Sunday, December 29, 2013

Race Report: Brooklyn Marathon

This report is also a couple of months late, but at least it has a happier ending than my last.

Over the summer and fall I had been coaching a good friend from El Paso to run the new York Marathon, his first marathon, and through his experiences I felt a new excitement for the race, as if it were my first marathon again. (My first marathon was the New York Marathon in 1997.) He did very well in the race, I had a lot of friends who ran, either on their own or as pacers or Achilles guides, so I was inspired to sign up for the Brooklyn Marathon on Nov. 17. This would also be my first marathon since Boston 2011, which happens to be my PR at 2:50:55. I'd been wanting desperately to run another marathon but couldn't find on nearby on the calendar that I could run, until Brooklyn. I was also looking to re-qualify for Boston, but this would be too late to enter for 2014. Still, I was ready to go.

This relatively new race, put on by NYC Runs, was run entirely in Prospect Park. According to the web site the course was two loops around the lower end of the park (about two miles each), then 6 full loops (about 3.3 miles each), followed by another lower loop. It might have been confusing for some people, but the logic was there, and there were signs marking each mile, so it wasn't tough to follow. I was very familiar with Prospect Park, since I trained there a lot when I lived in Brooklyn years ago. I figured the big hill leading up to Long Meadow could be tough after a few repeats, but then again there was an equal downhill on the other side.

At the start it felt like a very fun, low-key race, almost old-fashioned, with not too many runners (about 400-500 in the end), no corrals, and in informal chat before the race with some of the expected leaders about staying in the designated lanes of the park road. The park was fully open to the public, but avoiding casual parkgoers was seldom a problem of any kind. The weather felt good, warm for mid-November and overcast, so it promised to be a good time.

I didn't have a firm goal, except to qualify for Boston, but I was hoping to get in under 3:00. I started out at a good pace for that goal, a little fast actually, but that first mile is mostly downhill. I chatted a little bit with a young guy, just graduated from college, who was running his first marathon, and hoping to get under 3:00 as well. We ran together basically for the two short loops and then some before he pulled away. I'm so accustomed to running ultras on loops even shorter than this that the multiple-loop format didn't bother me. There was water and Gatorade at either side of the park, so aid was good. I hit the half marathon mark in about 1:28, so I was still on track for a sub-three, but I'd have to keep pushing. Surprisingly, the big hill didn't seem to bother me as the race went along, in fact it felt like it got shorter, even if it did slow me down a little. My back did start to hurt me after about eight or nine miles, my feet started hurting after about 10, and that rain came down in the second half, but I kept pushing through. With about two miles to go, starting the final short loop, I spotted the young rookie who'd pulled away from me early in the race, and I was slowly catching up to him. So I had to motivating factors, catching him, and getting in under three hours. I was not quite able to catch the guy, but I did get in under three hours, with 2:59:03, good for 11th place, and first in the over-40 age group.

After my disaster at 24 The Hard Way, I needed a good race, so this felt very good. And I was reassured that I still have some speed left. And it was a fun race, a nice community atmosphere, well done by NYC Runs. They are trying to get permission to put the marathon on the streets of Brooklyn, but I really like the loop course in Prospect Park and the small field. This is one I might come back for in 2014.

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