I signed up for the Fred LeBow Half Marathon as my 54th Half Marathon (and first of 2022) for several reasons:
- I love NYC.
- I love running in Central Park.
- I hadn’t run a race there since January 2020.
- I had enough pts for a free hotel room and free train to NYC.
- I had thought my NYC BRFs Cari and Elizabeth may be running it too or at least we could meet up during the weekend.
- It kept me doing weekend long runs during the cold temps of upstate NY.
- I would be running another half marathon in 3 weeks (so could consider this as a training run.)
- I had hoped to run the Frozen Penguin Half Marathon a few weeks earlier but it was cancelled.
- I ran this half marathon in 2020 with a sore foot so this would be a do-over.
- As a NYRR half marathon, if I do finish under 2:27, it would be easier to time qualify for 2023 NYC half & full marathons.
Half Marathon Training:
As I mentioned above, I had hoped to run a half marathon in Central Park two weeks earlier. I love to sign up for winter halfs because it motivates me to keep doing those long runs in the cold weather. (And this year, the temps were COLD!!)
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. But I do try to do those weekday short runs
and get in those double digit runs on the weekend..
I knew about the HILLS that would taunt me during the race. 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.)
I also ran this same race in 2020. That time, due to construction, they added an extra hill and I was suffering big time from foot pain (so I had missed many weeks of training.)
In case you have never heard of Fred LeBow, he died of cancer in 1994 at age 62, but before his illness, he left an unforgettable mark on running in New York and the world as a runner, race director and founder of the New York City Marathon. There’s a statue in his honor in Central Park.
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
I took the train to NYC on Saturday morning. It was -6 degrees when I left (but the temps were a lot warmer in NYC – balmy 20s). I arrived at 11am and my hotel check-in time was 3 pm. Due to COVID, there’s no hotel bag check but luckily my room was ready. So I checked into my hotel on 39th St. and grabbed some lunch.
Months ago, I had bought some cheap tickets to a Broadway show in order to have something to do besides walking my feet off the day before a half marathon. The show that I wanted to see was To Kill a Mockingbird but it closed so I wound up changing my tix for a different show.
.Afterward, I grabbed some pizza for dinner
and walked around the area (Hudson Yards and Manhattan West) …
and eventually headed back to my hotel in order to plan my race day.
I have not run many winter half marathons 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 shirt and jacket, DIY arm sleeves, grabbed a foil blanket and called an Uber. (My hotel was on West 39th and the start was near E. 102nd. I could have taken the subway but obviously way too far to walk.
As I did in 2020, I got there too early and FROZE!!!
I had to pick up my bib and check my bag… everything was so well-organized even with ID and vaccination checks that it only took minutes.
It seemed like most racers were there as well (the race sold out at 5,000) and we lamented about the cold but we knew that it was warmer than recent days.
As I was walking around trying to stay warm, I passed a heated tent with chairs. The runners in it invited me in. It was awesome. Unfortunately eventually we got kicked out since it was for staff only. So we huddled near it sucking up any warm air that we could. Of course, they soon shooed us away too.
Soon it was time anyway to head to the corrals and I was assigned (as always) to corral I (based on a fast 10k race). I debated what to throw away and decided on just the jacket and foil. I kept on the extra shirt…. I was freezing!
I’ll do my best to recap the race below. (Warning: it’ll be long…)
The Race Plan: Do not get injured!! (You need to be healthy for the Florida half in 3 weeks!) And have fun!!
I would most likely do a lot of walking… because there would be umpteen hills!! (3 Harlems, several Cats and many other annoying smaller ones.)
I planned to 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:
2022 Course Map:
Check out this elevation:
It took a LONG almost 7 minutes to get to the start line. Even though I had on 2 pairs of gloves, my hands were numb as were my feet. I was glad to wear my buff since it kept my face warm.
It was slow going at first due to the crowd but soon we heading for a downhill stretch. Of course, I tried to stay slow and it felt slow but when you look at my stats you’ll see that familiar pattern – slow… slow… slower.
My corral had a 2:10 pacer whom I lost immediately. I never did see a 2:20 one if there was one. I was happy to never see a 2:30 one.
The first hill was Harlem and it was the steepest. I ran up most of it thinking that it wasn’t so bad (my opinion changed by the third time)
Once I started running, I realized that I was indeed perfectly dressed. In fact during the 2nd mile, I decided to take off my throw-away shirt. Not easy. It got tangled in my two other shirts and I forgot about my watch. To make along story short, I had to take off my watch and two shirts and re-dress.
The best news was that my FOOT never HURT. (Much different than the last time I ran this race two years ago when I could barely walk on it.)
I always tried to pick up speed on the downhills but they were short-lived as there were always smaller hills – the Sisters, etc. According to Strava, each hill has a name.
