Let’s be real. Half marathons are hard. This isn’t a new concept if you’ve been following along – running isn’t easy.
However, some half marathons I’ve ran have been harder than others.
Yesterday I ran my first half marathon since October (which ended…poorly), the Fred Lebow Half Marathon.
Fred Lebow is the man who founded the New York City Marathon in 1970. The first running of the race was 6 loops of Central Park, with 55 registrants and 45 finishers. He ran his last marathon in 1992, for his 60th birthday while fighting cancer. Lebow was also president of the New York Road Runners for twenty years. There’s even a movie all about it.
So basically, I owe this guy a lot.
What I really dig about Fred (cool if I call you that?) is that he was never an elite. He sat right in the middle, sometimes in the back. He started running for the love of the sport with a bunch of guys in Central Park. He had an iconic hat and facial hair, hence the medal graphic.
Each year, New York Road Runners, puts on a race in Fred’s memory – loops around Central Park.
Last year, in 2016, the race was cancelled due to Winter Storm Jonas, and this year, it was back with a vengeance, with three loops of the top 2/3 of Central Park. This included two trips up Harlem Hill and the west side rolling sisters, and 3 elevations up Cat Hill.
This race was set up to be a mental inferno. Having run in Central Park for the last three years, I’ve looped the mark many times, but having a bib and a timer and not a real option to stop, well — that’s when things get a bit more complicated.
One thing that makes any hard run better is someone with you. That’s why I reached out and ran with my new friend Zoe (@milesfitter).
This was the first race I didn’t pop in my headphones, and acknowledged the discomfort of the hills, faced them head on and embraced the downhills – out loud. We made friends on the course (Good luck in Tokyo, Julie!!) and WE GOT THROUGH IT.
It felt pretty major to cross that finish line, and pretty epic to get out of my comfort zone in a place where I’m most comfortable. On the run, in the park.
This race was weird one, but really changed some outlooks for me. Here they are in bullet form:
I didn’t feel super ready for this race. Only two months out of the New York Marathon, I had only one double digit run, and just a handful of runs between 7-9 miles. Because of being in Hoboken I hadn’t gotten my regular hill grooming, and honestly, I just haven’t been in that zone. When I saw Zoe post about feeling in the same weird spot, I knew we’d be able to help each other. And we did! It wasn’t pretty, but it was real. We didn’t hit our paces every mile, but we got through them.
F*ck a PR
One of the things we discussed on the run was the mental exhaustion of the run. When I ran my first half, I signed up for my second. My second was faster than my first, and my third, less than :15 within my second. Therefore, I made the rule that every race has to be better than the last. It takes a really sh*tty race to make it clear that that’s really never going to be a reality. This race wasn’t it, thankfully. During the #FLHM I carried the knowledge that every race won’t be a PR, but it’ll be miles in the bank and experience.
“We’re all in this TOGETHER.” Said High School Musical, but also a lovely runner on the course. Julie, a Team For Kids runner, kept appearing at around the same spot on the course with every loop. We ran alongside her and a few of her teammates and talked about the Women’s March, Team For Kids, her goal of running the World Majors, and of course — the freaking hills. Make friends on that course. If it’s awkward they’ll speed up, and then they have you to thank for a fast time.
Nobody’s an island
This goes back infinitely closely to all my points, but don’t be an island. This city, like most, has an overwhelming amount of resources for runners. I’ve been too weary of tapping into them, maybe cause it’s so overwhelming, or maybe because I think I’m fine on my own, or maybe because I’m scared of being the last one out there on a run. Those are all really dumb and expired reasons.