I had always wanted to run a half marathon in NYC. Every year, I enter the lottery for the NYC Half but so far, I have not gotten in. So my running friend, Alyssa suggested that we instead run the Shape Women’s Half Marathon. I don’t like loops and this race has two plus I didn’t want to limit my running to just Central Park. But I gave in and signed up.
We had planned to share a hotel room and spend the weekend together. Then several months ago, Alyssa found out that she couldn’t go that weekend. Luckily, I found two other runners (Sue and Ginny)who nicely agreed to letting me crash in their hotel room.
Half Marathon Training
If you read my blog, you know that my training included ZERO long runs but lot’s of races.
Yes, I got miles on the legs but for the first time, I didn’t get my 12 miler done and the longest continuous run was 6 miles.
I was still excited to run the race but I was not expecting to have a fast time and was hoping that it wouldn’t be too painful.
I had only heard good things about the race so I tried to be optimistic about running two loops of the park and about the ginormous hills.
The Shape Half Marathon is billed as “one of the largest women’s-only half-marathons in the country.” Amy Robach, News Anchor of ABC News’ “Good Morning America” was scheduled to host and participate in this year’s race. She was supposed to split the 13.1-mile course with Sara Haines, Co-Host of “The View” and ABC Correspondent. (I usually watch the Today show on NBC. NBC’s Natalie Morales hosted last year and ran the whole thing.)
According to the website, the race started on West Drive at 63rd Street, and then looped counterclockwise twice around the Park and ended around 72nd.
This was the course:
And this is the elevation map:
Hills or no hills, I planned to enjoy the views and scenery in Central Park and drag myself to the finish line. Walking up Cat and Harlem Hills would probably happen. I was ok with it.
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations
Sue, Ginny and I debated about how to get to NYC, – bus, drive/MetroNorth or Amtrak.
Since it was cheaper, Sue wanted to drive 1 1/2 hours and then take MetroNorth right to our hotel. At the last minute, Ginny decided not to come since she was injured and could not run the race. So it was just Sue and I. She picked me up at 7 am and we drove to Beacon (was supposed to be Poughkeepsie but we missed the exit). From there, we took the MetroNorth train to 125th St., Harlem where Sue had booked a hotel room.
We finally arrived around 11 am in NYC and had to walk almost a mile to our hotel. We left off our bags there since our room wasn’t ready and decided to walk to packet pick-up. It was such a beautiful day so I thought why not? (I stupidly changed from my sandals to my Crocs flip flops because they are usually so comfortable.)
Remember our hotel was located on 124th St and packet pick up was on 57th street. That was about 5 miles and about half way, my heels were screaming. Who wears flip flops to walk around Manhattan? This idiot!
When we arrived at Columbus Circle (59th St), I begged to go to a running store to buy some shoes. Best decision ever. They gave out free delicious cookies and mimosas plus everything was 15%. But even better was that the new version of my running shoes (Nike Zoom Vomero 12s) fit just like the 10s that I love. My feet were happy. (Sort of. The damage to my heels was already done unfortunately).
Next stop was lunch at Whole Foods. I would have carb loaded but Sue had a salad so I felt guilty and had one too.
Finally we arrived at the expo which wasn’t really an expo. We just got our shirts and bibs and snapped a picture.
You’d think that we had done enough walking but no, we decided to walk back to the hotel but through park rather than on Central Park West.
At least, I was wearing better shoes for walking and the weather was gorgeous. We were hoping that it would not be 80 degrees the next day for our race.
Finally we arrived back at the hotel to check in and only had a little time to relax since we had planned to meet Sue’s running friend Maureen and Maureen’s two daughters for dinner.
And no we didn’t walk to the restaurant. We took the subway to Columbus Circle. Well, it turned out that the restaurant was on Columbus Ave. We quickly called an Uber and still arrived in plenty of time.
The restaurant was Italian (Osteria Cotta) and recommended by Maureen’s daughter who lives in Manhattan. And it didn’t disappoint. The food was amazing as well as the wine. (I normally don’t drink the night before a race but I just got into the spirit.) It was such a fun evening. Of course, we talked about the race since all 5 of us women were running it.
After dinner we went out for an amazing dessert – cereal milk at Momofuku Milk Bar.
No more walking for me. We took the subway back to the hotel. Over 11 miles walked for the day! The day before our half marathon!!!
So we laid out our clothes and tried to get some shut eye.
I hardly ever get much sleep the night before a big race. And that night, it was no different except that in the middle of night, I started to get a painful sore throat and was feeling feverish. Yes, I was getting sick. Ugh!
So 5:30 am came early on Sunday morning. I felt like crap but it was race day. And inspite of my sore throat and heels that were painful to walk on, I was excited to run. I brought my breakfast from home (oatmeal) so I was content.
We grabbed a Uber to the race start (64th St.) and got there around 7 am. The race was not scheduled to begin until 8 am so we had plenty of time to hang out. It was quite chilly – about 30 degrees colder than Saturday. I shivered but knew that I would warm up once I started running.
Soon it was time to head to the start to line up. I was supposed to start in Corral I and Sue in Corral L but Maureen and her daughters asked us to meet them in Corral H so we waited for them there. They apparently arrived at the last minute and we never connected before the race.
