The race was starting at 7:30 on Sunday morning. I woke up at 4:45 so not to have to rush out and to take my time to properly and leisurely wake up. I looked on the baguette and nutella I bought the day before, but didn’t feel hungry (still I stashed the bread in the transparent plastic bag I was given at the Expo: just in case).
The coffee was brewing when Seba – the friend I was staying with – came back from a party. It always feels a bit weird meeting someone who’s going to sleep when you’ve just woken up; he wished me luck and fell soundly asleep. I left in no hurry and walked the silent streets to the station; it was no later than 6am and many hours away from the bustling city I’m used to.

This year I managed to get to the starting line on time. It was so early that the sun was only shyly coming out above the Upper East Side and the port-a-potties had lines no longer than a couple of people.
Lazily seeing more and more people coming, I started some dynamic stretches and few matrix lunge routines. I should have probably checked the watch more often, in fact next time I looked down on it, it was almost 7am and I still had to check my bag in and the corrals were closing on 7:10. I rushed to the UPS buses (bags will be carried to the finish line) and, on the way to the corral, I had a … err Nature call. The field was of 11,000+ people — one of the biggest for a Half Marathon — and the port-a-potties lines were now stretching well into the Park.
I managed everything and jogged to the corral, which fortunately wasn’t closed, just moments before the start. (At least this time I had a small warm-up, I thought.)

Split 1 – 7:13 min/mi
Split 2 – 7:03
Split 3 – 7:05
Split 4 – 7:16
Split 5 – 7:03

Central Park. The best miles of the entire race, and I usually hate the first miles of any race, no matter how short it is. The Park was still in an almost perfect silence with people still comfortably sleeping at home and Nature starting to wake up. On the field, no one was talking and all one could have heard was the steps of thousands runners: the scene had some magic, I think, no runners could miss.

Split 6 – 7:17
Split 7 – 7:24
Split 8 – 7:55

Central Park. As we were winding around the Park, we could start to see more “laymen”. Some were fans, but many were just curious to see the Park almost suddenly invaded by a hoard of runners. Even more curious was to see other runners and joggers; it always surprises me a bit to see other runners in Central Park during, but not participating to, a race. It’s hard to say why … but it’s a kind of a contrast scene.
As you can see from my splits, I was slowing down a bit, the reason was … another Nature call. I hate when it happens, probably every runners hate it, but, at roughly half of the race, I couldn’t simply suck it up, so I decided for a “pee stop” wasting probably a minute or so.

Split 9 – 6:58
Split 10 – 7:03

5th Ave – Last year when I ran this very same race I didn’t really enjoy the crossing of Times Sq, I was in so much pain that I can now only remember to have been thinking about water and water station. This year, in spring instead of summer, hydrating was a much minor problem and I could finally understand why everybody was talking about the “running in Times Sq” experience when remembering the NYC Half. Having been a New Yorker, I hate Times Sq with all my heart: it’s a pointless, over-crowded part of the city I always with any means avoid. But during a race, it was completely different: 5th Ave was closed to traffic, not just one lane but the entire avenue, and runners were spreading in all its width. After having been running in the quietness of the park, it’s a eerie experience being at the heart of a city. We felt very small by being surrounded by some of the tallest buildings in the country and by that ocean of light that is Times Sq; at the same time, we were at its very center, feeling that the city that never sleeps had closed (temporarily) its businesses for us and for us only. A magical experience.

Split 11 – 7:00
Split 12 – 7:07
Split 13 – 7:00 + 39s (~6:30)

Crossing Times Sq then bending on 42nd towards the Hudson, we had to wind up north to then U-turning down: very annoying!
About my running: I live in a pretty hilly region, so I train always on running hills. This is great (I love hills) but makes me feel slightly uncomfortable on flat, and along the Hudson river that is as flat as it can get. I don’t really know what to do with it; on hills it’s a continuous changing gears, running strong up-hill, then controlled and relaxed down-hill, but on flat? What am I supposed to do? I do have to add more flat terrain and track on my training, especially considering I registered for Chicago, one of the flattest marathons in US.

On crossing the finish line my watch clocked 1:34:10, a personal record (PR) for me, almost 5 minutes faster than my previous. Despite that I was mildly disappointed and still am somewhat; I felt I was running on my hard but comfortable zone, not being in the mood for running harder. I was probably still a bit heavy from the dinner I had the night before (another good lesson: no apple tarts!) and never felt during the entire race on my “race zone”: I ran as fast as I could but without really pushing and giving that all-you-have which, I think, a race should be.
On the other hand, I know that time was possibly the best I could get after coming out from a very long recovery, which forced me to start back training later and averaging less miles per week than I wanted.