Friday, November 27, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon

Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series announced plans to return to Brooklyn, but didn't have a date set for the Inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon until the late spring.  The date was set for October 10, 2015, and the course was revealed to be centered around Prospect Park, with two extensive out-and-backs along Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway.  The course would still be different enough from the Brooklyn Half that New York Road Runners puts on in May.

Back in April, after talks with some folks who work with the Rock 'n' Roll series, I had gotten in contact with the event manager for the Brooklyn race about singing the national anthem.  At the time, though, they were pending confirmation for a singer that had just been booked to perform the anthem for the race.  As the singer hadn't confirmed yet, I was placed as the back-up just in case.  Fast forward to August, and after a few emails back and forth, I ended up with the job, as they preferred having a seasoned RnR racer, especially one who would definitely be there to run the race, as well as a New York City local, to sing the anthem!

In the days prior to the race, the expo was held at the Brooklyn Expo Center, a new exhibition space, located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  While in Brooklyn, it was not a very convenient location, and very difficult to get to, forcing commuters to take the oft-ridiculed G Train, New York City's Queens-Brooklyn subway line, and the only line that doesn't go into the Manhattan.  Add to the fact that the expo was VERY small, especially compared to other expos in the Rock 'n' Roll series, for the size of the race based on number of registrants.


With former BK BP, Marty Markowitz
Because of the start location at Grand Army Plaza, located on the north side of Prospect Park, and the 7am start time, I opted to stay with a friend who lived in downtown Brooklyn, an easy two to three stop subway ride from the park.  The train was very full as it pulled into the station, and very congested as people emerged from the subway onto the street level.  As the anthem singer, I was given race day VIP, which included breakfast and private bag check located inside the adjacent Brooklyn Public Library.  I was also given a guest VIP, which I used on my friend Anna, who was running the race as training for the NYC Marathon, and who I was going to help pace, as she was experiencing some plantar's fasciitis issues in the weeks prior.  Soon, I was brought outside to the start area for the anthem, and while waiting, got to meet former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (who gave me and Anna each a "Brooklyn" pin, that we put onto our bibs) and world-record holding oldest female marathon finisher Harriette Thompson, who at 92 years old, ran the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon earlier that year and was going to the run the Brooklyn race!

With superstar Harriet Thompson
After a little delay, I got to sing the anthem in front of my largest audience to date - about 15,000 people, which included runners and their family and friends who were gathered at Grand Army Plaza for the start of the race.  The anthem went extremely well, and then Anna and I proceeded into the corrals to find my group of friends, who were gathered in corral 3.  Due to some issues with clearing of the race route and with bottlenecks of security getting into the corrals, the race started nearly 15 minutes late- but we got started soon enough, and with my portable Ultimate Ears speaker, I got to help pace Anna through 13.1 miles of Brooklyn!

The startline
Running on an easy 4 minute run/1 minute walk interval, we rounded Grand Army Plaza, and began the 1.5 mile jaunt down Eastern Parkway into Crown Heights, up until the turnaround point just before Albany Avenue.  We made the turnaround and was able to see the sheer amount of people who were running this race, which was staggering.  We stayed close to the median, as it gave me the opportunity to put a smile on the face of runners who were en route to the turn around point, as Anna and I dance-ran and just had as much fun as we can on the route.  Thankfully the stretch on Eastern Parkway was pretty flat, with a downhill start.  We returned to Grand Army Plaza to cheering crowds as we made the turn onto Flatbush Avenue.

Grand Army Plaza selfie w/ Anna and Mindy!
Stilt walkers on Eastern Parkway
What 17,000 people looks like

At mile 4, we made a slight right onto Ocean Avenue, as we skirted the southeastern side of the park, and then to Parkside Avenue, running along Prospect Park's southern boundary.  Mile 5 took us to the onramp to Ocean Parkway, which was a little bit of a climb for the next half of a mile, but then we had a small downhill for the next half mile, and then the course flattened out considerably as we continued down the long stretch of street in the neighborhoods of Kensington and Midwood.  Anna was feeling good, so we took some stretches of 9 minute run/1 minute walk intervals, which we did convincingly well.  We turned around at the 7.5 mile point and then continued back in the direction we came, bounding up the parkway until we came upon the offramp which was a nice and steady (but not too difficult) climb.  Thankfully, BeyoncĂ©'s "Get Me Bodied" started playing on my speaker, which made those around me work hard to match their cadence to the beat of the song -- they were very thankful once we reached the top of the hill, that we were able to conquer it without feeling as if we exerted crazy amounts of energy just trying to get up it.

Treble singing for us at mile 4!
Barkada runs half marathons!
At mile 10, we reentered the southwestern corner of Prospect Park, to teeming crowds of people, just as "My Shot" from the hit Broadway musical HAMILTON began to play on my speaker.  Perfect timing, as it's a song about perseverance and strength: "I am not throwing away my shot!/ I am not throwing away my shot!/ Hey yo, I’m just like my country/ I’m young, scrappy and hungry/ And I’m not throwing away my shot!"  Supposedly, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the talented and influential composer and lyricist of the show, as well as the actor who plays Alexander Hamilton, was there cheering on a couple members of his cast who were running the race!

Anna and I trudged on through the last three miles of the race, being cheered on by lots of people lining the street.  We climbed the ridiculous hill on the north side of the park that I know all too well.... and then coasted on the downhill as we took on the final mile of the course.  Anna started to feel some pain in one of her knees, but we continued on, knowing the finish was within striking distance.  Soon, we made the turn off of West Drive onto Center Drive, with hundreds of people lining the route, and crossed the finish line in 2:27:41.

Anna and I after the finish!
We made our way into the Nethermead with THOUSANDS of people basking in the absolutely gorgeous Saturday morning weather.  I proceeded to the Heavy Medals tent to meet up with friends and get my "Beast of the East" medal, then headed to the VIP tent for some food and a massage.  We watched Nate Ruess from the band fun. perform on the MainStage, and then I got a phone call at the end of the show to come up to the stage and participate in the meet and greet!  Later that night, I got to take in the revival of the Broadway show Spring Awakening with my friend Juan, who was in town for the race, followed by some drinks with Ndegwa and Rebecca at the Rum House. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend...
Me at Meet and Greet with Nate Ruess
Victory Headstand!

Brooklyn pin thanks to Marty Markowitz!

1 comment:

  1. What a cool race! I will need to run in NYC and visit you. I'm no reply so just email me at