NYC Half Preview
The NYRR NYC Half is something of a polarizing race. Some people grumble about the high price, overcrowding, and more of the usual complaints about big NYRR races. On the other hand, some love the race. They point to the nice expo, spectator support, the excitement of running through Times Square, blah, blah, blah. Those people are like the ones who look you in the eye and tell you they get Playboy for the articles. Here's what everyone really likes about the NYC Half: it's fast. Really, really fast. There's a net elevation loss, the second half of the race is flatter than piss on a platter, plus there's usually a tailwind for most of the race, and cool temperatures, so they're just begging you to PR. Here's what you need to know. Technically speaking, the NYC Half course is what's known as a mullet course - business in the front, party in the back. In order to take advantage of the aforementioned flat, fast terrain later in the race, you need to stay calm early on. Keep in mind that not only is the start densely crowded with 20,000 pesky runners who are in your way, but it starts up Cat's Paw Hill. Wasting energy by zigging and zagging in an effort to get around them others, or expecting to run anywhere near your would be a mistake. Instead of worrying about folks who let their adrenaline get the best of them and go out aggressively, you would be well served to stay calm and think about the joy you'll feel as you pass those yahoos later in the race. The only other significant climb in the race will come after mile 3 as you go up Harlem Hill. By then the crowd will have thinned out, but you'd still be unwise to attack the hill. Instead, focus on your form, keep your effort level and heart rate comparable to that on the flats, and don't worry that your pace slows slightly. You'll have plenty of time to make up for anything you lose here.
After you reach the top of Harlem Hill it's mostly rollers (that most New Yorkers are familiar with) until you exit Central Park. At that stage, your average pace should be a few seconds per mile slower than your overall goal pace. Why? Because this course is built for you to run fast over the second half, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to gain back any lost time. With the hills of the park in your rearview mirror, you can gradually accelerate as you head town 7th Avenue, across 42nd Street, and over to the West Side Highway. By all means go under your overall goal pace, but don't totally let loose until after the ten mile mark. Then, with just 5k to go, you should still be feeling strong, and able to accelerate even more through the finish. Focus on picking off 2-3 runners for every one that passes you over the last few miles. Think back to the runners who started the race like the were shot out of a cannon, or those who traversed the road or didn't run tangents early on, and feel glad that you resisted those temptations because now you're ready to leave all of them behind.
Best of luck to the City Coach, Race2Rebuild, and JackRabbit runners, as well as all our other friends out there on Sunday.