Race Report: 2017 Brooklyn Mile

by Meg Boushie

"On your marks. Get set..." Then the sound of a gun.

These are cues far too familiar for most runners. However, no matter how many times one competes in any race distance, it seems they are also some of the most anxiety provoking words one anticipates on race day.

I cannot recall the actual call outs prior to the 2017 Brooklyn Mile. Nor can I recall if we actually had a gun, or a horn, or even a kazoo. All I recall is my heart pounding in my throat, my breathing suddenly residing in my brain, and my legs feeling like Jello. Everything in my body seemed out of place as the rat race started for the iconic distance even non-runners can conceptualize.

Let's back it up for a second. My relationship with running has had roller coaster ups and downs over the past decade. In high school, I ran track to keep in shape for soccer. Track workouts gave me stomach aches just thinking about them. Confidence in my abilities was non-existent. How could my coach see so much potential and believe in me when I could not even believe in myself? Every single race, I knew where I would fall: second to last place. The Mile, in my mind, was something that would never be conquered for speed or time goals. It was something I just "had to finish". I had no idea this mentality was what set me back at the time, and that this caused me to be my own worst enemy.

Flash forward. The first time I stepped onto McCarren Park for Thursday Night Track in June 2017, the heart palpitations started, just as they did eleven years before. Even though I had been running (and actually enjoying it) for about six years (after a three-year hiatus post high school, of course), standing at that starting line was like staring my biggest fear in the face.

This time though, something was different. Having fellow NBR-iors by my side, I no longer felt alone in my running relationship. I had support, advice, cheers, and smiles that pushed me, but also taught me what I was lacking in the past: to trust myself and my abilities.

Soon, speed workouts became a part of my weekly routine. I found myself looking forward to these workouts, and to giving everything I had for each and every sprint. Because this time around, it was not the track that was crushing me, but me that was crushing the track.

At bib pick up before the race, a race sponsor encouraged all participants to take a Polaroid, write their name on it, along with their goal time. Then, after the race, racers would cross out the goal time and write the actual. Internally competitive (and probably more externally than I care to admit), I knew that writing that goal time was something serious. It meant I had to commit to it.

A fellow NBR-ior and friend had convinced me to sign up for this race in February. He also was picking his bib up, and writing his goal time. He was not only a seasoned runner, but a seasoned Mile runner; literally the complete opposite of me. Still, supportive human he is, he asked what goal I would be setting for myself.

Not batting an eyelash, I told him exactly where I thought I should be on race day. "6:04," I told him. "But in my heart, all hopes and dreams point to maybe, just MAYBE getting closer to 6 minutes flat."

He looked at me like I had two heads. "No", he told me. Clearly a hard "No", too. "5:59", he said.

The alarms and firecrackers and bells and whistles started going off in my brain again. It was my turn to return the raised eyebrows. In my mind, I was still 16-year-old Meg who would never be able to fathom getting that kind of time.

Then, something just clicked.Twenty seven-year old Meg had that light bulb DING DING DING moment. I had worked for this, I had the capability, and HECK YES I was going to break 6. I grabbed the black Sharpie on the table without a second thought and wrote the famous last words (number): 5:59.

"On your marks". There I was, steadying my breathing, quickly visualizing in my head what it would feel like in just a few minutes when I would cross the finish line and break this goal. Here, on race day, things were no longer out of reach. Here was the opportunity 16 year old Meg had always dreamed of, and reality set in, where 27 year old Meg was going to take it. Full speed, no regrets, and hey, if I crashed in the process, it was only a few minutes of crashing and burning. What was the worst that could happen?

The gun (or whatever noise machine it was) went off, and the rat race began. Before I knew it, I was already at the quarter mile mark: 1:23. Wait, I'm sorry; what? Then, the half mile mark: 2:44. Come again?

Now, from this point on, I am pretty sure I blacked out, but I do remember one thing: the screaming cheers from the NBR cheer section (because they are awesome and amazing), and keeping two specific runners within a few strides of me. Then, suddenly, it was over and I stopped my watch. It was over. As quickly as the rat race began, there we were at the moment of truth. I glanced at my watch. 5:50. Fighting back tears of joy (and pain), I had done something I truly never thought possible, and I could not have done without the overwhelming support that NBR is.

When the final times were released, I knew my time would be slightly off, so I was ready for anything within about three seconds of the time I had clocked. I also would have been happy with any time I received at that point. I waited for my smartphone screen to load the results, and almost fell off my chair when I scrolled all the way to the right for chip time: 5:48.


Even though Meg at 16 is a very different human than Meg at 27, one thing has stayed the same: running will always be something that challenges me. NBR entered my life at a very specific time for a very specific reason, and I will be eternally grateful for that and all it has given me. With that, I may now be a Mile-loving convert, and may even fall in love with running all over again.


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.

Brooklyn Half Marathon Report

by Lisa Coyle

Running the Brooklyn Half as an NBR was truly an amazing experience. I did not PR, but I definitely ran faster than expected and very much enjoyed my 1st Brooklyn Half and trip of hopefully many more to Coney Island!

