By some miracle, I was able to register last-minute for the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon on Saturday, May 19. And despite the rain and cold, it is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life, hence this Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon recap.
First of all, it’s called the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon because Banco Popular sponsors it, not because it’s popular (although approximately 25,000 people ran it, and it’s the largest half marathon in the US). The New York Road Runners put it on (they’re also the ones that put on the New York City Marathon), and the course runs around Prospect Park in Brooklyn and down Ocean Avenue, finishing at Coney Island. The subway goes almost right to the start line and is close to the finish line, so it would be an easy race to get to from my hotel in Manhattan. I realized that I was going to be at a conference the weekend of the race, so I emailed NYRR to see if there were, by some chance, any spots open. There were, so it was definitely meant to be.
The Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon
I woke up the morning of the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon with glutes still sore from pistol squats (one-legged squats) on Wednesday and completely exhausted from speaking Friday at the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference on Friday (and waking up to a rattly AC unit in my hotel room, thanks, Element Times Square West). Of course, it was already raining, and I scurried to the subway, making it onto the train thanks to a fellow runner who held the door for me.
In fact, pretty much everyone on that are-you-kidding o’clock train was running. Like, yes, it’s 50 degrees, raining, and yucky, but we’re all on this train to run Brooklyn. I sat across from some guys speaking CrossFit, and it felt like home as I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We all got off at the same stop and walked toward the start line (I was Wave 1, Corral L), where we took off our watches and phones and passed through metal detectors.
And then I had an hour to kill, so I stretched and tried to warm up, went to the bathroom, ate my banana and drank my pre-workout – and had to wait even LONGER once the race started. I was talking to a couple of younger ladies who run marathons, and they were so friendly. Don’t let anyone tell you New Yorkers are mean. Later in the race, as they were passing me, they cheered, “Go, Houston!”
Anyhow, the race started at 7 a.m., but due to the corral spacing, I didn’t actually cross the start line of the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon until around 7:35 a.m. Yes, I had to go to the bathroom badly. No, I could not worm my way back to the porta-potties very easily. No, my bladder does not function well, ever since having children. It was an incredibly uncomfortable situation, but one I did manage to solve.
But once I crossed, I was off! I set a goal to run a 1:55, given the weather and my general fatigue. That meant around an 8:45/minute mile, which seemed daunting, given the hills in Prospect Park. We dodged puddles (and each other) and ran through such a gorgeous space, even though the rain didn’t let up. I think I might have fallen a little in love with Prospect Park during those first seven miles. I know I was smiling despite the rain. It’s really a beautiful place, and I’d love to explore it more on my next trip to New York.
As I expected, the hills during miles five and six got me – I ran my slowest pace, an 8:57 and an 8:51, respectively. If you live in Houston, you don’t really get to train hills. I knew this would be the case, so I didn’t worry too much. But I did ask my nice new friends, “Is this hill over with yet?” After the seven-mile marker, it was all flat on Ocean Avenue, and I kept a pretty steady pace. In fact, I’m super-proud of the steady pace I held:
I loved seeing so much police presence; it made me feel a lot safer, and they did a good job handling the pedestrians that darted across Ocean Avenue. Due to the rain, we didn’t have crowd support, but there were aid stations along the way. I smiled when we crossed under the bridge to head to Coney Island, but I also felt a little sad. It was almost over! And then we were running down the boardwalk, trying so hard not to slip on the wet wood. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:54:36, right at my goal time and without feeling like I had pushed myself too hard.
At the finish line of the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon, we were given a Mylar blanket, a bag of post-race snacks (an apple, a protein bar, a bottle of water, Gatorade, and pretzels), and of course, our medals:
It’s not a fancy medal, and it doesn’t have to be. It’s a race I’ve wanted to do, and I got to check it off my imaginary bucket list.
I didn’t stick around for the post-race party or hot dogs or anything like that. I was cold, wet, and tired, and I hadn’t brought a gear check bag. It seemed like it would be more trouble than it was worth, so I was hoodie-less. I huddled under my Mylar blankie and walked to the subway with the rest of the herd, shivering while we waited for the train to start. There was no cell phone service, which made me very anxious, until I got to the actual subway station. Once again, I found myself chatting with some very nice New Yorkers. Y’all made this Texan feel very welcome, and I loved running with you!
And I’m so glad I got to run the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon! I spent the rest of the day trying to warm up (it rained all day, even when I went to get my Shake Shack burger) and failing miserably, and then on my flight back home, it was so turbulent that I wasn’t allowed to even go to the bathroom (fortunately, I didn’t drink a lot of water!)
But really, none of that mattered. What a great experience, and a great time!