. I could see the finish as I passed mile 13 in 6:32. I looked at my watch and realized I would have to really hustle to break 1:25, my goal for the day.

Although I tried to sprint home, I could beat the clock and crossed in 1:25:06. The two CPTC runners crossed shortly after me and I congratulated them. We all thanked each other for the extra push in the final miles.

While I certainly would have liked a faster time, I was happy with the result. I hadn't given myself much of a taper--I did an easier track workout on Thursday and took Friday off--and had 50 miles on my legs for the week. a 1:25 is exactly where I need to be for the marathon and it was better than my Brooklyn time, and more importantly, it felt much better too. Now I have two more weeks of solid training before the taper. Hopefully all goes well.
*A post on tune-up race, when to do them, and what purposes they serve is coming soon.

Photos are from NYCRuns.


  1. Wow, amazing job! I can't believe you ran a half that fast and then walked around Brooklyn the rest of the day!

    1. It wasn't so much "walking around" as it was eating around Brooklyn...

  2. Nice job! I like to include a HM tune up too when marathon training. Sometimes it's a tough race, like you said, no taper whatsoever. But if you can pull it off, it's a great mental boost for the marathon.

  3. wow, great blog! Thanks for correction back my joint.

    You inspire me to run more

  4. Glad you enjoyed it. Hope to see you at other races soon!