My running time is not as as important (especially compared to all of your accomplishments) as
being a part of what may be the coolest group of runners I have ever met (and I have been
running since before quite a few of you were born.) It is refreshing to find a group that is not only
very dedicated, supportive and fun to hang out with, but also appreciates that every distance is
important. We all have different strengths and there seems to be a disproportionate emphasis
on marathons in recent years in most running groups.

Anyway, it was truly an honor to run as a North Brooklyn Runner. I have not really run with a team in almost 20 years, but I never remember it being this fun even when I lived in Ireland and trained on a steady diet of Guinness! I would like to thank everyone for being so welcoming from including me in a pace group to sharing donuts, jalapeno margaritas, pabst blue ribbon tshirts,
and race blankets at the awesome beach party....Keep up the great work and I really hope I can officially move back soon so I can race, train, time speed workouts and cheer for NBR a lot more on a regular basis!

A Race of Firsts

by Rachel Rose

The 2016 Brooklyn Half marked many “firsts” for me:

  • My first post-injury race (and therefore my first race since January)
  • My first actual half-marathon (the only other comparable race I’d ever done was a 20k in Paris last year; I was supposed to have run the NYC Half in March, but alas, my injury kept me sidelined)
  • My first time donning that sexy NBR singlet
  • My first time running a race as a proud member of NBR
  • My first time experiencing the splendor that is the receiving-end of NBR’s devoted Cheer Squad!

I won’t bore you with a mile-by-mile recap of my lightning-fast run that resulted in a
2:20 finish (insert laughter here ☺), but I will say a few things about the experience
overall—including what it meant to me as a new NBR member, and as a runner who’s still actively recovering from injury. (My leg is throbbing as I type this, in fact. Another round of physical therapy on Wednesday morning! Wee!)

The Backstory

I’m not a natural-born runner. Growing up I’d always disliked running for running’s sake, but in my late 20's / early 30's, some personal matters compelled me to start dreaming of running a marathon someday. A pipe dream, for sure—yet something I nevertheless decided to add to my Bucket List.

It wasn’t until 2014 that I promised myself I’d start hitting the pavement. One mile was hard back then— hard! Two miles? I thought it impossible. (And it almost was.) But eventually, I could run 3 miles. And then four. And then six. By 2014, I’d run a handful of 5K races and my first 10K.

In October 2015, I ran that 20k in Paris I mentioned. (Well, maybe “ran” isn’t the right word; I finished it, but barely, as I had food poisoning, including fever and all the other noxious side effects that come along with gastrointestinal upset. And, uh, let’s just say it didn’t help that there was only one—ONE!—portapotty along that entire course!) In November and December 2015, I ran a few other NYRR races and had an absolute blast. So much so that in December, I decided I’d start working my way toward achieving my marathonian pipe dream: I’d do the 9+1 program with NYRR and run the 2017 NYC Marathon. That’s when I joined NBR. (It’s also when I got injured. Go figure.)

The Here & Now

Fast forward to May 2016. As a member of the team for all of five months now (who ironically hasn’t really been able to run with the group very much) to have finally mustered up the courage to get out and run the Brooklyn Half this weekend was a big deal for me! Still recovering from my injury, I wasn’t sure my leg would hold up for 13.1 miles. And badly out of shape (for obvious reasons), I wasn’t sure my me would hold up! The race was therefore not an easy physical or mental feat. I had to walk a few 30 seconds here and there, and - having over-hydrated while waiting in my corral - I absolutely had to use the restroom around mile 8.
But darn it, I finished the race. While my time may be far from noteworthy for many of you, for me, just the fact that I finished at all is noteworthy. And I’ll tell you what: I couldn’t have done it without the ongoing support of some of NBR’s finest members, both new and old (many of
whom I now feel privileged to call personal friends). I couldn’t have done it without
the energizing hoots, hollers, claps, and cowbells of our devoted Cheer Squad at Mile
3 (especially Ali Fenwick who, with her hands cupped around her mouth, screamed
“GOOOOOOO RACHEL!!!!!” as I passed! What a great feeling!). I couldn’t have done it
without Mike Hill at Mile 13 who, with his warm wisdom and steady conviction, gave me me just the extra bit of confidence I needed to finish those last 800 meters.

I will never be a fast runner. My “fast” for many of you, is slower than molasses oozing down a wall. Once my injury fully heals and I’m back in shape, 2:20 may still be all I’m capable of running in a half-marathon. Who knows? But, here’s the thing: I’m cool with that. And as I learned firsthand at the Brooklyn Half this weekend, NBR, with its big open arms and acceptance of runners of all levels, is cool with that, too.

Another fabulous “first.”

