Would you be willing to use a toilet in a Cosi that doesn’t flush after dozens of runners have used it just to make sure you can get to the starting line on time? Thanks to the Newport Half Marathon this year, I now know that I’m willing to make this kind of sacrifice for a good run. And it was totally worth it.
Nearing the end of my marathon training schedule, I only decided to run the Newport Liberty Half Marathon after I won a free entry from Yelp. The Newport Half was one of the first races I had heard of in the New York area, aside from the NYC marathon of course. Back when I first started running it had been mentioned to me, but I was no where near ready or in shape to run a half. Now, I use it as a tapering run before a marathon. What happened to me?
Compared to the larger New York Road Runners’ races across the river, this race through the streets of Jersey City is fairly small, but that comes with some perks. I arrive only about 20 minutes before the race starts, quickly pick up my bib and shirt (a nice long sleeve tech shirt), and find the aforementioned Cosi. The starting line and corrals aren’t especially well organized with a few signs loosely suggesting lining up by pace, though of course no one does. This means the first couple miles are an exercise in dodging between slower runners and trying to find a pocket of space, one of my biggest running pet peeves. At least I don’t have to stand still at the start for an extended period of time.
The race takes place each summer at the very end, just before fall. This year, after a few chilly cool mornings, perfect for long distance runs, this weekend arrives with a heavy, oppressive humidity. A lot of runners don’t heed the warnings to take it slow and take plenty of fluids in the humidity. By the end of the race, I’ve seen the most stopped runners on the side of the path of any race I’ve participated in. Halfway through, I start grabbing two cups of water at each stop just to get enough fluid to replace all the sweat I’m loosing.
The route of the race takes runners through the residential skyscrapers of Newport along the Hudson River. If the clouds weren’t so dense and low, it would be a great view of the city. The pack is pretty tight through the first few miles, but thanks to roads which are shut down only seconds before the first runners arrive and opened up again seconds after the last runner passes, there’s room to spread out.
After the first couple of miles through the city, the streets give way to gravel paths as we enter Liberty State Park, also known as the park with the best views of lower Manhattan, access to Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. It seems fitting to run through this park, where I first ran a competitive race, a 5k, several years earlier. While the 5k didn’t officially kick off my running kick, it did get me going with running on a regular basis and working on my pace and fitness. On this run along the boardwalk of the park, I quickly learned the importance of setting your own pace and not following others going out to fast at the beginning of the race. Even with plenty of training, I burned myself out after a mile and had to walk the rest. Ever since, I still sometimes go out a bit fast and suffer, but have at least learned to be aware of my body’s signs and slow down before burning out.
While running through the park and the boardwalk, I can’t help but reflect on how far my running has come in a few short years. Until about 2012, I didn’t run at all. In high school, I always walked the mile tests. I only began running later after getting inspiration from friends who ran the NYC Marathon and wanting to improve my fitness. I remember the days when I struggled to run a minute at a 10:00 / mile pace on the treadmill.
The humidity begins to really take a toll during this stretch along the river. While we can barely see the city just across the river due to the haze, a complete lack of airflow and even more humidity from the water weigh heavily on us runners. In this stretch I see several runners down on the side of the path recovering or getting emergency hydration. Thankfully my marathon tapering pace keeps me going slow enough to not get overworked though I am completely drenched.
This is my usual part of a race where the crowds thin enough and everyone matches pace where I spend a few miles with the exact same people and try to make plans to beat them. Today isn’t the day for this, so instead I find some good pacers to keep me going at a constant speed and let me zone out a little. This gets me past the park and back into the city. Right as we depart, the haze thins a little and we’re treated to a great view of the city.
The race wraps through the final miles fairly uneventfully. The best part is seeing my boys right before the finish line who for the first time in all the races I’ve done, are actually awake. They spot me and begin waving and laughing uncontrollably. This definitively puts some extra energy in my run and I tear of at the finish line. It’s not even close to a PR for me, but I’m happy to have completed it on this grueling day while actually controlling my pace.
At the finish, surprisingly stocked with a huge number of beverages and snacks, I load up on water and gatorade. I can’t recall another time in my life when my own sweat has cascaded down my nose like this or my shirt being completely plastered to me. We’re meeting up with friends later at their apartment, so on the plus side, I have a place to shower. On the negative side, they might not be my friends much longer after they smell my clothes.