I wrote this post months before I started Rachel On and On. It is my very first race recap, written after the 2012 NYC Half — my first race ever. The tone is decidedly more “Dear Diary” than the way that I write on Rachel On and On, and even El Profesor has an updated name (a nod to his Spanish language prowess). I’ve come a long way since then, and I’m going another 13.1 on Sunday morning.
It began as a joke. I had been running a few miles here and there for a year or so. I saw no harm in throwing my name into the hat. I never expected to be selected out of the lottery. But just before New Year’s Eve, I received an email informing me that I had been selected to participate in the NYC Half…just me and 15,000 of my closest friends and fellow runners.
A half marathon had long been a goal of mine – well, ever since I quit smoking in 2007, anyway. I had tried before. In 2008, I trained for the Brooklyn Half, but when the flu kept me away from the gym for three weeks, I just couldn’t get my training back up to speed, so to speak.
I shared the news of my acceptance with my husband, the Professor, whom I love and adore very much. Seriously, he is awesome. And for some crazy reason (like maybe because he loves me?), he decided to support my decision. The decision that got me out of bed every morning at 7 AM. Even on weekends. Even after daylight savings time. The decision that has cost me several hundred dollars in gear and race fees (for the several other races I decided to sign up for in a moment of “hey, what the hell, I have to train for one, so why not train for three?” enthusiasm).
As I said. He loves me. He puts up with the fact that I will never learn how to half ass anything. Do it 110% or not at all. That’s me. Type A Rachel. That is who I have always been.
So on New Year’s Day, a balmy 60 degrees here in New York City, I put on my Asics Gel Pulse 2 sneakers, a pair of running tights, a tank and a long sleeve (which I promptly pulled off after mile 1) and set out for my first ever “long run.” Five miles of sweaty awesomeness. It was precisely what I needed to give me the confidence to pursue the next ten weeks of training for the Half.
That first long run gave me the confidence I needed, but the motivation came from many sources. For starters, my family medical history somewhat resembles the Mayo Clinic website, and I married the guy with sexy long-lasting Ashkenazi genes. He wants to live to see 100, and he says he wants to see it with me : ) This means, of course, that I have a very long way to go. I will have to beat out every single one of my ancestors in the longevity race.
For another reason, I haven’t been especially proud of myself lately. Other than marrying the best guy ever (okay, I’ll pull in the reigns on this lovefest for a moment), I was starting to feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything of significant note since I passed the Bar. Work has been sucky and the Professor’s job has had me back and forth between New York and Florida for the last three years. It’s been a challenge to make changes and advance in my career, and while I am the rare girl who loves domestic tasks (I used to stay up late at night to watch Martha Stewart Living marathons on Lifetime when I was in high school. Seriously.), I am not exactly cut out to be a housewife.
I needed this race. I needed to wake up. Pull myself together. Start something. Finish something. Feel proud. And on Sunday morning, I did all of those things.
I realize now, that I did something that most runners don’t do. I ran a Half as my first race. So after two-and-a-half months of steady training (courtesy of Runners World), the things that concerned me most on Race Day were the logistics. A twelve mile run two weeks before had given me some assurance that I would be able to finish the Half. So mainly I was concerned with (1) making sure I did not oversleep my 5:30 AM wake up call, (2) not having to break a sweat on the walk to Central Park, (3) finding a place to pee before being locked in to my corral, and (4) whether I would actually be running more than 13.1 miles because of the fact that my corral was so far back from the start line.
Here is what I learned: (1) When you know you need to be somewhere, your body will hook you up. I woke up every hour and forty five minutes to check the clock and then promptly fell back asleep until the time I woke up at 5:15 and leapt out of bed. (2) It was wise that I gave myself enough time to walk leisurely to Central Park. It definitely brought down my anxiety to get there with 45 minutes to spare before the buzzer. (3) I spent 44 of those 45 minutes on line for the bathroom. New York Road Runners is not generous with the potties, people. But I recommend standing in those crazy lines before racing because they also do not do a good job of scattering port-o-potties throughout the course. (4) If you are super far back, not only do you not have to run extra distance, but you do get extra time to use the potties. I did not cross the start line until a half hour after the race began. Seriously, I got to see Kara Goucher leave the park (6+ miles in) before I even crossed the start line. Moreover, I didn’t get to start running until one mile in. This sadly cost me my goal time of 2:10. I finished in 2:16 and made up a ton of time in the final 5K of the race. I also got to cross the finish line to my theme song : “Don’t Stop Believing”.
And then I got a medal. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a medal before!
If you’re like me, you believe that all good things that happen or carry on in to the wee hours of Sunday mornings should be followed by brunch. We went to Sarabeth’s on Madison. Sarabeth’s is usually a little too frou-frou for the Professor and me, but it had been Mom’s birthday a few days prior and she requested Sarabeth’s. Thus, we were pleased to oblige.
I highly recommend the NYC Half. It was a great way to experience the city that I call home. I ran the first half of the race on very familiar turf. The Central Park loop has been my primary training ground these past few months. Just before the halfway point, the path lets the runners out on to Seventh Avenue, after which we sped down to 42nd Street and then across town to the West Side Highway. At one point, shortly after leaving the park, I looked up expecting to see Carnegie Hall, but I was already at 51st Street! I really started picking up speed in the second half of the race. NYRR does a great job of scattering liquids, entertainment, and volunteer cheerleaders throughout the course, so it is very easy to stay hydrated, focused and confident.
The high at the finish line cannot be described. I would imagine it’s a little different for everyone. But for me, it was pure bliss.
Next race: More Half Marathon on April 15th.