Race Review: NYC Half Marathon

Hilary and Brian Topper ran NYC Half Marathon

This was a race review of the NYC Half Marathon before they changed the course.

My husband and I woke up at 5 a.m. and turned on the television to find that the weather was in the 30s and windy. We quickly got dressed wearing layers of clothes. I ended up wearing my Nike pants and my Brooks Plum Jacket. Over that, I proudly wore my Team for Kids bright yellow tank top with my number on the outside. We threw on some old polar tech sweaters and hurried down Wall Street in search of the number 6 subway. (For those of you who do not live in the city, the number 6 is the East Side local line.)

On our way to the NYC Half

It was exciting to see all the runners on the subway. Most of us were squished on one side of the train because someone who was on the subway before us threw up on the other side, and everyone was trying to avoid that area.

We caught the express train, which ended up being a local. When we finally got to 103nd Street, a group of us walked off the train, up the stairs, and headed directly to Central Park. With every step, I got more and more excited that this day was finally here and I was going to attempt to run it in three hours or less.

In the Brown Coral

We were in the Brown coral. My husband and I had similar numbers and we stood together and waited for the opening ceremony. All of the runners were talking with us. Everyone was friendly and looking forward to the race. I turned on my Nike app on my iPhone and started to listen to the music.

When the bullhorn blew, we were off. I was determined to get through the park. The park was an eight-mile loop. I was told that if you don’t get through the eight miles within a certain time frame, they would take you off the course.

Do I need music?

I didn’t want to stop. So I didn’t. I kept running. Then suddenly, my iPod stopped working. There was no music. Could I possibly do this without music? Then I realized that I didn’t need music.

The crowds, the environment, and the entertainment on the streets were my music. I was just determined to concentrate on making this run happen. I repeated to myself, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this!

On the course

As I ran through the park, I looked up at the buildings and looked over at the reservoir. It was so amazing! I felt so small in this large place and at the same time, I felt like I was running in my own town.

Like some of the other NYC Road Runners races, there was music and entertainment at several spots along the route. It really made the whole experience fun, especially when I passed a big chicken playing a stand up bass.

The hills were tough. I found them very hard and yet, I didn’t want to stop running for fear of being disqualified. So I kept it up. I saw the children who were benefiting from Team for Kids, the charity I raised money for, and they screamed my name, which motivated me to go on.

Breathing hard

I was breathing so heavy and another runner ran alongside me who said that there was only a little more to go before we exited the park and then “It’s all down hill from there.” She was very encouraging and got me through the end of the park.

Coming out of the park and onto the streets of Manhattan was amazing. There were lots of people cheering, while all the runners took over the streets.

Running across 42nd Street

I think the best part was when we ran across 42nd Street. There were so many people on the street and a DJ was loudly playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” The music and the people energized me. The neon signs and the billboards felt as if they belonged to the runners. The only bad thing about this part of the run was that there were potholes everywhere, and I was afraid I was going to fall.

At this point, mile nine, my legs were hurting, my feet were swollen with blisters, and my hips and my knees were killing me.

West Side Highway

Once I got to the West Side Highway, my motivation was low. We were close to the Hudson River and the wind was blowing hard against us. Suddenly out of nowhere, a Team for Kids coach, Ryan, started to run alongside us.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m hurting but determined to finish,” I said.

“You will finish,” he said. “You’re doing great. Just two more miles to go.”

At this point, my husband sped past me. He was running so fast there was no way I was going to catch up.

Last two miles

So, for the last two miles, Ryan ran with me. He encouraged me to keep running and not to walk. He told me that I was working twice as hard as everyone else because of my short stride.

He tried to get my mind off running by asking me what I was going to eat after the race and what I did the night before the race. As we ran together, people were screaming, “Go Hilary, Go Team for Kids!”

“You’re almost there,” he said as we approached the 800 meters to go sign. “It’s just a quarter mile, and you know that’s nothing.”

At the finish line

I sped up when I saw the 400 meters sign. I ran faster and crossed the finish line in exactly three hours.

As I caught my breath, members of the NY Road Runners Club took my photo, then provided me with a medal and a blanket.

We saw another Team for Kids coach who told us to come to the Team for Kids booth where we were given water and greeted as if we were old friends. The coaches were hugging me and giving me words of encouragement that I accomplished what I set out to accomplish, which was a big achievement.

I looked over at the river and saw the Statue of Liberty. I started to cry. This was important to me and I didn’t think I could make it but I did.