This was not my first SHAPE event.
In 2017, when I got frustrated about not getting into the NYC Half Marathon lottery, I signed up for the SHAPE Half Marathon with my running friend Alyssa. I was so excited to be able to race in Central Park (oblivious that it was a 2 looped hilly course).
In the end, Alyssa could not go but I hooked up with a new friend, Sue and roomed with her, met some of her friends as well as one of the STEM runners. It was such a fun weekend that Sue and I planned additional NYC race-cations after that.
After TWO NYC Half Marathons in Central Park, I was not anxious to run the SHAPE Half Marathon again..
But this year for the first time, they offered a ONE loop option. I jumped at it. Cat and Harlem hills only ONCE. Woo Hoo! And NYC is usually very beautiful (Cherry Blossom season) this time of year.
1. Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
Close call. I was tentatively scheduled to work in NYC April 7-8 and then 10-11. Returning to the city on April 9 for this race would have been very inconvenient and so I was going DNS. Luckily, my work travel got postponed.
I took the early morning train to NYC on Saturday. I walked to my hotel to check in. It was raining then but stayed dry the rest of the day (until dinner.) First I grabbed some lunch
and then I headed to NYRR to pick up my race bib and shirt.
I was near Central Park so of course, I needed to check out the cherry blossoms.
I got lucky and they were at peak so I wandered and wandered taking photos of all the flowering trees in the park (well it seemed that way.)
I was about to head back to my hotel when Cari texted me. We decided to meet and there was a lot of walking and chatting.
Finally it was time to head back to my hotel…. I walked, of course. And I got caught in the rain again.
I ate my usual pre-race pizza and walked around for a bit before setting in and relaxing in my hotel room.
This time of year it is so hard to dress. for a race. I was so sick of tights and layers that I decided to risk it and bring a skirt and short-sleeved top. There would be bag check so I could bring a jacket for after.
Then I got nervous looking at the forecast… it was cooler than I had hoped so I brought along plan B:
So 5:30 am came early on Sunday morning. I brought my breakfast from home (oatmeal) so I was content. I looked at the temps… feels like 30 something. I immediately changed my outfit to Plan B. Then I heard raindrops (I freaked a little… no rain gear packed!!)
The rain quickly stopped. Phew! I grabbed an Uber to Race Day Central (W 72th St.) and got there around 6:45 am. The race was not scheduled to begin until 8 am so I had plenty of time to hang out. It was quite chilly. I shivered but knew that I would warm up once I started running.
There was bag check near the Naumburg Bandshell so I left a bag there with a warmer jacket, beanie, and gloves for afterward.
I did arrive too early and I was COLD!! I walked around the small expo at the Bandshell, entered a raffle and sampled some drinks.
Little by little runners arrived – about 3,000 for each race.
Finally it was time to line up. I was assigned Corral I. I reluctantly tossed my throwaways…
One of my local running friends was also running this race with her daughter. I was surprised to bump into her (among over 6,000 runners…)
Unfortunately, the half marathon started first so I had to wait at least 15 minutes… brrrrr.
This 5.8 loop race was a first annual. According the website, the start was near W 64th Street. Runners would complete almost one full counter-clockwise loop of the park, before which they’ll turn left onto the 72nd Street Transverse off West Drive just before the 6-mile mark. The finish line would be just east of the Naumburg Bandshell.
Here is the course map:
The good news was that (unlike my last two Central Park races), I would only have to tackle the hills ONCE!!!!
The race is a blur as usual but here’s how I remember it:
Like any NYRR race, the first mile/mile-and-a-half, was a bit congested. The half marathoners started first but eventually, I would run into the slow runners/walkers.
It didn’t take me long to get warm and roll down my arm sleeves. The hills were rolling but they didn’t seem too bad. The weather was perfect. There were water stops at each mile. I am pretty sure than I skipped the first two.
So the first few miles were wonderful. All cherry blossom trees had blossomed and it was just a picture-perfect day. I started looking 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!
This was my third time this year racing in the park. I felt like I knew what was coming. Once we were on the east side of the loop – there was the first BIG hill – Cat hill.
This time there were a bunch of volunteers playing music and cheering us on sitting next to the cat. I even tried to RUN the whole thing!!
The scenery was awesome and my legs felt strong (in spite of all the miles walked the previous day.)
As usual, after the first few miles, I started slowing down. The biggest problem today was that I didn’t think I needed to bring any fuel. I usually eat a GU at mile 4. But I didn’t have anything. I stopped at the water stop and I definitely felt my energy waning. I even missed Fred! (his statue, that is).
The second big challenge was Harlem Hill – about a half mile of steepness and I didn’t even attempt to run the whole thing. 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). There was even a band with drummers. It was nice to know that once I reached the top of the hill, the hardest part of the course was over.
I was getting warm and realized that I could have worn my Plan A outfit. I took off my arm sleeves and gloves but since I was wearing capris with no shorties, I had to throw them away (instead of tucking them in the shorts for another time).
Now we were on the west side of the loop and nearing the end…
Did I feel guilty not running the half? A little but then again, this was a taper fun run in preparation for a half marathon the week after.
Finally there was the sign (at 72nd) for the 5.8 runners to turn left and head to the finish line.
I was running out of gas but I did my best to look happy as I crossed. (official photos not available yet.)
3. Post Race:
No medal for the 5.8 runners but immediately, we were given a water and a heat blanket.
I grabbed some food (bagel, apple, pretzels) and headed to retrieve my bag. I was very sweaty so needed my jacket (even though it had warmed up quite a bit from the morning.)
I found Cari and we walked out of park to our brunch location where we would be meeting Elizabeth.
Brunch was outstanding as was the company.
We strolled together stopping in a book store and a gluten-free bakery before we bid farewell. And of course, I walked all the way back to my hotel.
I still had time between checking out of the hotel and catching my train back home. So I walked around the Macy’s Flower Show and Bryant Park (got rained on again briefly. lol.)
4. Additional race reflections:
It was strange to spend the weekend in NYC and not run 13.1 miles. In the end, it was a good decision.. No regrets.
- Organized packet pick-up at NYRR (several days before and even on Saturday and race day)
- Lots of porta potties at the start and throughout the course
- Rea restrooms in the park
- Bag Check
- Organized corral start (by pace) for both races.
- Beautiful course through scenic Central Park with cherry blossoms at their peak.
- Lots of water stops (every mile) and all had Gatorade.
- The runners and their contagious excitement.
- ALL WOMENS RACE
- Great crowd support along the course.
- Free one-year subscription to Health magazine
- Perfect weather.
- One loop option in addition to the half marathon.
- Small expo and music after.
- Immediate results
- 5 year age group (awards mailed)
- Free photos
- The Hills.
- No expo at packet pick-up.
- Chilly morning temps
Would I recommend this race?
Overall, I really loved this race. The course was beautiful yet challenging. The weather was perfect. The energy of the volunteers and all the women running were spectacular.
5. Final Stats:
But a PR since I had never raced this distance before. I had no goals and I had no idea if this was a decent finish time for this course since most of the time I have run TWO loops.
I looked after the race:
5M = 9:24 pace, 10K = 9:26 – in 2018 and 2019 and age group winners both times.
And yes, I have obviously slowed down but I am still out there.
No aches and pains. Feet feeling great!!!
I am very happy!!!
Happy Running! Do you have a favorite NYC race? Have you run in Central Park? Have you ever run the Shape Half? Please share.
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