2016 Brooklyn Half Marathon review

7am is early for a race start, particularly if you have to travel. Some friends from the running club were meeting at 4am to drive to Coney Island and take the subway to the start but I was staying in Brooklyn in a friend’s spare room. It was still an early start – one of the people in the car from NJ was in wave 1 and the others were in wave 2 and I was a bit worried he wouldn’t make it to the wave 1 start in time (he did but only just before the bag drop was due to close.

The official information suggested arriving by 5:10 for wave 1. It was just after 5:30 when I arrived and it was still quiet. It was warm enough, so I dropped my bag early, went through security, and then it was a long wait.

This was my first NYRR event and on the whole it was well-organized (as you’d expect) but with their volunteer program that presumably just attracts people who want to get a guaranteed marathon place, the quality of the volunteers was definitely variable. On the way to bag drop, one tried to tell us completely the wrong direction, and it was clear from being in the start area early that wave 2 people were being given the wrong information and making it through to the wave 1 start before being turned around and told that had to walk around the outside to get to that area. Some of them were annoyed because they had been specifically told to go that way and had walked quite a way before being turned around.

A large race with an enclosed start area is a tough place to get a warm up. People were running back and forth but volunteers by each entrance to the course were sending people back if they had gone past their area, so those further back had less pavement to run on, and those in areas further forward were being stopped to have their bibs checked at each of these points.

Despite being lined up by expected time, with so many runners, it was the typical situation of having to navigate through some slower runners. This was surprising particularly because I knew I was not going to be quite as fast as the time I had submitted because of recent calf issues. It was most noticeable on turns where everyone seems to slow down quite dramatically. The first half of the course had all the turns and the more scenic views (around and through the park), and then it’s straight, boring slog as you head out to Coney Island and the finish on the boardwalk. There were plenty of water/gatorade stations on the course, and very visible medical tents. I also saw one gel station, but others I know who ran didn’t even notice that.

Official photos are free – nice touch

At the finish you receive a medal and a food bag as you are moved forward quickly to clear the area. The food was not particularly inspiring – I definitely missed having a bagel or a banana but those are probably missing in such a large scale race due to the effort that would have to go into providing them for over 26000 runners.

As you headed to MCU Park for the after party you are warned to pick up your bag before entering the park. There were no lines when I arrived but it would likely have been busier later. In the park, the music kept you entertained but the food and drink options were limited (only 2 food trucks which was surprising, and beer for $8 each). It was a fairly chilly day so once the others I knew had finished, we headed out to a famed pizza place a couple of miles away before heading home.

I’m happy enough to have run this race once, but I’m unlikely to run it again. This is mostly due to the logistics of the early start, but also for that long second half down a straight, boring road.

Newport 10k 2016 – post race review

This past weekend was the 5th time I’ve run the Newport 10k and the second time as an official blogger for the race. It’s always been a fast race for me – despite all the turns it is a fast course – but this year I knew it wouldn’t be for a variety of reasons, but I definitely wanted to be there, in part because it is a USATF Team championship race, and in part because I’ve always enjoyed it.

This year the results show 1862 finishers (I’m told there were 2285 registered), which appears to be a huge increase over previous years (1330 finishers reported last year and a similar number the year before). As usual things were well organized, but for some reason this year, the line for collecting t-shirts was managed differently and caused a huge backup. The total number of registrants obviously caused issues as I heard those who registered on the day being told that there were not enough t-shirts, but they were also being told that they would be sent one after the event which I would not have expected (usually the warning goes out that t-shirts may not be available for late registrants and that’s just a chance you take). This appears to show that the organizers care about making the experience positive for the runners.

What perhaps wasn’t so positive (but ultimately maybe out of the hands of the organizers) is the condition of the course. There are always potholes on the course – small, but still there – and this year the conditions of the road seemed worse and I did see people stumble into them particularly early on when jostling for position. I did spot that larger potholes had been filled relatively recently so it could have been worse. There were also parts of the boardwalk section that are in need of replacement (you could tell that some parts had been done recently, but other sections were very worn and not too dissimilar from the potholes on the course for the runners.

Ultimately the condition of the course doesn’t seem to have affected the speed of the runners as the fastest times were very much in line with last year, despite the warmer conditions.

As usual I was terrible at taking photos, but luckily there are many on nj.com

The race is always followed by a raffle, and many gift certificates were up for grabs to those who waited around long enough. There were definitely fewer businesses providing prizes this year, but those that did seemed to provide more gift certificates, but overall there seemed to be fewer winners.

As an official blogger for the race, I was provided a free entry. This does not influence my posts in any way, and it’s worth pointing out that my posts about this race predate my official blogger status.

Preparing for the Newport 10k

This morning I received, via the Facebook “on this day” app, that a year ago today I ran a fast Newport 10k.

This year certainly won’t be the same, although after running the Highland Park 5k yesterday in a respectable time a week after the London Marathon, I have some hope that it won’t be really slow.

What should you be doing if you feel you haven’t had enough preparation before the 10k?

  1. Relax! Is it really that bad? What is your goal? Is it your first 10k or were you hoping to get a PR? If this is your first 10k, perhaps you feel you haven’t increased your distance enough? If it’s your first, don’t underestimate the power of race day to get you through! Don’t worry if you end up walking some of it – you won’t be the only one. If your aim was to PR, and you don’t think you’re there yet, don’t hang everything on it. Go out and enjoy it – maybe, just maybe, you’ll be in for a surprise.
  2. Don’t overdo it in the next week and a half. Don’t try to make up for lost time. You run a greater risk of injury and may end up sabotaging your race day coming to the start line worn out.
  3. During the race, start easy. Starting slower will help you see how good you feel and may allow you to make up time later (this happened to me last year – I started conservatively, picked up the pace halfway through and passed people all the way to the finish. Having targets ahead of you to pick off one by one can be a real motivator).

What to expect on race day:

  1. Know where you are going: Directions are provided on the site, with parking information.
  2. Know what time you need to be there: and plan accordingly. Bibs can only be picked up on race day. Allow time to get your bib, get back to your car with anything you don’t want to run with (or line up for bag check), use the restrooms/portapotties (expect lines, although the line has been well-organized in previous years to get things moving as quickly as possible).
  3. Read the race info: pay attention to the information sent out by the organizers. This will cover anything you should be particularly aware of. For example, the website indicates that new bag check procedures will be in place and to plan for extra time if using bag check. Perhaps leave your bag in a car, or at least get there early enough to not be rushed or worried.
  4. Keep an eye on the weather: At this time of year the weather can be variable. Previous years have had a cold start so be prepared. It may also warm up during the race (you will certainly feel warmer running than you did at the start line). Consider layers that are easy to remove, long sleeves that may be rolled up, etc. Odds are very good that you won’t need more than a t-shirt and shorts during the run so being a little cold at the start may be a small price to pay for comfort during the race.

What are your best tips for race day success?