Brooklyn Half Marathon Course Strategy

Last Saturday, NBR members and USATF level 1 certified coaches Angela Ortiz and Karina Christiansen led our members through a training run with tips on half marathon racing and pro tips for the Brooklyn Half course. Even if you missed the training session, you can read their great tips here!


Brooklyn Half Tips:

* Give yourself plenty of time to get to the start. You'll have to go through security, and bag check for each wave closes 50 minutes before the wave start(!). Corrals (usually) open at 6am, and corrals close 20 minutes before the wave start (as of last year).

* There are bathrooms in the corrals, so you don't have to worry about using them before you settle into the corral.

* There are water stations in between the mile markers until mile 8, at which point they appear at every mile marker.

* There is a PowerGel station at mile 8, but unless you are ok with surprises, don't try anything new unless you've been training with these.

* The stretch along Ocean Parkway is long and unshaded, so if it's sunny, some find it helpful to wear a visor or sunglasses.

* Afterwards, join us at the NBR Beach party! Details TBA.

Course Notes/Strategy:

* If you are new to running or half marathons, try to run based on effort. In the first 1-7 miles, you should be moving at an effort that feels mostly easy, saving your energy for those final miles. Ideally, you should be able to speak a full sentence and have a conversation while moving, without gasping for breath.

* If you know your pace, or are going for a PR, you should still work with a conservation mindset in the first half. Energy spent running under pace in the hills, is energy you won't have at mile 10, when you'll need it most. Once the hills are out of the way, then, depending on how you feel, it's time to shift into another gear.

* The only big hill in the course is at mile 4.5 and goes up for a little over 800m (about 70ft of elevation gain). Focus on leaning into the hill, driving your knees high, and pumping your arms. After this the course is mostly downhill!

* Use the big downhill just after mile 6 to mentally recover and reset for the last half of the race.

* Right around mile 7 there is a tiny uphill going up the on ramp to Ocean Parkway. It doesn't even register on the NYRR elevation map, but it can take the wind out of your sails if you're not expecting it!

* After mile 7, if you are moving based on effort, you can think about kicking it up a notch, if you feel it. Your effort should still feel controlled, but your breathing cadence will be quicker, and you should only be able to speak a few words at a time.

* If you know your pace, you should maintain your pace as closely as possible until mile 8, and then try to think about dipping underneath, using the energy stored from not going out too fast in the first half.

* Miles 9-12 are where you'll need to focus most. Keep your head and gaze up, shoulders down, arms pumping back and forth (not across your body), knees lifting, pushing all the way through your foot and off the toes, using your glutes to power you to the finish. Focus on someone ahead of you and reel them in. Look into the distance for the Belt Parkway overpass and the subway overpass. Once you see these you're close to the finish!

* In the last mile you'll want to kick it into your final gear. Your effort should still be controlled, but your breathing will be quick and you shouldn't be able to speak more than a word at a time. Think about finishing strong.

* The ramp leading up to the boardwalk at Coney Island is made of wood and therefore can be springy and uneven (it can also feel very long even though it's probably not more than 10-15 meters!). Be sure to lift your knees/feet.

* Once you make the right turn onto the boardwalk, give it your best effort until you cross the finish line. Look up and smile for your finish line photo! You did it!

Click here for Runners World's guide on how to pace you first half-marathon

Click here for a guide on planning your pacing mile by mile.

Team Spot Check-in: Martin Branch-Shaw

Caked at VCP.jpg

NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved? 

MBS: I moved to Brooklyn four years ago from Manhattan (where I had lived since the ‘80s). Having recently divorced, I sought community. I have been a runner most of my life (with the exception of a decade of decadent and questionably self-destructive, but wildly creative years in the East Village). It seemed a natural decision to seek out other runners. NBR’s visible and enthusiastic presence at local running events made it an easy choice. My next step, being a bit of an introvert, was to actually join. I spent a year waffling! Finally, I came to a Saturday Morning Bridge Run on a cold, grey, late December morning. I remember being a little intimidated – I was clearly older than the group assembled at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. Regardless, I felt welcomed and soon meet other runners who juggled active professional lives, training, travel and in some cases, children. This is where I felt the strongest connection, as I am unapologetic about the bond running has formed between my son and I (and I do go on!). 

