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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Diary of a First-Time Half Marathoner: The Brooklyn Half

Runners at the starting line.
A couple years ago, when everyone else I knew started running marathons, I hastily declared to a friend, "Oh, they're just going through a mid-20s crisis."  Secretly though, I had been jealous of their abilities to run distances longer than two miles - my then record on the treadmill.  Everything changed this past Saturday, when I finally gave into my {now late} 20s crisis and participated and {spoiler alert!} completed my first half marathon, the Brooklyn Half.

The SO's and my interest in the Brooklyn Half started about a year ago, when we were still living in SoHo.  We were regular runners on the West Side Highway and frequently passed by runners proudly wearing their 2012 Brooklyn Half t-shirts.  Not one to miss out on a t-shirt trend, I decided we needed to get those t-shirts and run the Brooklyn Half as well.  We started training this past February, starting with three miles and then slowly building up to ten miles.

The Tobacco Warehouse pre-party

Last Wednesday night, we headed to the Tobacco Warehouse to pick up our bibs and t-shirts.  The pre-party at the Tobacco Warehouse seemed fitting, since we had trained mostly in Brooklyn Bridge Park and had ran past the Tobacco Warehouse on numerous occasions.  I can even remember when I had thought running past the Tobacco Warehouse seemed like a long run, and now we were about to run 13.1 miles.  Otherwise, the pre-party at the Tobacco Warehouse was fun.  I had never been to the Tobacco Warehouse at night, and the views of the Brooklyn Bridge are just magical.  Looking at the night sky made me sad that we don't have stars in New York City.  But we had live music and beer that night to prepare us for the race ahead, and I was feeling pretty good.

Runners on the subway.
Flash forward two and a half days later to Saturday morning, when we woke up at 5:30am to make our way to the starting line in front of the Brooklyn Museum.  The subway was filled with runners, who all looked eager and happy to start running, while I was already thinking about my afternoon nap.  We found our starting corral, which had only a few people in it when we first arrived.  It quickly filled up and soon a ridiculously long line for the porta potties formed.  Being a half marathon newbie, I wasn't prepared for there to be no toilet paper in the porta potty {lesson learned}, but we made do, as I glanced longingly at the woman who had wisely brought hand sanitizer.  Soon though, we were told to start walking towards the official start line, and off we went!

Pre-race stretching in the corrals.
The first couple of miles, which took place through Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park, were not so bad and, dare I say it, actually kind of fun.  It all began when we crossed the start line and overheard another runner say to his friend that he "kind of already had a cramp."  At mile three, after warming up a bit, I decided to take off my long-sleeve shirt, to which the runner behind me yelled, "Now it's getting real!"  We turned around to see that he was running with a large carton of orange juice, which seemed a bit bizarre, but hey, he looked like he was in good shape.  Then we saw two Sesame Street characters playing music on the side of the course.  Wow, I thought, running is great!

Mile Eight

The pain didn't really start to set in for me until mile ten.  My knees quivered, and at mile eleven, my left leg started to tingle to the point where I wondered if I would start to lose sensation in my leg.  We slowed down enough to pick up cups of Gatorade - a drink I usually detest, but at that moment it tasted like an elixir from the gods - from the generous volunteers who were wonderful enough to dedicate their Saturday mornings to help out the runners.  By mile 12, with the prospect of almost being done and the anticipation of being able to eat whatever I wanted, we decided to pick up speed.  With tons of people cheering the runners on and a singer proclaiming that the race was over, we made our way to the Coney Island boardwalk and victoriously crossed the finish line. 

Coney Island post-race.
After we were handed our medals and packs of pretzels, we found a spot to sit down and stretch.  The boardwalk was crowded with runners greeting their friends and family, which was a nice sight to see on an otherwise gray day.  We then made our way to the nearest bar, which was packed with runners also celebrating their completion of 13.1 miles.  As we gulped down the overpriced Heineken, we realized we were hooked.  Despite the pain {which I'm still feeling this Monday morning}, we decided we were going to run the Brooklyn Half again next year, perhaps even with the goal of beating our time this year.  After the Brooklyn Half, it's hard not to feel a runner's high.

Like in grade school, everyone wins.
The Brooklyn Half Marathon is held once a year and returns next spring.

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