With much gratitude,

Going Outward, Going Inward: The BK Half from a Pregnant Runner’s Perspective

by Lilly Ardell Stevens

I registered for the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon amidst the same flurry and excitement that the rest of our club­ and the country­ did. This race holds a special place in my heart for the obvious reasons. It’s one of the 5 ­borough series flagship races, it’s in my hometown borough and the beach party at Coney Island - but the most salient reason is this was my first ever half-marathon 3 years ago. Although I’ve been a runner all my life, I only began joining races in 2014, a year before I even joined up with the black and white clad singlets at McCarren Park. Much to my delight, I learned I was six weeks pregnant the morning of February 27th, which some of you may know as the date of the NBR Gala 2016. My excitement gave way to a brief bit of nerves­ what would I do about all those damn NYRR 9+1 races I had registered for in my quest to earn a 2017 Marathon spot?? Holy crap, how will I manage not one but TWO half-marathons during this pregnancy? The internet didn’t provide MUCH solace, and my gynecologist remarked, “why risk it?”. Hmph. I resolved to trust in my body, faithfully wear my heart rate monitor, and continue training at a reduced pace while my body began to change, expand, and prepare for my growing baby boy. (Yes it’s a boy!)

Lunging towards May 21st, I ticked off all my NYRR races from March to May: Wash Heights 5K, Scotland Run 10K, and More Women's Half Marathon: each one reducing my pace just slightly and (miraculously) finishing each one with a kick in my step. I began to adjust my race ­goals from obsessing over my pace to monitoring my body’s dynamics. I had a NEW goal in mind­:  finish this race, and ONLY this race, feeling strong and hydrated. I used this mantra while enduring the next several Narwhals and SFRs in the weekends leading up to the big event, to ensure baby and I had the endurance to manage another 13.1. On race day morning, I donned my stretchiest NBR singlet (thanks Only Atoms!), affixed a bright-green Baby On Board! sign to my bib, and grabbed all my Gu's, gear, and guts. I ate my typical pre­race ritual of bananas and peanut butter toast with a cup of DECAF coffee, and hopped in an Uber with Ms. Silbiger and Ms. Harvey down to Eastern parkway. The weather gods really showed up for me on race day: slightly overcast skies with a mild low 60s temp. In the corral waiting for the starting gun, I chatted with my fellow corral E and F sistren and brethren, reacquainting myself with Beth Weinstein who insisted on doing a slow run today due to a nagging injury. Would I run into any of them on the course or would I be solo the whole time? Either way, I knew my mantra: keep hydrated, keep your shoulders down and head up, and enjoy the ride. Only YOU are showing up for this experience today. Only YOU are pushing yourself to finish what you started.

"Only YOU are showing up for this experience today. Only YOU are pushing yourself to finish what you started."

Wait. It isn’t only me. It’s me and baby boy today. He has no agency in this decision -­ I have made my choice and­ whether he likes it or not­ he’s coming along for the ride. 7:20 am, and away we goooo......

The first stretch of the race, was really a breeze thanks to the training runs I’d done with NBR, I knew how to pace myself up and down Flatbush­, plus there was the added bonus of searching for my faster buddies all up and back along miles 1­2. Knowing the cheer squad was right at the entrance to Prospect Park helped me stay focused, trying not to acquiesce to the pounding on my bladder. To no avail, I stopped at mile 3, gave myself the relief I needed, and was back on the trail in no time.

Hitting the park, I knew my biggest nemesis was upon me: the big hill between miles 4 and 5. I was mentally preparing for it as Beth Weinstein strode up to my right, checking in to see how I was feeling. After briefly chatting, I insisted she go on ahead, that I may decide to do run­walk intervals earlier in my race than expected. Beth figured she would walk the entire upcoming hill anyway, and that I may catch her up ahead. She was right, although to my delight there was another NBRior by her side: Christine Huber! We introduced ourselves (how did we not know one another?) and merrily tackled that damn hill with the collective power of not focusing on our pain! Our newly formed gaggle proceeded forth to tackle the rest of the park, and before we knew it, Ocean parkway was upon us.

Our gaggle prodded forward chatting away, stopping for hydration at each mile and helping keep our focus on anything but our increasing physical exertion. As it turns out, each of us had our own conditions to manage: injury for Beth, a shift in focus from running to cycling (and thus not a lot of training) for Christine, and pregnancy for me. No matter our reason for needing to run at a reduced pace, we relied on the impromptu camaraderie that you find by sharing a team singlet­, making most of the race fly by without even feeling like a half-marathon. Several times I remember thinking “This feels like a SFR with fluid stations”, that by the time I hit the 10 ­mile marker, I was ready to treat this as the race I knew I was in: partly because I wanted to finish already(!), and partly because I had some gas left in me. I took a minute to walk, clear my head, and go inward. This race was for the two of us, and baby boy had (unwillingly?) comported himself for 10 long miles. I owed it to give him the mindfulness and attention that he deserved. So for the final 5K, it was all about going inward. Lilly and baby - the two of us marshalling all the courage and endurance we could muster to finish strong and confident. It turns out I dropped my pace by 40 seconds per mile in the final flourish to the boardwalk.

While this race was for me, this finish­ and the metal­ were for him. We crossed the finish line together as a tear welled up in my eye. Our time of 2:12:22­ just 8 minutes more than our April HM in central park, was precisely the time I was aiming for. I can’t wait to meet him next fall and relive this story together; to let him know how special it was to be a racing mom-­to-­be in our hometown borough.