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? 

MBS: I believe I am the last recipient of an NBR New York City Marathon Team Spot leaving me roughly 40 days to train and taper by way of preparation! My son, Harry, is transitioning from PSAL to NCAA (Div 3), his mileage had to double so we spent the summer training. Now that he is at college, I typically log over 50 miles a week for no other reason than love of running. I’m comparably slow-ish, but feel prepared nonetheless. My favorite NBR runs over the past three years have been Monday and Wednesday nights – socially, these runs attract fantastic people. My most important night (and I am remiss in not attending lately due to my work schedule), is Thursday night track – it hurts, but if you want to get fast, do it. Thursday nights these days I am running lonely hill repeats in Prospect Park! I ran a Sunday Funday Long Run this past weekend, which was amazing with pace groups ranging from 7s to 10:30s. Like most runners, I am my own worst enemy; running with a large group is great for keeping you out of your own head and calming the voice that is nagging you to stop. This particular run, so close to race day, proved to be cautionary: I became dizzy at mile 18 and realized that my diet the day prior and morning of, compounded by my lack of adequate hydration, spelled possible disaster on race day. I often neglect the obvious and, again, advice and support from the group is awesome. 

NBR: Tell the NBR world a good long run story. 

MBS: A Facebook headline for Outside magazine caught my eye this morning, it read, “every long run should be a micro-adventure” (or something like that). That said, I don’t think I have a single long run story. What I do have is a collection of anecdotes. This is a favorite: I am notorious for tripping over cracks in the sidewalk. This is due, in part, to my shuffling gait and less than perfect eyesight. On an early summer long run, I tripped over a particularly hazardous protruding tree root on Willoughby St. I don’t mean an elegant tumble, I mean backpack spilling, water bottle smashing, knee skinning slide. Locals from the building I fell in front of watched in disbelief. On the return leg of this particular “out and back,” I made a mental note to avoid this hazardous spot but became distracted at the last moment and tripped regardless (I swear, same spot!). This time the locals helped me to collect my belongings and get back on my feet. (I noticed recently that, though not repaired, the sidewalk has been painted with fluorescent paint by way of warning). The upside (apart from new friends to high five as I pass) is I habitually scan the sidewalk or trail looking for potential danger – as a result, I have found $86 and a quite nice Lamy fountain pen over the course of the summer! Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)? I was recently invited to join the Men’s Local Competitive Group. There are so many fast NBRiors and each and every one inspires me. Is it okay not to name names? There are dozens of competitive, encouraging, inspiring athletes. I am especially inspired by the Masters group for obvious reasons, both men and women. Since upping my training and being involved with NBR, I find I am running personal bests over times I had posted 12 or 13 years ago! 

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

MBS: Naturally, it means so much. I hadn’t even imagined myself running NY again and was very excited to volunteer at the water table for my third consecutive year. To receive the late team spot email put my office at a temporary standstill until a registration glitch had been resolved. The New York Public Library has many runners on staff! I think what means the most to me is to be recognized by so many folks whose degree of dedication to the group and the sport is unparalleled – the volunteer committee, team captains, race coordinators and tireless run leaders. I’m stoked (and nervous!).

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

MBS: Pre and post-race diet is a huge topic of discussion in our household. I am a long-time vegetarian so several days before race day I will begin eating carbs (tons of pasta). I find beet pesto (Meb’s recipe from Runners World) and penne tossed with sautéed beet greens and a side of avocado with miso and ginger dressing works for me. It gets boring after a few nights but better than problems mid-race. In the name of full disclosure, I’ll probably drink an IPA of some sort, too! Morning of: bagel with peanut butter, banana and honey. Classic! I dislike gels but will carry 3 salted caramel Gu (pinned to the waistband of my running shorts). GuBrew for hydration and electrolytes pre, during and post. Post-race: I find it hard to eat after a long run/race. Chocolate almond milk with yoghurt and banana is good for recovery. I also like vanilla almond milk, kale and date smoothies. (And more beer!) 

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why? 

MBS: I love this question! My spirit animal is definitely a dog. A mixed, bully breed. Pit and
boxer mix is very close to my heart. Maybe not the fastest animal but tenacious, gentle
and loyal – and very competitive when challenged.


2016 Brooklyn Half Race Report

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