A while back I registered for the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park. When I signed up, I knew it was going to be cold and miserable. It’s January in New York City! Still, I signed up so that I would keep running. I have a tendency to fall off the run train in the winter when it just gets too cold and stops being fun. And while I usually wouldn’t worry too much about a half marathon where my only goal was to finish, there is also the polar vortex. Yes, the freezing cold temperatures that have made the treadmill my best running friend this month.
So, on Saturday I was following NYRR’s twitter feed to make sure the race was still going to take place. They mentioned the possibility of making it a “fun run” and giving everyone the qualifier credit. The problem for me was that I was not running it for the credit. I considered skipping it when my husband called me “an idiot” for doing it in this weather (said with love). He was right. I was a little bit crazy, but so were my BRFs that were running with me. I wasn’t quitting on them, even though I think they wanted me to quit so they could. (Sorry ladies!)
Sunday morning I layered up more than ever. I had 2 pairs of running pants and a pair of fleece pajama pants for throwaways. On top I had a tank, Under Armour long sleeve, a short sleeve race shirt (Shamrock half) and my Lululemon running jacket. I topped that with my Northface, scarf, hat and gloves. When Janet and Danielle showed up at 6am, we walked the block to the bus stop and stayed warm in a bank ATM until the bus came. We boarded the bus full of Sunday working people who were not ready for our energy. We were happy and excited… okay maybe we were just delirious.
We arrived at Central Park and had just enough time to use the porta potties and get to bag check. I was not thrilled about giving up my coat, but it was time. The race was a small one, and the turnout was even smaller… around 4,000 according to NYRR. I guess some runners are actually sane and decided to stay home. The smaller turnout meant no staggered start, which I was very happy about. The horn blow and we all started running. I do not think I could have handled the start and stop on a morning like this.
The course was crowded for the first mile due to the single start, but I used all of the runners around me to block the wind. By mile two, the road had opened up and the hills had started. The course was two loops of the park so every hill on the first loop was stressful because I knew I’d be back for a second climb. Harlem Hills were the toughest, but I honestly felt like the course was all hills. While I did warm up within the first 5 miles, my face was burning from the cold and the wind. I had a “buff” to cover my nose, mouth and cheeks, but I had some trouble breathing through it. I must have put it up and down about 500 times during the run.
My favorite part of this race was the finish line. I was happy to be done. I was so grateful for all of the volunteers. I thanked each of them as I ran past them. I was most grateful for my friend Heather. She came into the city to cheer us on. She was there at mile 1 and again at mile 7 standing in the cold. I owe her a drink… or 5. I even spotted NYRR President, Mary Wittenberg jogging back to cheer on the runners in the last miles. I think she was just trying to stay warm.
We ran the whole race together and my girls and I finished the race in 2:05:05. We quickly got our coats from bag check and jumped in a taxi to brunch. We headed over to Fred’s and celebrated… a lot. We thought this was a fitting spot to celebrate Fred Lebow’s race.
Lessons learned: Need more hill training, breathing in the cold is difficult, vodka before noon is a risky move.
Kudos to Mike Cassidy, friend and fellow Staten Islanders for winning this race while I was rounding my first loop.