There was a water stop early, I think I skipped it as well as the last one. Many offered Honey Stinger Gels which I did grab (free is free lol).
I knew that Cari and maybe Elizabeth would be be cheering for me on the west side at 79th St. Of course, I really couldn’t figure out most of time where I was in the park… it seemed to be hill, recover, hill, recover hill. lol. I never saw Cari on the first loop but it turned out that she arrived just as I was going by.
I had eaten breakfast at 5:30 am so I was very hungry, I think I stopped at the next water stop around mile 4 to eat a GU.
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 then walked. Cat wasn’t as steep but seemed a lot longer.
(In case you’ve never run in Central Park, it’s called Cat Hill because there is a statue of a cat staring down at you.)
Soon we were back on the east side and passed the statue of Fred Lebow. Every runner saluted him as they ran by.
We passed the start again and that meant we were heading for round 2 of Harlem Hill. Of course, it got harder to run up it each time. I did my best but never was able to run the whole thing.
I grabbed a Honey Stinger gel at one of the water stops. I ate it around mile 7 1/2. (It was a first time for Honey… a little too sweet but no bad after effects)
As we headed for the west side again, I was looking forward to seeing my friends Cari and Elizabeth. Around mile 8, I spotted Cari who snapped a pic and shouted “See you at the finish!” I so appreciated her being there to cheer me on especially since it was a cold day.
That gave me some short-lived energy but 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.
We passed the start for the last time (Thank God!). Always cruel when that happens to a slower runner. So many runners were walking by with their medals on already.
It was almost over but it wasn’t. Some downhill as before but leading up for the last time to Harlem Hill. I occasionally looked at my watch and saw that each mile was slower than the next. I was ok with it (this was not planned as a PR or anything even close) and so I decided to just do what I had to do to finish. That meant walking a lot in that last mile… Harlem Hill during mile 13… Sigh.
But I finally turned toward the finish line and then turned again.
I ran as fast as I could…. (Adrenaline took over here!)
I saw Cari and Elizabeth cheering me on.
Post Race Activities:
I immediately got my medal, my foil sheet and posed for a quick pic.
I grabbed a bagel and headed to bag check to get some warm clothes and meet Cari and Elizabeth.
I was cold now… I was glad to have packed a down jacket, vest and gloves.
We walked out of the park (from E102nd to W72nd).
stopping along the way for more pics
so we could have brunch together.
After brunch, we went our separate ways. We would see each other in five weeks for another Central Park half marathon. Stay tuned…
Rather than taking the subway, I decided to walk back to my hotel (on 39th St.)
40,000 steps for the day!! OY!
Hotel check out is normally noon but I reserved a late check-out for 2 pm. It was now 1:45. Yikes. Originally I had a train ticket for 7:15 pm, but wisely changed it to 5:15 pm. As I mentioned earlier, there were no bag check options (due to COVID). I was not planning on dragging my luggage around the city so I changed my train ticket again and left at 3:40 pm.
I don’t recommend sitting for hours on a train or plane after running a half marathon. I was quite stiff that night. (The good news is that I felt fine the next day.)
Additional Race Reflections:
As you can see from the stats below, my splits were slower the second half the race.
I was surprised and thrilled that I finished under 2:27!! (one of my 2022 goals). But a little disappointed that I only finished about 30 seconds faster than 2020 when I ran this race untrained and hurting.
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 legs/feet felt fine.. no pain anywhere (always a good thing at my age.)
All in all, I thought this was a great race.
- Easy packet pick-up (M-F at Run Center and also race morning near the start).
- Vaccination required for ALL participants.
- 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 (7 at least)
- Gels available at several water stops
- Many porta-potties along the course in addition to real CP bathrooms
- Roads were dry.
- Friends cheering for support.
- Well marked course.
- Timing Clock at every mile.
- Great crowd support at the big hills!
- Los of volunteers as course marshals and at water stops (and it was cold out!!)
- Pacers (useful if you started in the correct corral).
- Very cool medal.
- Great winter beanie.
- Foil blankets put on and taped close for each runner.
- Blogger meet-up with Cari and another friend to share the race experience after.
- NO foot pain. No Blisters.
- No packet pick-up on Saturday (day before the race) so those who do not live in NYC had to do day of race pick-up
- Loops!!! 2 1/2.
- Hills in Central Park. 3 Harlems, 2 Cats (and they are long and steep) among other smaller hills
- I did not do any training on hills (my bad)
- So cold waiting before the race (but it could have been worse).
- Post-race food – just bagel and apple (COVID?)
- No photos
Would I recommend this race?
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 a small race by NYC standards. And not an expensive one.
This one should have warmer weather but you never know with Florida. I ran this one three years ago in the pouring rain. No hills just TWO big bridges.
Happy Running! Ever run this race? Have you raced in NYC? Ever run a cold weather half marathon? Please share.