16 May 2015
This is probably going to be my last race report for the Brooklyn Half. The run itself was okay, pretty far off my PR, but not a bad pace for a race in the middle of a training period for something longer. I just didn’t enjoy myself very much and I’ve decided it’s too big now to offer a good experience.
The morning started off fine. I took a car to the start. I didn’t get stuck in the baggage line the way I did last year. The porta-potties in my corral didn’t run out of toilet paper. The corrals did collapse as I was waiting in the bathroom line, but I didn’t worry about that. In 2014 I crossed the start line at 7:55; this year I crossed the start line at 7:56. Negligible loss of time.
In past years, as is typical for any New York Road Runners race, I expected the course to be crowded in the beginning and then open up later—by the Ocean Parkway section if not before. This year there was no “opening up.” At my pace, Ocean Parkway was every bit as crowded as the beginning miles, sometimes even more so, and I was forced to either slow down behind other runners or weave. Weaving takes so much energy and adds so much mileage, but I did a lot of it for the full 13.1 miles. It was exhausting.
Around mile 10 I was thinking about how I wished I would just be done and I thought, “Less than a month ago you were running unbelievable hills for 31 miles and now you want to dump out of a half marathon? Please.” At the same time I was longingly looking at the Ocean Parkway Mall paths on either side of the course…empty. I run this course so often to train, I just think 1) it isn’t stimulating enough as a race course to keep my interest in less-than-ideal circumstances and 2) it’s just a huge hassle to run with 26,000+ runners when it’s usually a very peaceful and near-solitary experience. (This says more about me than the race, obviously.)
I think mile 10 was also when my right heel began hurting. I’ve never had pain like that before, which I noticed when I was trying to get through an aid station and was forced to walk. It was a dull, bruised feeling that mostly went away when I started running again. It did bug me the rest of the race, but it only slowed me a little bit. I reached the finish line in better shape than I did in 2015, having been more careful with carbs and fluids throughout the race.
But after finishing…WTF? There was no way to get out of the post-finish “chute.” My husband was waiting for me by the pier, but I couldn’t get to that side of the boardwalk due to police barricades and police officers. Even if you didn’t check baggage or plan to stay for the post-race party…you were forced into the parking lot between Abe Stark Arena and the MCU ballpark. Runners trying to go over the barricades to get back to the boardwalk were being stopped by officers; I saw one being physically held back from going up the ramp by the arena. To get back to the boardwalk meant going down Surf Ave. to 21st Street. That’s a walk of nearly a mile after crossing the finish line. The best part of this race, for me, has always been walking in the surf after the run. This year, I was too tired and frustrated to walk an additional mile to do that. I waited for my husband to walk around and we skipped the beach walk.
Summation: This race is now an NYRR “event” race, which means it’s too big for me. There were echoes of it happening in 2014, so I wasn’t too surprised. I just didn’t expect it to morph so quickly.
Something I really liked this year was the photographers stationed in the crowd and extra photographers on Ocean Parkway. Unlike 2014, this year I did have my picture taken both on the course and at the finish. I will buy at least one. And from what I can tell, faster runners I know that were in the earlier waves and corrals didn’t have the same crowding issues I did. I recognize that many less-than-fabulous race experiences are due to being a slower runner. It’s frustrating, but race directors don’t cater to my crowd and I know that. I did notice that this year’s cut-off time had been extended to 3:15, which is 15 minutes longer than years past. The aid stations were well-stocked this time around and hopefully the 6000+ runners slower than me had enough support to finish.
I kept my phone off this year and didn’t take pictures. I send my thanks to the runners posting on Instagram and Instagram’s embed feature.