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.

Race Report: Mogadishu Half-Marathon

by Sophie Tholstrup

While you guys were registering blistering times and smashing PRs in Central Park this weekend, NBR's lesser known Just East chapter was moving at a significantly slower pace in temperatures hot enough to melt metal at the Mogadishu Marathon. 

The first marathon to be held in the country since the outbreak of civil war in 1991, this was the creation of a couple of young British military guys stationed here, who run for London's Midnight Runners back home. They wanted to celebrate Somali running talent and try to break the narrative of drought, IED attacks and conflict with a more hopeful story. The marathon is also helping to raise much-needed funds for the drought response - more on that below!

The race is named after Samia Yusuf Omar – a Somali Olympic runner who  competed in Beijing and dreamed of doing the same in London in 2012. Tragically that was a dream she never got to fulfill. She drowned in 2011 making the hazardous crossing to Europe as a refugee.

More than 200 runners from over 30 countries competed over a 5 mile, 15 mile and 26 mile course inside the protected international area surrounding Mogadishu airport. Diplomats, peacekeepers and even Olympians braved the extreme conditions, scrambling over sand dunes, navigating barbed wire fences and fortified compounds, one particularly important military colleague even running with his own armed close protection team. 

32 Somali runners - including members of the Olympic team - competed, and proved that even when the rest of us are complaining that our faces are melting, SERIOUS speed is possible. Particular props to the Somali women, who smoked the competition in the 5 mile race wearing long yellow polyester trousers and modified headscarves.


I probably shouldn't mention this, since there were only about 6 women running and I covered several miles at more of a death-shuffle than a recognizable running pace, but since this is likely the only time in my life I will ever get to say this.... first female half marathon finisher in the house!

This race was the textbook definition of type two fun. It was unbelievably hot. The friendly water table volunteers had, I later discovered, been briefed to ask borderline-looking runners questions to check whether they were delirious. Military medical crews kept a beady eye out from the back of ambulances for runners whose brains had started cooking. Several runners were told to stop, but I think each and every one of them disobeyed orders and trudged to the finish. At one point I spotted a man with a hose spraying filthy graywater onto the ground and dived underneath it for a moment's relief. But it was WONDERFUL! I ran with Ugandan peacekeepers, Italian diplomats and Ecuadorian aid workers, high-fived Olympic hopefuls and race walkers in full makeup. An Indian soldier critiqued my running form, and I fangirled deliriously at young Somali women in head-to-toe yellow polyester  running faster over 5 miles than I could manage over 100m.

I got asked to deploy to Somalia to go and help out with the drought response while - and I say this with shame - skiing in the Alps. I jumped on a plane with a suitcase full of ski gear, had a four-day crash course in avoiding/ surviving kidnap, how to stop blood loss if someone's leg gets blown off and what to do if you find yourself being horrible to your colleagues (drink more water), and then turned up for work in the UN's Drought Operations Centre. The operations centre is full of aid workers on laptops, scrabbling for data on who needs what where, what's being delivered and where the gaps are, trying to ensure aid get to those who need it most as quickly as possible. I sit next to the water guy, behind the protection lady and am constantly bothering the food people. It's a strange deployment, in that we sit in an air conditioned shipping container in a walled compound protected by peacekeepers, and we feel a long way from the people we're here to help. Running a race with elite Somalia athletes doesn't change that, of course, but coming together around a love of running was a really powerful experience in lots of ways.

Somalia - already reeling from years of conflict - is in the grips of a devastating drought, with a real risk that the country will slip into famine in 2017. More than half the population - 6.2 million people - are in need of assistance, as failing rains have driven food shortages across the country. The drought has caused massive livestock death, and forced a quarter of a million people to leave their homes and walk for days into urban centres in search of food and water. Nearly one million children are at risk of deadly malnutrition, and cholera has swept across the country, infecting 12,000 people since the start of the year. In 2011, famine killed 260,000 people across the country, and aid organisations and the newly-installed government are working frantically to avoid a repeat of history.

I know there are a million calls on your goodwill and hard-earned cash, but this is a real case where every dollar makes a difference. It costs around $90 to feed a family of seven for a month, and around $100 to provide lifesaving treatment to a seriously malnourished infant. All money raised will go directly to the organisations making the most impact here on the ground. If you're looking for a direct and efficient way to help avert famine, please do give what you can: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sophie-tholstrup

Here's hoping that there are many more marathons in Mogadishu's future and that, as the situation here improves, these will move out of protected compounds and onto the streets, with anyone and everyone free to participate.

