by John McGovern
On May 21st 2016, about 300 of us ran the Brooklyn Half together with about 26,700 other people. This was the first time I have run the course all together, but being a Sheephead Bay native, Ocean Parkway was an integral part of my childhood as was Coney Island and most importantly - Nathan's.
A little background on me: I only started running in April 2015 - mainly to add to my weightlifting routine. I had never really ran consistently in my life, if you forget about 1 month of running I did during a winter in Seattle.
Serene and I had decided we should try and run a half marathon at some point, and after the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half we decided to do another one. After that race we joined NBR, and in a few months started slowly working into both TNT, Thursday Night Track, and Narwhals.
My last half marathon before this was the frozen United NYC Half where I was way overdressed for the race, but somehow still underdressed for the cold before and after the race. After a blowup between mile 7 and 9, I missed my goal of 1:40 by about 2 minutes and felt like a bus had hit me, backed up over me, and hit me again. I had some work to do here...
I took a week off, hit both Tuesday Night Tempo and Thursday Night Track harder than ever, switched up my lifting routine to work on strength and mobility, and began focusing on eating correctly for that level of activity as well as trying have as much fun as possible. Got a little drunk a couple weeks back and decided to run the McCarren 5k as a test, and crushed my previous PR by about 3 minutes with a 19:21 finish. Things were looking up to say the least.
As race week approached and the billions of emails went out about pace groups, I synced up with Gregg B. and we came up with the game plan to not just PR, but to crush the race if everything falls into place. The plan? A 43 min 10k, a 41 min 10k, and then drop the hammer for that last 1.1 km. As per usual, Gregg and I went out of the gate a little fast but it actually felt really good and for once sustainable. We were keeping each other on pace, and really focused on the 10k time we had set out for. That first 10k split ended up being a little fast at 42:14, but still it felt good as we were headed out of the park and saw the NBR cheer squad for the second time.
Around mile 7 I started getting a pretty bad side stitch, and Gregg was having some stomach issues. I grabbed a PowerGel and shot that at mile 8 and my problems went away, but this is where Gregg sent me on my way and we split up. Now as I said before, I'm from Sheepshead, so Ocean Parkway wasn't a boring nightmare or anything overly dramatic like I've heard before. Instead it was literally and figuratively my way home. At Ave H one of my great friends was waiting for me, and I learned you should not try and high five a stationary object at a 6:50min/mile. I almost slapped him in the face, so that was funny and sad at the same time. Just past mile 10, standing on my home block of Ave U was my Mom who I gave the most sweaty gross kiss on the cheek and got my last boost of energy. That second 10k split ended up being 41:59. Thanks fam!
That last 1.1 km where my plan had me just dropping the hammer and going hard just didn't seem to work at all until I saw the 800m sign and I thought back to every one of those track workouts where I had to kick it into gear for the 8th or 9th repeat and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and pretend it was all over. I dug in as deep as I could, and that last burst was close to a 6 min/mile which carried me up the ramp where I saw to my horror about four Dashing Whippets about to cross the finish line before me and I said to myself "Not today!". I honestly don't know how fast I was running or even remember much of the boardwalk at this point, but I passed all 4 of them and finished just barely above my goal time. New PR 01:30:31
I saw to my horror about four Dashing Whippets about to cross the finish line before me and I said to myself "Not today!".
So the accomplishments for this race were huge for me. First, I crushed my previous PR by almost 11 min, and ran my best 10k ever by 2 min at the end of a half. Secondly, I finally ran a smart race. The plan worked, maybe not exactly since I didn't come in under 1:30, but I'm not going to complain about 32 seconds at this point. I was also dressed correctly I think for the first race ever, albeit everyone had to take in the majesty of me in my 2" tempo shorts. Lastly, and most importantly I was happy and pumped at the end of the race for the first time ever. I was literally rocking out and singing along to Bon Jovi's Livin on a Prayer when Gregg and I reunited in the recovery area.
So in closing, thank you NBR for everything over the past 8 weeks. I've dropped over 10 min from my half time, over 10lbs, and I figured out how to not just like racing but feel awesome after for a change. Next stop: Sub 1:25 at the Staten Island Half, and then the NYC Marathon.
- John McGovern