IS THIS THING ON?
The thing about running is that without a plan, you’re just running to run…there’s no structure to anything. When I’m running without an assignment I’m like a rogue operative operating aimlessly… but if you assign me to a mission, I get very focused and competitive.
A team I occasionally run with had an available slot, so I took it. And from then on, I was activated.
I forgot how much the bib pick-up for this race is such a pain in the ass. I get why NYRR does it – the location is scenic and spacious and it’s the Brooklyn half, but there are only like 3 entry points to get to it. Fun Fact: Manhattanites represented 7,707 runners, while Brooklyn accounted for 5,742.
Emily and I had a West Village night out on Friday so I could carbo-load and to se my friends Walter and Amanda perform.
They are both wildly talented musicians: Walter is a concert pianist and composer and Amanda is an opera singer. Together, their new venture is called Duo Chux and they performed an amazing show. I even got to see my piano teacher Sugar, who helped write a piece for the show.
For dinner we ate at Rafele on 7th Avenue South and it was awesome! Emily and I shared the market salad, I had a pacceri all’amatriciana with pork cheek. I also stole a piece of Emily’s pizza. And home and in bed by 10!
To me, race day is similar to Christmas. I wake up super excited and ready to compete. Therefore, I was up without my alarm at like 4:40am! I (quietly) bounced out of bed and started getting ready and I think I was out the door by 5:05am. I actually didn’t see any drunk people coming back from the bars, but trust me, they were out there.
TAKE THE A TRAIN (OR THE 2/3)
It’s funny, you think to yourself as you walk the quiet dark early morning streets of Manhattan that if you make it to the subway unscathed, the platform will be a ghost town. Not on Race Day! The platform was packed with a slew of idiot runners, geared up and ready to run.
I jumped on a 2 Train that ended at 42nd Street – stopping all forward progression and we had to wait 12 minutes for the next 3 Train. As I was hanging out in Times Square I noticed some familiar faces… it was my friends Doug and Danika and yes, they were there for the race, too. We rode the train together the whole way to Franklin Avenue and it was so crowded, it could have been mistaken for rush hour.
BOARDING HAS BEGUN
When we surfaced, I only I had 5 minutes to get my things to Bag Check, so I hustled.
Walking in the opposite direction of Bag Check towards the entry point, I decided to eat breakfast. Have any of you had MUSH cold oats? Holy cow… so good. And this is top secret, but they make for amazing pre-race fuel. Try one.
Next, we waited in the stupidest 30 minute security checkpoint I’ve ever seen. International check-in for a flight to Europe on a Friday night at Newark is better. I would later learn that this jam up would cost many unfortunate runners a late start.
Once through I had 10 minutes until kick-off. Off to Corral A!
BLAST OFF PARTY
I was looking forward to finding all my friends in Corral A, but when I got there it was packed. The odds of me finding them looked slim. There were 25,000 runners this year, so you could understand why it was so dense.
As I wandered through the corral weaving my way towards the front, I noticed Brad over on the left, so I bee-lined it over to him. Then, out of nowhere, Delgado and Rowland popped up! The gang was all there, ready to rock! It was just then that they started marching our corral to the start line, so there was a big exodus. Along the way, I ran into my friend David and a few others, which is why I love the local NYC running community so much!
AND SO IT BEGINS
The gun went off and it took us around 10 seconds to hit the start mat before we emerged into a frenzied mass of runners. We flanked the left side of the course and started to get into a groove. As I surged ahead, all my friends were like “Have a great race Baker!” and I knew then that we were running different races. My goal was to drop a 1:27:xx so that I could time-qualify for the NYC Marathon next year, so I was on a specific mission.
COOL IT DOWN
Mile 1 went off at a 6:29, which was too fast for what I had been training for, so I made the decision to cool it down to a 6:45. I felt really fluid and energized, but knew it was going to be hot. Mile 2 showed up as a 6:26! My plan to slow down wasn’t working.
As we edged along Prospect Park getting ready to enter for what I think is the hardest part of the race, I clocked a 6:19 for Mile 3. Things were either going great or I was going to get stomped on the back half.
OVER THE HILLS
There’s always a great crowd cheering at Machate Circle (the southwest corner of Prospect Park) as you enter and this year was no different! It gave me a slight boost, which I then toned down knowing that the next 3 miles would be undulating hills.
By now it was very humid and I was holding my running hat in my hand as it made no sense to wear it. My friend David and I were running alongside each other, which was a lot of fun. He yelled at me midway through the park “Baker – stay focused! You’re really fit right now, you’ve got this!” It was a big boost to my spirits.
I kept my cool as we rounded the drive and held a 6:40 pace. I was waiting patiently…
I like to envision the run around Prospect Park like slowly orbiting a planet, picking up momentum in order to break free. As I was leaving the park and breaking free of its atmosphere, I clocked Mile 7 at a 6:18. It was time to set it off.
Barreling down Ocean Parkway, I felt really good and knew I had the energy to continue to push the pace. I clicked on some music and started jamming.
I was steadily pushing past runners, cheering them on as I passed trying to help. Miles 8-11 were all averaging around 6:25. I saw Doug (thanks for the photos!) as well as Adam cheering. It was great to see some familiar faces out on the course.
The temperature continued to be hot and steamy and at times the sun looked like it was coming out, but then it started misting.
Around Mile 11, I passed my friend Emily and then Danny, both looked strong.
My Mile 12 was a 6:22 as I started to prepare for the finish.
FASTEN SEATBELTS AND PUT AWAY TRAY TABLES
As we cruised into Coney, my pace was quickening but my legs at this point weren’t thrilled. I was red-lining.
We took the left toward the Boardwalk followed quickly by the right and the finish was in my sights. Mile 13 popped in at a 6:17.
I finished in 1:24:45 which was 2 minutes faster than my original goal of 1:27, which qualifies me for the NYC Marathon in 2024! Mission complete.
As I hung out in the finish chute, I saw many local running friends that I congratulated. We all slowly made our way toward baggage as it started to rain and our body temperatures started to drop. After I collected my bag and threw on my windbreaker – game changer – I made my way into the stadium where the NYRR after party was. In years past we would go to Peggy O’Neil’s (now Coney Island Brewery), but it hadn’t opened yet and the weather was getting worse. I made the call to just head home and regroup with friends back in Manhattan to celebrate.
I met up with my friends Josue and Maura (+ a few others and of course made new friends) at The Spot, a lively bar in Hell’s Kitchen that happened to be hosting a Drag Brunch. After hanging there for a few hours I returned home where Emily was preparing a celebration dinner of lamb… it was the perfect end to a great day.