This race honors the late NYRR president and New York City Marathon co-founder, Fred Lebow (1932–1994). The course is two-plus loops of Central Park, which can be a challenge in January! Join the mid-winter fun and camaraderie—and perhaps kick off your training for a spring marathon. You’ll have lots of good-spirited company, and you can enjoy classical music (Fred’s favorite) at the start as well as inspiring Fred quotes along the course!
So I signed up for the Fred LeBow Half Marathon as my 40th Half Marathon for several reasons:
- I love NYC.
- I love running in Central Park.
- I had enough pts for a free hotel room.
- I had thought my NYC BRFs Cari and Elizabeth may be running it too.
- It was held on President’s Day weekend so I had the next day off from work.
- Fred Lebow?!
Half Marathon Training:
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. After the NYC Marathon and Stockade-athon 15k, I experienced foot pain.
So I stopped running completely for 3 weeks. I was planning to DNS this race.
But then I started back with some short runs and a few longer ones on the weekend.
Though I don’t usually care much about my short runs, I do like to get in a 10, 11 and 12 miler before each half marathon.
For this race, I obviously did not. And all my runs came with some foot discomfort.
Yes, I was nervous that I was not prepared for run 13.1 miles and I was nervous about making my foot worse. And those hills!!!!
So the goal for this half marathon was just finishing!! It’s a BIG race, There would be many runners finishing behind me.
Check out this elevation:
Yikes. But no surprise…I have run in this park and I ran the Shape Half Marathon which was also several loops of the park (but different start and end.)
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
Several days before the race, we were notified of this change:
Due to construction on the 72nd Street Transverse in Central Park, we have modified the NYRR Fred Lebow Half Marathon course. The race will now feature two larger loops in Central Park starting on East Drive just south of the 102nd Street Cross Drive and finishing on 102nd Street Cross Drive near West Drive.
Hence, three Harlem hills rather than the normal two…lucky me!
I learned some valuable lessons about pre-race prep during a previous race-cation — rest the legs and fuel adequately the day before the race. I was going to make sure that I did both things this time around.
So I took the bus to NYC on Saturday. The weather was horrendous. Snow made my bus arrive an hour late so I immediately headed to the subway (with my luggage) to meet fellow bloggers Deborah (from Confessions of a Mother Runner) and Cari. The three of us had a great time chatting over popcorn and wine at Deborah’s hotel.
Cari was nice enough to have already picked up my bib to save me enough time to get back to check into my hotel and then take the subway to Brooklyn. I had plans to carb load with my friend Stan who was running the race the next day, as well.
The snow had stopped but now it was pouring. I had my fingers crossed that they were right about the sunshine the next day.
I got back to my hotel rather early in order to plan my race day. I have only run one winter half marathon. So it was a challenge to decide on what to wear to keep warm but not too warm for 13.1 miles.
Luckily I still had some throw always and foil wrap to add to my outfit.
I brought my usual race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee with me and got up around 5:30 am. It was chillier than I hoped so I put on my throwaway jacket, DIY arm sleeves, grabbed a foil blanket and called an Uber. (My hotel was on West 39th and it would be a long walk from the nearby subway stop at East 102nd to the start.)
I had plans to meet Stan (who was taking the subway from Brooklyn) before the race. I got there way too early. It was easy to find the start and bag check. But an hour waiting in the freezing cold was too much.
The sun came up and so did the wind. A bunch of us huddled near a generator for warmth. Eventually they shooed us away saying it was dangerous.
Soon Stan arrived and we met at bag check. I hesitated giving up my jacket but I knew that I would need it after the race. (I should have worn more throwaways.. and brought a heavier jacket for after… duh!)
Eventually, it was time to separate and head to our respective corrals. I was in I and Stan in G. (I was supposed to meet another friend who was in L but never located her.)
I FROZE!!!! Even my teeth were chattering…along with 5000 other runners (a small race for NYC standards.)
I’ll do my best to recap the race below. (Warning: it’ll be long…)
The Race Plan: Do not get injured!! Do make your foot pain worse!!
There would have to be a lot of walking…There would be umpteen hills!! (and 3 Harlems rather than the usual 2!! plus several Cats and many other annoying smaller ones.)
And stop and walk briefly at every water stop (so I wouldn’t get dehydrated even in the cold) and to stop and walk longer to eat a gel at every other water stop.
Anyway, here’s how the race went:
10:36, 10:34, 10:19, 10:22, 10:48
It took a LONG five minutes or so to get to the start line. As I crossed I waved and yelled to Ali from Ali on the Run blog/podcast who was the race announcer.
It was slow going at first due to the crowd but soon after we ascended Harlem Hill for the first time…
My corral had a 2:10 pacer whom I lost immediately. I never did see the 2:20 one.
My foot hurt immediately but as always the pain faded to a dull ache and then increased and decreased throughout the race. It never felt normal nor did it ever prevent me from running.
Once I started running, I realized that I was indeed perfectly dressed. I even took off my gloves.
The roads were wet but they had so much salt on them, they were not slippery.
