Race Review – Brooklyn Half Marathon

I used to call NY my home. For almost 10 years I lived in Battery Park city pre 9/11, then Hells Kitchen and the East Village after moving back from the West Coast once the dust had settled. I lived a good life there and love it. It is my home from home. I moved back to London in 2010 and only took up running two years later and so my races in the States have been limited. Still, I did enjoy them, although it is a long ass way to go for a race no matter how unique it is. Until this trip my US races had been limited to:

North Carolina Half – Around a NASCAR arena in 5 inches of icy water. You can’t get more fun that that.

Crescent City Classic – New Orleans, humidity that was so bad a stop in a portlaloo was akin to a day in a sauna, and someone was giving away free beer whilst charging a buck for water

Disney Wine and Dine Florida – a truly surreal race starting at 10.30pm during which I saw a platoon of Stormtroopers, and the photographer ruined my photo with Lilo and Stitch.

It is expensive to go all that way for a race, when I ran Disney I ran New Orleans 6 days later, to cushion the financial blow and so, with a spot for me at the Chicago Marathon the week before I decided to run the Brooklyn Half the following Saturday (although I was tempted by the full).

Chicago had taken a lot out of me. I was still ill going into it and my new shoes and post Tring Ultra hip thingy didn’t help either and it showed in the race photos.

The Chicago Marathon Gurning Series

Still, I had 6 days to recover before Brooklyn, deblister the old trotters, defailure the mind and, for want of a local term…

The Route

The race is part of the NYC Runs Series, with the Staten Island race the week before, and starts and ends in Prospect Park.  It has a bit of a down at the start, a bit of an up at the end and, from the look of the route map, the Marathon would be a two lapper and, leading into the Chicago week I would not rule out upping my distance to the full.

EXPO

The EXPO was in Brooklyn, a short Q train to Dekalb. It is housed in a small shopping centre with Trader Joe’s and artisanal food fayre on the lower level. Of course I went to both. Trader Joe’s is my joint. Who doesn’t want to blow $70 on 2 tubs of olive tapenade, a balsamic glaze and a fucking pumpkin? Upstairs is a Tar-jay (Target) and at street level you can buy 4 pop-up greeting cards (as seen on Shark Tank) for $40 and a book on building your own hydroponic tank to grow herbs.

The EXPO, in it’s own little area,  was a bit minimal for what the race actually is, for all intents and purposes, a marathon with several thousand runners in one of the major cities in the world. Bib collection table, free tee collection, small stall for merch (I got the bobble hat after missing out on one in Chicago, a tee with the route on it (useful if you get lost) and a sticker for my suitcase). The rest? A few charity tables. There may have been a nutrition stand, but I don’t recall with certainty if there was one.  Still, in and out in 5 minutes. So can’t complain.

HOW I DID or Zzzzzzzzzzzzz!

It was a 7am start for both full and half in Brooklyn meaning a 530am alarm call for me in Hells Kitchen after a Theatre District beer session the night before at Tootsie. Although the early start didn’t really matter as I suffer from terrible jet lag and was up all night anyway. Yup, you guessed it, there was…

Everyone was sleepy on the 2/3 train that was a straight shot to Grand Army Plaza by Prospect Park from Times Square. Everyone was layered up. Not everyone had the clear plastic bag for their kit. Races tend to do this now. You need to decant your warm clothes etc into the bag provided so security can check it easier. But noooooo! Not everyone had theirs. And, to be honest, I didn’t have the one issued as it tore with all the Trade Joe’s goodies, so I used the one from Chicago I still had, which was fine as it had a better draw string strap.
Grand Army Plaza
Walking out in the cold dark morning 10 rental vans were parked along the road.  It had a weird baggage numbering that worked. The first van was everyone who’s number ended with 0 (including mine), next van those ending in 1, next those ending in 2, all the way through to 9. I thought about just dumping my bag and heading to the start but it was cold. I know you are supposed to dress for the second mile not the first but I put the tee (the free race tee) I had in my bag for after the race on over the top and repinned my bib.
Cold. I was happy to react to it though, and 2 out of every 3 runners wore the race tee so I didn’t look out of place. And at least I had the right shoes this time, the Saucony’s destroyed my feet at Chicago 6 days earlier and so, after a period of playing the hobbling tourist, my comfy Nike Free felt like walking on clouds. And in them I walked up to the most intense security I had seen at a race including the majors.
Yup, they had airport style security to get into the pens, you had to take off your Garmin, your ipod, your phone, your earphones, put them in a tub, walk through an X-ray machine, get patted down and even then that only got you to the start. From there, in the race, there was a police presence at each intersection.

