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13 Amazing Moments from the Brooklyn Half Marathon

 

Well, I did it! Race day has come and gone, and it was as exciting as I’d hoped. I woke up at 5 a.m. on Saturday, after barely more than three hours of sleep (damn you, people honking outside my window all night!), then met my friend Christina at Grand Central Station. The subway was packed with runners and the excitement started to take hold even before we got to Brooklyn. We got off the train in time to see the first wave start, and then made our way to security for the second wave corrals.

After waiting in the slowest-moving bathroom line ever, Christina and I got ready to go. We wanted to start together, so I inched my way up to her corral, even though you’re only supposed to shift down, not up. Before I knew it, we were at the start line. Christina darted off, out of sight in moments—the girl is fast—and it was just me and the awesome playlist I’d spent hours composing the night before. Oh, and about 30,000 other runners. (Yep, you read that right. This race had 26,482 finishers, making it the biggest half marathon in the country.)

Much of the race was a blur—it went by so quickly. Most of what I remember feeling is awestruck (at the amount of people at the start), happy (up to about mile 9, when my legs started to hurt, and then again at the finish), and exhausted (self-explanatory). But there are a few moments I’ll never forget. (Learn 17 Things to Expect When Running Your First Marathon.)

1. Starting with my BFF. A few years ago, when we were roommates, Christina signed up for her first half marathon, trained for it, and owned it. Then she did a bunch more halfs, two full marathons, and a slew of other races, inspiring me to try for 13.1. We’ll celebrate our 10-year-friendiversary this fall, and she’s been by my side for so many important life moments. It felt completely right to start this one together.

2. When a rando spit up all over me. I’m not sure why I wasn’t more grossed out by this, but somewhere around mile four, a stranger spit out an entire cup of water on my back. His explanation: He thought it was Gatorade. What?

3. “This hill is your bitch.” There were a ton of funny/motivating/puzzling spectator signs, but this one came right when I needed it. Just before the steepest incline of the course (a big hill in Prospect Park), it started to rain. The combination of uphill plus getting soaked plus rain getting in my eyes was, to say the least, unpleasant. Then I saw the sign and got a burst of “I can do this!” energy. (Take a look at the 26 Best Marathon Signs from Spectators.)

4. The moment the rain stopped. No explanation needed.

5. Running down a totally empty Ocean Parkway. Seeing this very-busy highway totally clear of cars was super cool and also kind of eerie. The traffic lights were still on, and as I ran I watched them change from green to yellow to red to green again.

6. A kiss at mile eight. My spectating husband, Mike, texted me his location so I’d be sure not to miss him. I was more than halfway done at that point, and knowing I’d be seeing him soon really boosted my energy. I was so excited that I sprinted to him, waving furiously like a madwoman, gave him a kiss, and then sprinted away.

7. “You’re going faster than the BQE!” Another great (and probably true) sign. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is a notoriously traffic-jammed highway. The Borough-specific signs like this one were some of my favorites.

8. Seeing the 400 meters to go sign. Everything hurt by this point, and seeing that sign made me so, so happy.

9. Crossing the finish line. Once you get on the boardwalk, it’s less than 200 meters to the end, and the finish line is right in sight. The Atlantic Ocean is on your left and the iconic boardwalk is on your right. At that point, I took off my headphones so I could fully take in the experience. Then I crossed the finish line, felt pretty dazed and a little dizzy, and wandered around like a lost puppy for a few minutes. Then I got some snacks and Gatorade and felt human again.

10. Realizing I met my time goal. I know I’m never going to be a speedster. But as much as I told people (and myself) that I was going to focus on finishing and having fun, and not too much on my time, I did have a goal in mind. I really wanted to finish at about 10 minutes per mile. My pace was 10:06 for a finish time of 2:12:19—close enough for me!

11. The giant ice cream cone (with chocolate sprinkles) that I ate afterwards.The classic Coney Island meal is a hot dog from Nathan’s, but once I saw someone walking around with soft serve, it was all I wanted to eat. And I did, and it was delicious.

12. Calling my family. Every day for the past few weeks, my grandfather has asked me about the day’s training. He was so excited for me to run this race, and so proud of me for taking on the challenge. He and my grandmother really wanted to come cheer me on, but logistics got in the way. Talking to them on the phone afterwards and hearing their proud voices, though, filled me with joy. They reminisced about watching me score my first soccer goal and I remembered them dragging themselves out to my childhood 7 a.m. weekend swim meets. Sharing this experience with them, and my parents, and my in-laws—even if by phone—made it even more special.

13. Celebrating! After feasting on the boardwalk, Christina, Mike, and I headed back to the city. Later, we met up with more friends for celebratory beers, and then Mike and I went out for dinner where I ordered a giant, oh-so-satisfying burger. Afterwards, we walked (!) home and I got into bed, where I had the best, deepest sleep of my life. Mission accomplished.

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