The race is a blur as usual but here’s how I remember it:
9:51, 9:48, 9:42
Like any race, the first mile/mile-and-a-half, was a big congested. My heels were hurting but I was still able to run at a decent pace. It didn’t take me long to get warm and roll down my sleeves. The hills were rolling but they didn’t seem too bad. The weather was perfect. When the sun came out, I was glad that there seemed to be water stops at every mile. I stopped and walked at each one as per my plan. During this stretch, I caught up to Maureen and her daughters. We ran together for a while. They said that they were taking it easy but I knew that their slow pace would in no time be too fast for me. So at the second water stop, I waved good-bye and said that I’d meet them at after party by the band shell.
So the first few miles were wonderful. All the trees had blossomed and it was just a picture-perfect day. I started looking around at all the women around me and felt so inspired. This is an all women’s race which makes it special. There were tutus and bright colors and women cheering on other women. It was just so upbeat and empowering!
10:30, 11:33, 10:15
As usual, after the first few miles, I started slowing down. The first big challenge, Harlem Hill was no joke – about a half mile of steepness. All the volunteers along the hill were great, though, cheering us on and telling us we were almost at the top (I appreciated their lies LOL). It was nice to know that once I reached the top of the hill, the hardest part of the course was over. Until, of course, I had to conquer it again on the second lap.
During this stretch, a runner trying to clip the tangent, tripped another runner in front of me. She went down hard and almost took me down. But I stayed upright. I helped her up. She was scraped up but ok to continue running. I took advantage of this long break to have my first GU. (Chocolate which is not what I wanted. What happened to salted caramel?? And my faux pas keep coming… it made me feel sick.)
I finally removed (with lots of difficulty) my sleeves and continued to pick up my skirt which was always falling down. At least, I was half done. One more loop to go…
10:25, 10:52, 10:46
At this point in the race, my legs told me that I should have trained better. They were tired. But my heels stopped hurting and the balls of my feet ached especially the the left one that always seems to bother me. (It’s bunion related.) I think I was putting more pressure there to avoid the heel pain.
So I was now obviously starting the second loop of the course. Let me tell you, I noticed a lot of smaller hills that I did NOT notice the first time around. There were the same big hills as the first loop and I did the same – run, walk, run walk. The downhills were great but there always seemed to be another hill…the hills would not stop!!
Also I wore my new Garmin that I hadn’t worn since my last half marathon. And the same thing happened. It restarted at around mile 6 so it was no use. I knew roughly where I was since there were clocks at 5k, 10k, 15k markers and I knew I was running at a slow pace – at what pace, I had no idea. Good thing, this wasn’t a PR attempt. (Yes, I know that I should have tested it out before the race..)
11:40, 11:44, 11:04
Slow, slow, and even slower. I probably would have run faster if I actually knew my pace.
I took one more Gu (chocolate peanut butter)…yuck! Now I had a stomach ache for the rest of the race. (More like a side stitch.) But at least I never got my usual late mile back ache (Thanks Nike!)
After the second time up Harlem Hill, I told myself that it was almost over and then it was only 3 miles to the finish. But it was the longest 3 miles ever and I walked more than I usually do in a half marathon. And not just the water stops. Mile 11 felt 5 miles long (obviously, it was only 1 mile long). I just kept waiting for the 12-mile marker and it just wouldn’t come. I kept my spirits up by high-fiving every little kid that reached out on the sidelines. Thanks for the energy, kiddos! The crowd support for the race was great.
Mile 13- 13.2:
Finally, I was turning the corner to the last mile leg of the race and then the finish line was in sight. I saw the clock in the distance and sprinted as fast as I could. I crossed around 2:23:xx which turned out to be 2:20:49 chip time. Not the time I am capable of but considering everything working against me, it was a solid effort and I was pleased.
I got my medal and my heat sheet. I didn’t really need a heat sheet because it was so nice out but took it as a souvenir and headed to find friends and food.
At the food area, there wasn’t much that interested me. I took a bagel and headed toward the band shell to wait for Sue and find Maureen and her daughters.
There were some food samples and a band playing. I had some grapefruit juice and hung out as they announced the awards. Deena Kastor won again with a 1:16:xx time. Amazing!!
I kept texting Sue so we could meet up and to back to the hotel. Well, it turned out that she didn’t bring her phone. Duh?
But I did connect with one of the former STEM participants who had run the race. So happy to see her!!
Eventually, I left and took the subway solo back to the hotel.
After a long, hot shower, Sue and I went out for a delicious brunch before we took that long walk to the train station and headed back home..
Additional race reflections:
- Organized packet pick-up.
- Lots of porta potties at the start and throughout the course
- Beautiful course through scenic Central Park
- Lots of water stops (almost every mile) and all had Gatorade.
- The runners and their contagious excitement.
- Great crowd support along the course.
- No major injuries (just the feet!)
- Perfect weather.
- Love my new running shoes.
- Two Loops – just not a fan
- The Hills.
- No expo.
- My skirt kept falling down.
- My training was lacking.
- Cat and Harlem Hills and having to run up them TWICE
Would I recommend this race?
Overall, I really loved this race. The course was beautiful yet challenging. The day was beautiful. The energy of the volunteers and all the women running was spectacular.
May 21 – Steel Rail Half Marathon in Adams, MA
So no break in my training, This one will be flat and on the same course as the Ramblefest Half Marathon that I ran in October. I am looking forward to it. A nice (but not too warm) day would be welcomed.
Happy Running! Do you have a favorite Half Marathon? Have you ever run the More/Shape Half?