For the second year in a row, I participated in the airbnb Brooklyn Half. The 2017 edition of this race expected 27,500 runners and sold out in 26 minutes! Luckily, I didn’t have to compete for a spot because the generous folks at the New York Road Runners (NYRR) organization offered me a complimentary spot as a result of some social media work I did for them last year.
Similar to last year, the airbnb Brooklyn Half fell after my Spring goal race. I believe it was three weeks after my goal race in 2016 and this year it was one week and six days after my huge day at the Mississauga Marathon. I was feeling good and really wanted to run for fun and enjoy the experience; the problem is, I attempted to run this race for fun last year, but my competitive nature got in the way and I reverted to racing. I think the only time I was successful at running a race for fun was the Achilles 5K back in March.
The course map this year was exactly the same as 2016 (and apparently 2014!).
Just like last year, my son and I flew into NYC on Friday morning just one day before the race; we actually flew into Newark via Porter and instead of getting dropped off at my parents’ place where I was staying, I asked my dad to drop me off at the subway station because I was meeting my friends Sherab and Ray at the pre-party.
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half Pre-Party Presented by New Balance was very similar to last year with a few minor exceptions. Last year there was more swag (New Balance Brooklyn flags and photo booths. There was also a booth to customize your finisher’s shirt) which made the already small “expo” feel even smaller. There were a few fun things to do outdoors at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 2, but it was 30 degrees outside!
Sherab and Ray were would be arriving in a few minutes, so I took the opportunity to walk around a bit. The first two people I noticed were Greg and Kelly. I met Greg through my friend Christina and we hung out a bit last year in NYC the night before the NYC Marathon. He’s definitely one of my favorite people in the Instagram running community! Kelly is a superstar in the Instagram Running Community and is absolutely hysterical! She is also doing amazing things for women in the running community!
A few minutes later Sherab and Ray arrived! I went inside to grab my own, purchased a couple of cool t-shirts, then left. My brother picked up my son’s bib for his race a few days prior, so I didn’t have to worry about that. Sherab and Ray were waiting for another friend, Michael, and when he arrived, we left the pre-party and headed to Shake Shack for lunch.
The pre-party was the same day as my nephew’s birthday party, so I excused myself after a few laughs and a great lunch and headed home. Wave 1 started at 7am, so I called it an early night, but not before posting an obligatory flat runner photo on Instagram.
I got up at 5am, polished off a bowl of milk and cereal (something I’ve never eaten before a race in the past), showered, got dressed, and headed to the start line near Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue (thanks for driving me for the second year in a row, dad!).
As soon as I got to Easter Parkway, I heard someone yell out “Michele” and for some reason turned my head. When I did, I spotted Michele Gonzalez, one of the most well-known runners in the Instagram Running Community and a really awesome runner! I introduced myself and we quickly chatted about the race. Michele is really cool and I was pretty stoked about meeting her!
I finally found my friends Andrew Chak and his brother Gary. Andrew and I spoke about a race strategy prior to the race and he wanted to hold a 5:00/km pace which equated to a 1 hour 45 minute finish. I don’t think Andrew believed for one minute that I would run with him the entire race, but I would prove him wrong!
Just as I arrived, it started to rain. It was about 16 degrees at the start and the rain did not bother me at all. I’ve run in bad weather enough times to expect anything! Shortly after, our friend Josie Nguyen arrived and we worked our way towards the corral. Runners can not move up in their corral, so we had to move back to the highest letter corral. In this case, it was corral L. I was placed in corral B and Andrew and Gary were in corral G. I made a few jokes about not being able to see the start line. The truth is, I was happy to be positioned where we were as it would really help me hold back!
After someone belted out the US national anthem, the horn started the runners. It took over 20 minutes to get to the start line from where we were positioned! We even had time to stop at the port-o-potties and chat for a bit before we made it to the front! LOL! By the time we got to the start line, it stopped drizzling.
I remembered there was a mat on the floor to cover the electric wiring that spanned the length of the course just prior to the actual start line and I let my friends know not to start their watches. A few feet ahead was the actual start of the race and it was time to go. I ran about 500 meters before realizing I didn’t actually start my watch! Oh well.
First 5K splits: 5:04, 5:04, 5:01, 4:51, 4:58
Because I didn’t start my watch at the actual start line, my splits may not make sense. The course is identical from the previous year. The first kilometer is the same 21-meter plunge down Washington Avenue. The crowds are always the best at the start of the race and throughout Prospect Park. The course is also very crowded with runners at this point and I noticed Gary and Andrew starting to work their way through crowds of runners. I was hoping Andrew wasn’t changing his race strategy but chased after them nonetheless.
Even though it felt as if we were running much faster than everyone on the course, we were pretty much locked into a 5:00/km pace. It felt really easy and really fun! People probably thought we would burn out by surging forward too soon!
The next kilometer is a 21 meter climb up Flatbush Avenue. The kilometer after that was one of my favorite parts of the race as the runner’s make the big loop around Grand Army Plaza. The spectators here really energized the runners! The next kilometer and a bit are mostly downhill.
For parts of the race leading up to this point, Andrew and I were moving from the road to the sidewalk to avoid slower runners. This is not something I typically do in a race, but we did start back pretty far which meant we were contending with quite a few runners who were likely doing a 6:00/km pace or slower. At some point, even the sidewalk started to get too crowded!
