Friday, August 18, 2017

Race Report: NYRR Fred Lebow Manhattan Half

Before the weekend came, there was much speculation as to when an impending nor'easter was going to hit New York City - would it affect us on Saturday during the race, or would it be later?  Or perhaps it would be later on Sunday morning?  Or just miss us altogether? Well, Saturday morning for the annual Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon was going to happen either way, as long as the wind wasn't going to be too strong to potentially down tree branches in the park.

I left my apartment in Queens at 6:30, hoping to make it to the Upper West Side by 7:15 for a photo with my running club, Front Runners New York.  After getting out of the train, the scene was FOGGY.  The temperature was about 43ยบ, with 100% humidity - it actually reminded me of the conditions at the start of the Louisiana Marathon a week earlier, but twenty degrees colder.  It was New York in January, after all.  But this would be one of the warmest editions of this race on record, as in previous years it has been known to be bitterly cold, or even enveloped in snow or ice, sometimes even cancelled, so having the temps in the low 40s was an improvement!

Singing the national anthem
Baggage check for the race was on the 102nd transverse, but the race start was a good 1/2 mile further south on the rolling hills of West Drive, near 94th Street.  Despite getting my things together, I still felt like I was in a rush, but maybe it was because I was about to go sing the anthem for this race, and there was still a bit of distance between me and the start.  Ultimately, I did get to the start, and was even able to have the announcers add the fact that this race would be my 80th half marathon.  After a moment of silence to memorialize NYPD detective Steven McDonald, a friend to New York Road Runners, who had passed recently, I sang the national anthem, and then jumped into the corrals... As the race started, I stuck around on the side and waited for my friend JC who was pacing 2:15, and crossed the start line mat at about 8:07.

Getting those miles in
Official photo from NYRR/
GameFace Media
Central Park is great and all, but for a distance race, repetition is required, as the course is made up of multiple loops of the park's asphalt paths to reach the 13.1 mile distance: in this case, from West 94th Street, two counterclockwise loops cutting off at the 72nd Street transverse and including the Harlem Hills, and then a third loop that cut left at the 102nd Street transverse to the finish.

While I usually have a lot to say when it comes to race reports, the experience of running in Central Park is one that just needs to be experienced.  In short, it has its share of rolling hills on the west side, and then one significant hill ("Cat Hill") on the east side, before the Harlem Hills challenge runners on its tough uphill ascent in the northwest corner of the park.  I've written about a half marathon in the park before, when I ran the 2015 NYCRUNS Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon, so if you're looking for a play by play about what you see running through the park, you can read that.  For this race, I had a pretty strong first 10k, running it in 1:00:30, en route to a sub 2:10 finish, but then at mile 8, I ran into my friend Ryan, who was having a tough go during the race.  I made a decision to run with him for the last five miles of the race, as he had been pivotal in helping me complete my second loop of the San Francisco Marathon back in July. It was the least I could do.
Making our way up the east side
(Official photo from NYRR/GameFace Media)
Awake this time
(Official photo from NYRR/GameFace Media)
With Ryan and Fred Lebow
Before hitting the last 0.6 miles on our third loop, we stopped near the Engineers' Gate at 90th Street on the East Park Drive, to take a photo with the statue of Fred Lebow, the namesake of the race. Lebow was founder and first race director of the New York City Marathon. The statue, unveiled a month after his death in 1994, shows Lebow looking down at his watch, timing runners as they pass by.  The statue gets moved from its permanent location at Engineers' Gate to the finish line of the NYC Marathon every first Sunday in November.  But there, during this race, he was to greet the many runners as we pass by the reservoir.  We stopped for a photo, and then plugged in a kick to make it across the finish line strong. Ryan and I crossed together, and I had a 2:21:44 finish, thrilled to have hit #80 in my city.

Crossing the finish line with Ryan
(Official photo from NYRR/GameFace Media)
Bling and a new beanie (our giveaway for the race)
Victory Headstand with Fred

Post race photo courtesy of Winnie Lok

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