I'll be back in the Greatest Borough soon, and can't wait to see you all. 

NBR love,


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,

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

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.

A Race for Women's Wellness

by Erica Silbiger

As mentioned in several prior blog posts, I was training to run the Vermont 50 miler last September. My training was going relatively well but early in the summer I started to feel a weird pain down my left leg. Thinking it was just because I run so much and that I had started training for the ultra so soon after running the Paris Marathon, I thought I was fine. By mid-August the pain was so unbearable that I went to an orthopedic surgeon and he confirmed what I already knew: Vermont wasn’t happening.

We switched up my exercises at Finish Line Physical Therapy and I did strength training almost everyday. I was definitely getting better but then I started to plateau and could barely get past 2 miles without the pain coming back and then having a hard time walking the rest of the day. I was scheduled for a hip procedure and had all of these big dreams of how I was going to come back in a few short weeks with a bang. Everyone around me seemed really hopeful, which was helpful but part of me really didn’t think this was going to get better.   Anyone who would ask I would tell them “I have complete faith that I’ll be back to normal in just a few short weeks.” Unfortunately I think I was just saying that because I was hoping that if I said it out loud so many times I would eventually believe it.

The day before New Year’s Eve I had the hip procedure done and I was so excited because I knew that after only 10 more days of rest and recovery I was going to be back to normal. No more major FOMO watching my friends post about their long runs, missing out on opportunities to rep NBR at races, or not fully being able to do the workouts with November Project. Right before the procedure started the radiologist told me that it was a waste of time as this wasn’t going to help. In addition to that there were a few complications and it set me back at least another 4 weeks.

I used to think that taking two rest days in a row was too much rest. I went crazy by the second day. But now I was approaching four months and I couldn’t even wrap my head around another 4 weeks.

It was really hard being sidelined for so long. I hated that I couldn’t run with my team and was already starting to feel left out of so much just because I couldn’t go to the runs with NBR. I’ve always loved going to FLPT every week but I loved going now more than ever because I could walk in there with no judgements and be treated like family. To still be treated like an athlete on days when I truly doubted if I still was. Even on the days where I had the least amount of hope, just a simple hug or a coffee made by the bossman himself was enough to turn my mood around.

I started going to November Project more often because they never made me feel pressured to do any of the running or any exercises that my doctor said I shouldn’t do. I was progressing so fast that my doctor practically begged me to keep going to November Project. But mostly because of how it kept me sane during those soon to be five months of not running. Because of NP, I am able to train with NBR again. Because of NP, I never felt alone during my work trips that sometimes last for weeks since they now have tribes in 30 cities around the country (#talk30tome). Because of NP, I was able to keep relatively sane while not being able to do the one thing I consider defines me the most for five months.

Because of November Project, the support of my family, friends, and NBR teammates, and most importantly, because of Finish Line Physical Therapy and the Hospital for Special Surgery I am able to write this race report.

This morning I ran a half marathon in my hometown of Coral Springs called the Race for Women’s Wellness that benefits breast cancer research. I believe everything happens for a reason but it was a very interesting coincidence that this specific race happened to be the first test of whether I can truly get back to running again.

I was dead set on running it this year after running it last year and having an absolute blast. I put it on my calendar and booked my flight once my travel schedule for work was set, but didn’t register for the race because at that point I was now injured and it seemed highly unlikely I would be able to run a half marathon. It’s been six years since I’ve said something like that and it broke my heart. I struggled for awhile on whether I was trying to come back too soon just for the nostalgia I’d have running past my old house and high school.

I kept going to the website to register and then logging out. That happened a few times and I knew there was another reason I felt so determined to run this year whether I was ready or not. Unfortunately that reason presented itself a few weeks ago.

My first marathon was dedicated to my grandfather who we had just lost under two years prior from kidney cancer and to my dad who had non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma as I was specifically running with Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I feel my grandfather with me at every single race I run and I especially know he’s with me when I’m heading out of the Bronx towards mile 21 of the NYC Marathon every year.

While on a ski trip with some friends a few weeks ago I found out my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remembered this half marathon was a fundraiser for breast cancer research and immediately got on my phone and registered for the race without hesitation. This race was no longer about me, it was about her. I got back to NYC and heard the surgery was scheduled for three days before the race. I threw out all my anxieties about whether on not I could do this. It no longer had anything to do with whether I could do it. I had to do it. And it might not be pretty and it might not be a PR, but I was going to show up to the start line at 6am and find a way to make it to the finish line.

