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.
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.
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.
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.