I ran up most of the hills. My sore foot always feels better running than walking. Unfortunately, it felt worse on the downhills where I normally can pick up the pace and make up for my slow uphill running.
I was conscious of this and never pushed the pace (even though tempted on those downhills) during the race.
There were water/Gatorade stops almost every mile of the course. I stopped at each one except the first one.
At mile 2, I took my first gel since it had been hours since my breakfast. (I always struggle to get one out of my pocket, open it and drink water and eat it…)
I knew that Cari was going to be cheering for me on the west side at 79th St. I was counting the blocks until I saw her (around mile 2.5).
I high fived her as I ran by.
So we continued circling the park… many small annoying hills and then the 2nd largest hill, Cat Hill. I did the same as with Harlem, ran up most and ran slowly down.
Soon we were back on the east side and passed Fred Lebow. Every runner waved to him as they ran by.
10:09, 11:44, 10:48, 10:51, 11:13
We passed the start and that meant we were heading for round 2 of Harlem Hill. I also took my 2nd gel at one of the water stops. They had Honey Stingers and I searched until I found a chocolate one.
As we headed for the west side again, I was looking forward to seeing my friends Cari and Elizabeth. I so appreciated them being there to cheer me on.
And since this was the second loop of the park, there was Cat Hill again, and the statue of Fred and hill after hill after hill.
12:21, 11:31, 12:08, 9:05
I ate one more gel since another Harlem Hill was coming for the THIRD time.
At this point, I wanted to be done. I got a side stitch and it persisted until mile 13. Maybe because I had not done more than 10 miles for a long run. Who knows? It took my mind off my achy foot.
I ran next a lady struggling with knee pain. We decided to help each other get to the finish (and swore together about adding that 3rd Harlem Hill).
Finally we turned toward the finish line and then turned again.
I ran as fast as I could…. (Adrenaline took over here!)
I immediately got my medal, my foil sheet and posed for a quick pic.
I grabbed a bagel and pretzels and headed to bag check where Stan was waiting for me.
I was freezing… The wind had picked up… So glad that I didn’t throw that jacket away (wished I had brought my warmer one.)
We headed out of the park, walked many many blocks (oh my foot!!) to the subway and then I walked to my hotel to pack and take a long hot shower.
I met Stan again for lunch and to recap our race experiences. In spite of the pain, the cold, the loops, the monster hills, we did not regret running the race.
Since it had gotten much colder and windier, we both decided to leave the city earlier than planned.
Additional Race Reflections:
Chip time = 2:26:31
My finish time was way slower than my previous two half marathons. (Surf Town 9/8/19 – 2:16:08 and Sacandaga 5/19/19 -2:13:03) which was to be expected. (May have been a PW and definitely the slowest since 2011, my first year.)
As you can see from the stats above, my splits were slower than normal..no 9 minute miles and too many over 11 or 12.
Enough whining…I am so grateful to be able to visit NYC and run a race. I am unbelievably happy that after the race, my foot did not hurt worse than before. My legs felt great. Zero DOMS!!
All in all, I thought this was a great race.
As usual, I wore some new items:
- race hat – it was warm and comfortable
- NYC Marathon race shirt – also worked out well (love wearing race shirts – great conversation starter)
- Injini toe socks and toe spacer (for my bunion) – got a blister in a new spot but no blister on the other foot where I often get one ??
The tried and true items:
- Mizuno Wave Inspires (been experimenting with Altras and Brooks) that I had worn for the marathon
- Skirt Sports Lotta Breeze capri skirt – had a drawstring to keep it tight and 2 pockets for ID, cards and gels
- Legendware compression calf sleeves – kept my legs warm and supported my calfs
- Dollar store gloves – secondary use was to wipe my runny nose lol
- Spi belt for my phone and to attach my bib
- Easy packet pick-up (several days before at Run Center and also race morning near the start).
- Many porta potties at the start. Long lines but they moved quickly (I was told – did not use).
- Bag Check. Well organized before and easy pick up at the end.
- Water and Gatorade stops at almost every mile or so.
- Gels available at several water stops
- Many porta-potties along the course in addition to real CP bathrooms
- Roads were dry even after the previous day’s snowfall.
- Friends cheering for support.
- Well marked course.
- Great crowd support at the big hills!
- Clocks at 5k, 10k, 15k, 20k (or even more points).
- Pacers (useful if you started in the correct corral).
- Very cool medal.
- Great winter beanie.
- No lines for post race refreshments
- Foil blankets put on and taped close for each runner.
- Blogger met-up with Cari and Deborah and a friend to share the race experience with before and after.
- Hills in Central Park.
- Foot Pain.
- Side Stitch.
- The course was LONG.
- Harlem Hill – 3 times!!
Would I recommend this race?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Do it if you can. You won’t regret it (unless you hate hills lol).
No, it’s not an easy course. Only a little over 5,000 runners usually participate so small race by NYC standards.
A Race-cation. In Bermuda! Should be a blast…
Since today is Tuesday, I’m linking up with these ladies.
I’m linking up also with this new link-up:
Happy Running! Ever run this race? Have you raced in NYC? What is your favorite half marathon? Ever run one totally under-trained? Please share.