Second 5K splits: 5:03, 4:59, 5:01, 4:42, 4:50
The next 5 kilometers were relatively flat, followed by a gradual incline, and a few really easy rollers in Prospect Park. We weren’t in the park very long when I noticed my throat was started to close a little bit and I was getting a really bad tickle. Allergies! I developed a bit of a cough at this point and I couldn’t wait to get out of the park! Aside from that, I was feeling really strong. My right ankle was bothering me a bit, but I couldn’t figure out if it was sore from something else or if it was the area on the top of my foot where my laces were tied too tight at the Mississauga Marathon.
At one point, Andrew and I were picking up the pace a bit and I passed in front of a few runners. One of them yelled out, “Hey runthesix!” and I turned around and immediately recognized someone I ran with only once in the past when I joined the Nike Run Club in NYC! Thanks for spotting me, Rob!
We finally reached the biggest climb in the race and I remember telling Andrew we weren’t there yet. I don’t know if it was the fact I was feeling really good or the crowds were not as vocal about it as the year prior. Last year, spectators held signs that read, “It’s a hill, get over it,” amongst other creative signs. They were also cheering really loud in an attempt to push people up the hill. I think we finally crested the hill when I turned to Andrew and said, “maybe that was the hill!”
From that point on, the course is downhill and then flat.
I popped my one and only gel at the 10km mark.
Third 5K splits: 4:39, 4:47, 5:01, 4:48, 4:57
Around the 11km (7 mile) mark, runners climb up an entry ramp that banks left and then downhill towards Ocean Parkway. Andrew and I were running side by side at this point and feeling really good! Last year around this time I was having trouble and had to walk a bit. Not today! I had so much left in the tank and aside from the annoying issue with my foot, I was feeling great! My throat issues also seemed to get a lot better after exiting the park!
There were a few moments when I was running in front of Andrew and didn’t see him when I looked back. On some occasions, he moved ahead and I didn’t notice and a few times he moved to the other side of me. I always wanted to make sure he was in my sights so we could finish together!
The aid stations throughout the course tend to get a little dangerous as runners often come to a full stop to grab a Gatorade or water. I usually don’t notice this when I’m racing, but it was very obvious on this day. I skipped a few aid stations on this stretch of the course because it was starting to get really annoying and somewhat dangerous!
Fourth 5K splits: 4:48, 4:56, 4:59, 4:48, 4:41
The last stretch of running on Ocean Parkway is the most fun because you start to see where runners turn onto Surf Avenue. The crowds, while somewhat thinned out on Ocean Parkway, get a bit louder at this point of the race. I was in great shape at this point and really enjoying every moment! At one point, I lost Andrew again and started running backwards to try to spot him; I did not want to stop! I thought it was funny, but a few people struggling at this point did not. Sorry! I caught a glimpse of Andrew when I turned around and locked him in my sights.
Final 1.1K: 4:30, 7:31
At the end of Ocean Parkway, runners take a right turn on Surf Avenue and a left on W. 10th Street where they run up a small ramp and turn right on the boardwalk towards the finish line. The crowds were really loud and energized! A friend of mine ended the race and was texting me to see where I was. I pulled my phone out and responded, then decided to keep my phone in my hand to capture the moment we crossed the finish line. Did I mention how good I was feeling at this point?!
We took the final turn onto the boardwalk and headed towards the finish. At the finish line of the Mississauga Marathon less than two weeks prior to this race, I was so zoned out, I barely recall finishing. My friend Rose said I looked mad when I finished! To make up for it, I decided I was going to take a selfie of Andrew and I crossing the finish line. Doesn’t get much happier than that!
This is the one race I will try to do every year! It’s so much fun and I get to see my family at the same time! Let’s hope I can make the 20-something minute cut when registration opens at the beginning of the year!
Official Time: 1:44:05
Unlike last year when I met my dad in the family reunion area and headed home to shower, change, and head back to Coney Island to watch my son race, I decided this time to hang out in Coney Island instead. I miscalculated how cold it would be after the race and unfortunately did not leave a bag at the start line. By the time we finished our race, it was a little chilly and starting to rain again. My family wouldn’t be arriving for almost three hours, so I had to figure out how to stay warm for that duration of time. We spent almost 45 minutes hanging out in the parking lot waiting to reunite with everyone. Ray had a thermal blanket he wasn’t using and that did the trick for the time being.
Once we reunited with everyone, we walked over to Walburgers in Coney Island to grab lunch. We were able to find a table and took our time eating and hanging out. By the time everyone was ready to leave, my family arrived with a jacket so I can warm up and we headed over to the starting corral for the Youth Boardwalk Run.
Last year, my son (then age seven) posted an incredible time (eight minutes and change for the mile long race) at what was then called the Kids’ Boardwalk Run. What we didn’t know, but would find out later, was NYRR did not time the race this year because they limited how fast kids would be running due to the slick conditions on the boardwalk. My nephew beat my son by 4-5 seconds, but it wasn’t timed, so does it even count? LOL! Kidding!!
I’m taking two weeks off from running to rest and recover from a very successful, but very tough Spring race season. I am beyond thrilled with the results thus far and want to take some time to reflect on what went well and what I want to work on for the Fall.
QOTD: Did you participate in the airbnb Brooklyn Half last weekend? If so, how did you like it?