Brooklyn Greenway Half Marathon

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Brooklyn Waterfront
19 October 2014
2:13:43 – PR

It was the best of races, it was the worst of races.

I had run pretty fast—for me—at the Run for the Rings Half Marathon a week prior to this race, but I never expected in a million years to PR by a full 6:00. That’s almost unheard of. I chalk it up to finally getting my food/fluids right*, good weather, new course distraction, and running by feel without obsessively checking my Garmin.

Now, I never thought I’d be complaining about a race I PRed at, but I have some complaints. First all the good things:

1) Overall, I liked the course.  The start/finish was on Columbia Street, south of Van Voorhees Park.  The course consisted of a short southern out and back followed by a longer northern out and back.

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While the course wasn’t closed, in that area and at that time of day there wasn’t much traffic and we were able to run pretty much unimpeded.  The course map doesn’t indicate it, but on the out we were able to run through the Navy Yard, which was a treat. On the way back we had to go around via Kent to Flushing Ave. I was able to run in some areas of Brooklyn I’ve been curious about, but never visited. Now I have a good plan for when I need longer mileage or want to explore western Williamsburg and Greenpoint. There was a lot to look at the whole race, plus we ran under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges. I love running under bridges!

2) The weather was perfect. There’s nothing the organizers could do about that, but it was lovely. There were some gusty winds a few times, but the temperature hovered in the mid-50s and I never overheated. (I was afraid I would be either over- or under-dressed, but I guessed right when it came to choosing clothes.)

3) The volunteers were exceptionally friendly, both in the start/finish area and on the course. Plus there were not only plenty of course marshals, they were all exactly where they needed to be to keep us on course. There was never a moment of guessing where to go, which is a lot more than I can say for some races I’ve run.

That's me in the pink shirt with the white hat.
That’s me in the pink shirt with the white hat.

Now the bad stuff:

1) Aid stations. The course map is wrong/incomplete. It doesn’t actually show the course we ran (no veering off into the Navy Yard) and there are no aid stations indicated on it. I learned my lesson with the Philadelphia marathon and I always look for aid stations on the course map before race day. Since there were none on the map, I believed the runner guide when it said the stations would be two miles apart. They weren’t. And the last one before the far turn around wasn’t set up on the way out and wasn’t staffed on the way back. I’m shocked I had a PR, since I actually stopped to get a cup out of a bag and pour myself a drink.

2) No food/fluid at the finish. There was an after party across the street from the finish area and I think things were being packed up to move as I crossed the finish line. I’m actually not sure. All I know is there was nothing to eat or drink when I got done. I was directed into a line that I thought was for food/medals, but turned out to be for shirts. They were definitely packing up the shirts, because I was the last person to get one before they took the boxes away. Which brings me to…

3) No medals. There were no medals by the time I finished. The race policy was that anyone who registered before October 5 (like me) was guaranteed a shirt and medal. I did get a shirt and my name was crossed off a list, but obviously no one was checking registration dates as the medals were handed out at the finish line. There was rather a large group of us who were told to go to the after party and more medals would be there, but there weren’t any. A woman took our email addresses and said we would be contacted. I try to be accommodating and not uptight about these things, but come on. Don’t use words like “guarantee” unless you can actually guarantee. I know there were some folks who were guaranteed shirts and didn’t get one of those either. Let’s just say there was general angst at the end.

And a final pet peeve: if you have a three hour cut off, you shouldn’t be tearing down your finish area early. I’m basically a back-of-the-pack-er and there is nothing more discouraging to finish a long run to…nothing. Those folks crossing the finish line at the very end need MORE support, not less. I know for a fact there were some first-time half marathoners in this race that finished after me. I felt sorry for them that they arrived at the finish line to no medal, no shirt, no food, and all the tents being taken down. Totally not cool.

All together, I am glad I ran this race. I could be persuaded to run it again. This was only the second year, so I’m sure the race directors are learning as they go.

What my medal will look like if/when it arrives in the mail.
What my medal will look like if/when it arrives in the mail.

For more information:  Brooklyn Greenway Initiative

All photos by Will Ragozzino and Nikki Clark of Kiwi Energy. Click here to view the entire album of race photos.

*For the past two half marathons I’ve had half a packet of Justin’s Nut Butter and about 150 calories worth of Tailwind about an hour before the race. Then during the race I’ve eaten two Honey Stinger chews every couple of miles with a large swallow of water at each aid station. It seems to be the perfect combination for that distance.

5 thoughts on “Brooklyn Greenway Half Marathon

    1. I did get the medal a few weeks later. The loop at the top that attaches to the ribbon was broken, but a drop of wood glue took care of it with no problem. Since this race is so new, I would assume the organization will improve every year. I would not discourage you from running it, especially if your half time is faster than 2:15ish.

      1. Hi again, Norma! Thanks for the speedy reply! I wrote to the organizer and mentioned my concerns (and linked to your review) and received an almost instant reply (below). I felt good about entering and so I did. (Faster than 2:15ish? I wish. Closer to the 2:45 mark …) Thanks again!

        Thanks for your email. To answer your questions:

        It is correct, one fluid station wasn’t manned. Due to some logistical issues like this, NYC Runs are no longer race directing our event and we have moved to a different company — Fast Finishes — to ensure things like this don’t happen again.

        All runners will receive a gps map link which will accurately show the route including the navy yard segments.

        There was free food and drink at the finish last year (water, Gatorade, beer, hot dogs, sandwiches etc) and there will be food and drink (and beer) again this year.

        All registrants will receive a finisher medal this year (no cut off registration date) and last year about 50 people didn’t receive their medals at the event due to a batch that had broken in transit (they are beautiful wooden medals) but all were mailed one 2 weeks following the event.

        Hope that answers your questions — we have definitely noted some issues from last year and found ways to ensure they won’t happen again this year.

        1. Like I said, I would expect a newish race to improve every year and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from entering. It sounds like they are aware of what happened last year (except for the food/water part) and they have made changes. I liked the course and I’ve since run it many times. 🙂

  1. I ran this course this past Sunday for the first time and just wanted to note that things had definitely improved as compared to the issues related in this blog post. I finished in 1:58:47, but ran with friends who finished closer to 2:05 and 2:15 respectively, and they both received medals; we were near the finish line (stretching) for a good 15 more minutes after my second friend finished and things were still very much set up (and many people still crossing the finish line — Norma, I would not call 2:13 a “back of the pack” time!).

    The course is indeed beautiful, and the Navy Yard segment exciting.

    I thought the aid stations were few and far between, but they did appear to be properly manned (with choice of electrolyte or regular water). There was no Gu or other fuel at these stations, unlike some other races I’ve run.

    I will say that they did run out of shirts for those who had not elected to purchase in advance. The fact that the shirt *had* to be purchased in advance (as opposed to being included with registration) was disappointing, but I suppose to be expected given that the race benefits a charitable/public initiative. In this category I’ll also note that the bib pick-up was just that: you picked up your bib (and if you had pre-purchased for the additional fee, your shirt) — there were no swag bags to speak of (despite the fact that this year the race had secured sponsorship from companies like Nesquik).

    So, all in all, a great course and a fun run, with better organization that what Norma experienced last year — but still some room for improvement.

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