What an absolutely incredible half marathon! It’s official guys, I have a new favorite half marathon and it’s literally in my back yard!
After two years of hosting Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn 10km races, this year Rock’nRoll hosted the first Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon, welcoming over 15,000 runners to Brooklyn. While there were a few bumps, this half marathon features a great course that takes you through diverse areas of Brooklyn, includes hills and flat stretches, has great crowd support, and is easily accesible via subway! What more can you ask for in a half marathon?
Friday afternoon, as soon as we landed from Cincinnati, Amy and I headed to the race expo in hopes of beating the Friday crowds. This expo was located at the Brooklyn Expo Center in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn. While some people said that they felt the expo was too small, I actually loved that we were able to get in and out quickly. The expo was so small that we actually ran into lots of friendly faces including Competitor founder John Smith, Dani and our friend Kelly!
After collecting our bibs we spent the rest of the day enjoying pizza, some mani/pedi pamper time and a pasta dinner which Bo and I hosted for our half marathon family and friends.
Saturday morning we woke up at 5:15, got dressed, sipped coffee and made peanut butter and banana sandwiches which we ate during the 1.5 mile walk to the starting area at Grand Army Plaza. One of our co-workers and mutual friends hooked us up with VIP wrist bands for the race which meant we were able to use the bathrooms and separate bag check located in the Brooklyn Public Library. As soon as we exited the VIP area around 6:50 in order to head to the corrals we could tell things weren’t going as planned. Due to the size of the race, New York and Brooklyn officials required extra security checks which caused a number of bottlenecks. Unfortunately, this meant that it took some people more than 30 minute to get into their corral. Due to these delays as well as delays clearing the course roads, the race didn’t start until 7:28, almost 30 minutes later than initially planned. Luckily, our group of three made friends with other runners and passed the time talking and discussing post race brunch plans. The only feedback I’d provide race directors with for next year is that constant communication to the runners really helps. I’m not sure if it was due to the sound system or overall noise but we couldn’t hear any announcements in our corral during the 30 minute delay.
At 7:30 the three of us crossed the starting line, excited to finally be running the Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half marathon. The cool, 60 degree weather and bright sun was the perfect running weather. As soon as we started our group split up, Amy and I running together and Bo running on his own. Even though we were running separately, we had a similar goal: run strong.
As I’ve mentioned before, Amy is my original running buddy and through good and bad we’d stuck by each other’s side during the ten previous races we’d run together. This half marathon would be no different. We decided to start slow and gradually increase our pace, making sure that we didn’t go out too quickly and could finish strong. I was going to pace us using my watch since Jess had provided me with pace goals. Unfortunately, I once again made a rookie mistake and forgot to charge my watch, thinking it would hold last week’s charge. As soon as I heard the dying beep half way through the first mile, I switched over to Nike Run. I know this app isn’t perfect but it would at least give me a pace gauge.
Amy and I settled into a comfortable pace, chatting and looking at landmarks as we ran through Crown Heights, Kensington and Prospect Park. The crowd support during the initial mile far exceeded my expectations. There were lots of people cheering with signs and warm coffees.
The race course was very different than typical Brooklyn races – it didn’t spend the whole time in Prospect Park nor did it spend too much time on Ocean Parkway. In fact, what many of us loved about the course is that as soon as you got bored with an area it looped you back towards a different neighborhood. Two parts were out and back which is my favorite since I love people watching and spotting friends on the course. There were multiple bands along the course which also included random entertainment acts such as stilt walkers, who let you run through their legs!
The miles quickly ticked by as we held our pace in the low 9’s ranging from 9:11 to 9:02 for the first half of the race. We took fuel multiple times during the race, beginning at mile 3. I took two Honey Stinger chews at mile 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 which really worked well for me. By mile 11 I ate the entire pack which could explain why I never hit a wall during the race. There were 10 water stations on the course, more than enough for the weather and crowds. Based on the Rock’n’Roll official results, we hit the 10k at 56:20 or a 9:14 pace, which confirms that Nike Plus Running was a bit off track as it showed us keeping a pace faster than 9:11 for the entire first half.
When we reached the out and back, we were both feeling good so I decided to drop our pace a bit each mile, exactly in line with the race plan Jess provided. I knew in the back of my head that a sub-2 hour pace was 9:09 and that is only if you run the tangents perfectly. Since I figured we’d kept around a 9:10 so far, I felt that a sub 2 was within our ability. At this point we both put in our headphones, ready for some distraction and energy as we headed back to the final few miles of the course which would also be the hilliest.
I had flashbacks to the New York City marathon as we entered Prospect Park at mile 10. There was a ton of crowd support and we were ready to be done. But, just like the marathon, we had the quite a few hilly miles in the park to finish before we could cross the finish line. I knew that Anne was cheering around mile 12.5, just the motivation I needed to get there as quickly as possible. Around mile 11 I heard Amy say that she needed to slow down. She urged me to run ahead but that wasn’t our plan for the day. We finish races together and we never leave each other even during the toughest of moments. I slowed the pace, telling her that she could do this and that we’d finish together. Even though our pace slowed to around a 9:25, we never stopped running and powered up each of the small, rolling hills unlike many of the runners around us. I was amazed at the number of people walking the hills! I guess most people weren’t ready for the hilly course.
We waved and screamed as we ran by Anne at mile 12, knowing that we were almost done. We both wanted nothing more than to finish so we picked up the pace that final mile as we entered a slight down hill and turn towards the finish. You could hear the families and friends cheering as we approached the bottleneck finish line and crossed over, ensuring that we made it across both the finish line mats.
Our final time was 2:01:20, strong enough for a 3-second PR and definitely a confidence booster as I continue training for the Savannah Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon. While we didn’t hit the elusive sub 2-hours, we accomplished our goal of running a strong, smart race and finishing together and that will always be more important.
We claimed our medals and headed over to the VIP area where we met up with Bo for food and massages. We also had the chance to celebrate the race finish with Dani and Megan, Rock’n’Blog Ambassadors.
The VIP Area was impressive and included everything you’d want post race including sweet and savory food, ice, water, massage stations, foam rollers, and even a mini shower station including deodorant, wipes and dry shampoo. Huge thank you to John Smith, who we are cheesing it up with below, for the VIP wrist bands!!
We roamed the finish area and enjoyed a few minutes of Nate Ruess, the Rock’n’Roll post race concert, before indulging in a delicious Bloody Mary and brunch at Stone park Cafe.
*A few pictures are from the Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn coverage.