The 2018 NYC Half Marathon was an incredible experience on a majestic course. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience but there were a few negatives that I will point out below. I first want to state that I know it is a tough race to get into, having to rely on a lottery, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to race in it. I’ll break my review below in several parts covering the expo, pre-race, the race itself, and post-race. Also, this is my first time putting my race experience down to words so if it gets too wordy I apologize. Please feel free to leave any feedback!
Despite being one of the largest half marathons in the country, the expo was surprisingly small located in the Metropolitan Plaza on 18th Street. I stopped by The expo on Saturday afternoon a few hours before they closed and was amazed at how efficient the packet pickup process was. NYRR deserves all the credibility for funneling so many people through so quickly. Unlike large expos that you would find in large city races or the Run Disney races, this one had a few vendors compared to filling up an entire arena or convention center hall. The quick expo allowed me to have plenty of free time the rest of the day to enjoy NYC with my fiancée and visit my newborn nephew!
The weather for the race was sunny and COLD! Temperatures stayed in the 20’s for most of the pre-race and first half of the race, and would reach the low 30’s upon my finish.
I was in Wave 1 (corral K) which meant a 7:30 start time. I left my hotel near Central Park at 5:45 to aim for a 6:30 arrival at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The Q train took me directly there making transit quite simple. The only downside here was that the train was PACKED and still stopped at every station once full, where even more runners tried to get on. Eventually, I made it to the Prospect Park station where I had to patiently wait for about 20 min to go up the stairs to exit the station. The race village was right outside the station, and now it was time to go through security. NYRR and the NYPD deserves a major shout out for how quickly they were able to push runners throuh security. Getting from the station to my corral took ~15 min unlike other major city races (Philly cough cough).
Perhaps my only negative of the pre-race would be the corral layout. They had all the port-o-pottys in the corrals which made for a very congested experience. Don’t get me wrong, it was convenient being able to access the bathrooms right at the start, but it still made for an obstacle as I slowly approached the start line.
The Race went off on time at 7:30am and my corral crossed the line at ~8:00am. Now I could finally get going and start to WARM UP!
This was the first year of the new NYC Half course and it was beautiful! The race started with a scenic downhill through Grand Army Plaza and along Flatbush Ave for the first 2.5 miles until reaching the Manhattan Bridge. Running across the Manhatten bridge was incredible! The views of Manhatten on a sunny day were surreal. It took a lot of willpower to keep running and not stop and take photos of the scenic skyline.
Miles 4-5 took you through China Town, running on Canal St en route to FDR Drive. The crowd support on Canal St was great and there was no shortage of water stops along the course (each being well stocked with water and Gatorade).
Miles 5-7.5 were along scenic FDR Drive against the water. While there was minimal to no crowd support here, the views more than made up for it. Despite the frigid weather and fairly noticeable winds, there was no headwind running along the water. The course continued along the water up until the U.N. building where we took a left on 42nd street headed to 7th Ave (Times Square). Around this point in the race I realize my watch was showing me roughly half a mile ahead of the course markers. This could be due to bad GPS signal in the city or me not running the tangents of the course. None the less, it still made for a mental hurdle as I had to now try to calculate in my head what my actual pace was.
Miles 7.5-9 took us through Times Square down 7th Ave on our way to Central Park. Running through Times Square was awesome! The crowd support was unreal and definitely a huge motivation boost! Up until hitting Central Park, I had felt great. My legs were feeling fine and my breathing was under control. Central Park is where it got tough.
Miles 9-13.1 were in scenic Central Park. The rolling hills of the park made for a tough finish. I was hurting pretty badly around mile 10 and the crowd support in the park was pretty thin. Despite the rolling hills, I was still running at a solid pace and knowing that the finish was near kept me motivated. The course wraps around a majority of the park going up the east side, around the reservoir, and down the West side to the finish roughly around 72nd street. Seeing the 800m, 400m, and 200m to go signs at the finish helped me time one final kick and ultimately finished with an official time of 2h06min. Considering the cold conditions and tricky course, I was mostly pleased with my performance. This course provided an excellent running tour of NYC.
My biggest complaint comes right here. While I am always glad to have a well-protected finishers chute shielding runners from the several thousand spectators, this chute was far too long. The chute took 20 min to walk down through rolling hills and emerge at the family reunion area in Columbus circle.
The finishers chute itself was well stocked with food and drink. I am so thankful for the volunteers quickly distributing medals, heat blankets, and food. The medal itself was elegant and simple.
I thought handing out the food in the plastic bags was a great idea, as it is always a challenge to juggle post-race handouts with just my hands.
When I emerged from the finishers chute I was reunited with my incredible fiancée who braved the cold to come out and support me! The race was a great experience and definitely one I hope to do again someday.