I started out too fast, as per usual, until I reminded myself that there is no reason to push it too hard and that it didn’t even take until mile 3 to realize that it was nasty hot out with 95% humidity. Running 7-somethings would not be sustainable if my goal was to finish and without re-injuring myself. The annoying part was that my leg was feeling pretty good minus some twinges here and there but that I was so nauseous the whole time and my legs felt like lead. Part of it was the heat and humidity, part of it was reacquainting myself with long distance, but a lot of it was from the muscle relaxers I had taken the day before for a different procedure I had to have done at the hospital. Not smart.

Even though I felt like crap, my left leg felt good so I slowed it down a tad more and decided to channel an NBR teammate of mine who likes to tell you what USED to be on that street instead of the street name while giving the run route directions. He grew up in Greenpoint so it’s always fun hearing him describe the run route and learning about the old moovie theatah that yousta be a laundromat before it turnt into ah macdahnald’s…on llama street. We love you, Slaski!! (The best direction giver ever).

So I ran past the house I grew up in, I passed the shopping center that used to be a dollar theater where I had my first date with David Levinson, which was across the street from some spa that used to be a Kinkos that was next to a Verizon store that used to be a Little Caesar’s pizza where my parents and I would walk to for $5 pizzas that we would eat while they made us watch X-files and Star Trek. Then turning right onto the street that has a Mexican restaurant that used to be RJ Gators where I had pie thrown in my face on my 10th birthday and sang Celine Dion karaoke with my dad. I passed the running park where I first started running, which was behind the physical therapy office I went to after my first injury in high school where my doctor told me I would never run again. It’s no coincidence my PT’s name was Angel and I’ll never forget him.

A few miles down that street until we passed the dermatology office that used to be a Miami Subs which was where my friends and I went after every football game in high school. Across the street from the surgical center where I had my four impacted wisdom teeth removed. Passed the shopping center that used to have a Blockbuster where we would rent all our movies on family night (or later date night…the original Netflix and chill!). Passed Bru’s Room where my friend Amy used to work which was the block before the Arby’s where my friend Mike worked. Then we turned onto the street where I used to do my six mile loop on Thursdays for track practice on recovery days. Farther down until we ran right into the parking lot of my alma mater, JP Taravella! Where the P stands for Pride!!

Oh and by the way JPTers… They repainted the new (now very old) building to blue and silver which is what it should have been in the first place instead of looking like MSD…weird. Oh and to all my track sisters, STILL NO RUBBER TRACK. STILL. COME ON.

I mentally pointed out all the houses my friends used to live in and thought about all of the fun times we had there. Also at some point got to see and wave to the parents of one of my best friends. Totally wasn’t expecting to see them! So it was a nice surprise to see some friendly faces considering I was really struggling at that point.

After JPT we headed back to the sports complex where I used to swim with my mom after school that is now the finish line. I have a love-hate relationship with miles 11 and 12 of a half marathon. You’re almost done…but still feels like it will never end. But meanwhile, that’s also when you realize that endurance running isn’t always an individualized sport. That’s when it becomes a team sport. Everyone is pushing each other to the finish. Since I was repping my NBR singlet I got a nice little “Come on, Brooklyn!” and I paid it forward with a few “you got it, girl!” Some high fives here and there and then a kick to the finish.

As soon as I rounded the corner for the last .1 to the finish line, I saw my grandma standing right in front of the final sensors, camera in hand, only three days after her surgery. I blew her a kiss and crossed the finish line with all the feels.

After chugging an entire bottle of water and some cold compresses from the fantastic volunteers, I went to go find her. When I crossed the finish line and one of the volunteers gave me the medal, I just couldn’t put it on. I knew it really wasn’t for me. When I found my grandma and she came up to me with the biggest, proudest smile on her face, I knew it was for her. I put the medal around her neck and told her that her race is much harder than mine and she deserves it more than me.

The Race for Women’s Wellness started out as a test of my own wellness, but turned into something so much more. Thinking back on how much pain I was in last August and how much doubt I had about being able to really run again, I can’t tell you the feeling I had crossing that finish line six months later without leg pain. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a tiny bit sore in the area and I am absolutely nowhere near done with my workouts at Finish Line PT (THEY CAN’T GET RID OF ME THAT FAST!), but I will say that my patience and good faith (although sometimes faked) paid off. Thank you, Finish Line, for getting me back on my feet in time to honor my grandmother in the only way I know how.