The Start

I wanna’ do the freak until the break of dawn, Tell me party people is that so wrong
Top of the Eastern Parkway for the start, entry to the actual pens themselves was not marshalled and in the end everyone moved forward, or close to their pacer. Of which the half and full Pacers were mixed in. The sunrise was stunning. It was coming over the hill as an opera singer (from what I could tell) sung the national anthem before a countdown and we were off. As per the route map the NYCRuns Brooklyn Half started with a short there and back, downhill then up, then a loooooong there and back along the wide and straight expressway taking you up to 11 miles when you finally enter Prospect Park. I did overheat with 2 tees on, so at 5K I took a moment to slow walk on the turn onto the longer there and back, dumping the under tee…
The long there and backs were actually ok. Flatbush Avenue, 45 years since Stallone and Henry “the Fonz” Winkler starred in the Lords of Flatbush, was wide, and we had 3 or 4 lanes to play with so there was no bunching at all, other than the turns. These races have quite generous cut offs and so on the backs you still have hundreds on the theres. The turn on the longest there and back was shorter for the marathon runners, they turned a few hundred yards before we did and so the marathon pacers I was running with left me and so I fell into pace with a half pace group all the way to and into Prospect Park.
This was quite nice for the half runners, a bit of an undulating looping route through the park for 5K, an actual park run. Finally some spectators cheering us on too. There were no more than a handful on the road route, especially when on the expressway. And then we were done as the poor marathon runners had to complete half their race going around and around the park as the road part of the course had been reopened already.

BLING

Pretty nice!

SUMMARY

I have always wanted to run in NY. I will get to the marathon there at some point. This was a nice taste of running in the 5 Boroughs. I recommend researching a second race when you fly all that way. Extending your trip by a few days and you could be running another race unlike those you get back home.

And if you choose Brooklyn, I would recommend the half but not the full. If I had run it the race would have scored pretty low.  Free tee (tick) and the medal (tick) but the route was poor for them, little to no support for most of the course, no photos, and half of it going around the park dodging half runners and walkers.

I would not recommend wearing the free race tee as it chafed one of my nipples (righty) almost clean off.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE BROOKLYN HALF? Yes.

WOULD I RUN THE BROOKLYN HALF AGAIN? No.

AFTERMATH

Given the night before, theatre, and a beer session in Hell’s Kitchen at my old haunts, I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime on the Friday. So come the early morning start, pre breakfast, I had nothing in my belly until the third Gatorade stop. Then the fifth. The 8th. They were generous with the water and Gatorade and it did energise me all the way to the end. After finishing though, grabbing by warm clothes and a mouthful of dry bagel, walking through the Grand Army Plaza monument to the 2 train I started feeling really unwell. Nausea took over, cold sweats and a stinking steaming subway. I thought I was going to throw up, pass out or both, so got out 2 stops down the line, sat on a bench on the platform and let it pass. I had been unwell leading up to the trip and I should have looked after myself better. Am a dumbass. Do not follow suit.

NEXT UP : THAMES MEANDER

One Comment Add yours

  1. charliesbird says:

    I am so keen to run an American race sometime! Flip, you’ve just made the feeling even stronger!

    Like

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