The Brooklyn Half (and a request).

I ran the Brooklyn half last weekend. I really had no business running it. I was injured from running two races the weekend before. But I’m stubborn. Most runners are. So, I ran it. And I loved it. I’m proud of myself for finishing at all. Due to injury, I was betting against myself. And looking back, I do wish I’d run it better.

You see, I’d been excited about this particular course because, unlike the course in DC, you get the hills out of the way by mile 7 and then it’s super flat for the entire second half. In fact, when I signed up for it, I was pretty sure I’d get a “Personal Best”. I was wrong.

I started off solid. I started off steady. Everyone will tell you, “Never go out strong! Slow and steady wins the race!” Blah blah blah. They’re right. So I went out at my comfortable 10K pace (10 minutes per mile for hilly runs). And behold, I hit the 6-mile mark and felt great. I had the energy to continue! I was on pace. I was doing really well.

(Incidentally, I’ve no idea what’s up with my legs in this picture. They aren’t dented. Strange light? Weird.)

As I exited the park, the hills behind me once and for all, I spotted a little girl holding a sign that read, “Don’t stop running! People are watching you!” And I laughed out loud.

Laughter makes for great fuel.

Another guy had on a t-shirt on that read, “HALFWAY THERE!”

We were! We were halfway there! And I had the energy to finish!

As I merged onto Ocean Parkway, I ran over a dead rat. Perhaps it was a sign, because half mile later, I started to fall apart. First it was my right knee, then my left ankle and finally my right hip.

At mile 8, I saw a dead parrot, a fully intact, beautiful green parrot. Someone’s pet? This bummed me out a great deal. And of course I read meaning into it. Who wouldn’t?

Things got worse.

I stopped at a medical tent at mile 9 and grabbed a bag of ice. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the bag of ice, especially while running, but I had it.

I thought about quitting several times. I walked and held the ice against my knee. Things were getting uglier by the minute.

And then I started fighting with myself.

“You’re carrying ice, Michele! You look like a fool! You should stop. Just stop, Michele. Sit down. Just stop. You can stop. No one will care. You’re injured!

“I can’t stop.”

“Yes, you can. What if you’re so injured you can’t run at all anymore?”

“I can’t stop. This is Brooklyn. And if I stop I can’t wear the shirt. You know how I am about wearing shirts for unrun races. I want to wear the stupid shirt.”

“What are you going to do with this bag of ice? Carry it over the finish line? You’ll look ridiculous! You look ridiculous now, carrying a bag of ice during a half marathon. Just quit.”

Then I heard the sound of flesh hitting the pavement. I didn’t see it happen, but I heard her body hit the ground hard. Someone behind me had fallen. Another female runner stopped and waved over a NYRR volunteer who was on it immediately. The woman who’d fallen said she was fine. I was still fighting with myself while jogging. I was also still carrying the bag of ice. I had an idea. I stopped jogging and walked back to the woman who’d fallen. I touched her shoulder and said, “Ice?”

It was as though I’d offered her a ride. She lit up, “Oh my goodness! Yes!”

I gave her a quick rub on the back and jogged away.

“There! It’s gone! Now shut up about the ice and looking stupid!”

And that other voice, she didn’t say another word. She remained silent. (Or perhaps I’d left her behind.)

During both half marathons, I’ve lost consciousness. Not in the true sense of the word; I’m still blinking and breathing and alive; I’m still functioning. It’s more like my brain just stops thinking. It happened at mile 10 during both races. After mile 10, I simply can’t tell you what actually happened, or anything I thought about. It’s thoughtlessness, pure stupidity, beautiful brainless enlightenment. Simply put: it’s f*cking awesome. There’s no last minute. There’s no next minute. There aren’t minutes at all. There simply just is. There’s just a right now and even that’s gone right away. I LOVE that feeling. And even though I don’t usually know it’s happening while it’s happening, it’s the most profound, amazing feeling ever.

I think that’s why I run. I’m chasing nothingness.

And that feeling (or lack thereof) saw me to the Coney Island finish line. It also had me grinning like an imbecile.

I’m super proud of myself for finishing, but I sincerely wish I’d done better. I want better times. I want to be a better runner. That’s my new goal.

Stats and Boring Stuff

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to write on here lately because all I want to write about is running and I know that’s really boring. But I think I need to now because I want a record of what I’ve been doing. So, forgive me, but I’m going to ramble for a bit and document some stuff. I need to see progress eventually because I’ve been growing a little discouraged.

I’ve been beating myself up over my inability to beat a personal best for a 4-miler in Central Park, so I decided to look back over my stats on RunKeeper. In May of last year (3 months postpartum), I was running up to 2 miles at a 12-mile pace. Not great, but not too bad for just having had a baby.

In September, after running at most 2 times each week, I was able to finish a 4-mile run with NYRR in 38 minutes 45 seconds. That’s an average pace of 9 minutes, 41 seconds per mile. (I should mention I was also 10 pounds thinner than I am now thanks to an overactive thyroid.) I was VERY proud of my progress especially considering I was still just 7 months postpartum.

I ran here and there into the fall and winter, probably 8 to 10 times a month. I never did more than 2 to three miles unless I had a race. Running helped me clear my head. It was my alone time. That’s why I did it.

But I craved a bigger goal. So in November I signed up for the lottery to run the NYC half marathon. I told myself that if I got in, I’d train properly. I’d make a schedule and put my all into running. Finally.

On December 30th, I found out I didn’t make it into the half. I was heartbroken, frankly. But my brother came to the rescue suggesting I run the DC Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon scheduled the day before the NYC half. Perfect! I signed up.

I began my training on December 31st. From that day until the first week of March, I ran four times a week with one long run on Saturdays. I followed this schedule. I saw progress, but more importantly, I didn’t see injury.

I signed up for a bunch of NYRR races. They offer a 9+1 option. Basically, any member who finishes 9 races and volunteers for one during a calendar year is guaranteed a spot in the NYC ING Marathon for the following year. As testament to how much I’ve run since January, I finished my 9 last Saturday. So, should I ever decide I am actually able to run 26.2 miles, I have a chance to in 2013.

Anyway, on March 17th, I ran the DC half. And I was proud of myself and my time. So with Brooklyn, even though I was injured and betting against myself, I wanted to see progress. And I didn’t. I was a little bummed.

My brother tells me I’m running too much and I think he’s onto something. I’m doing too much, too soon. I started reading this book and they seem to think the same thing. Because I’m getting slower, not faster. While my 4-mile and 10K race paces are very consistent, anything more than that, I slow way, way down. My half marathon pace is SUPER slow—at around 2 hours, 30 minutes. This is partly due to injury, but it’s also that I simply slow down after 7 miles.

I want to finish faster. I want a new goal. I want to be faster and more efficient.

I’m 38. I won’t ever be a really fast runner. But I want to be steady and good at it. I don’t really have many regrets in life. But not running earlier—like, not sticking to it all those times in the past I’d start and then stop—well, that’s a huge regret of mine. Had I stuck with running at age 27, when I realized how much I enjoyed it, I might be pretty damn great at it by now.

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

By November of this year, I would like to run the half in 2 hours, 10 minutes. Is that crazy? Can I do this? I’m not sure, but that’s my new goal. We’re running the Disney Wine and Dine half in November and I want to look back on this post and see a difference. I want to be really proud. I simply want to be faster.

Are There Any Runners Out There? A Moment of Your Time!

Are you a runner? I want to hear from you. When did you start running? How long did it take you to run 13 miles straight? What was your time? I think I’m looking to feel better about my terrible times. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself; maybe I’m not being hard enough on myself. But right now I just want to hear from others. So, if you’re reading this and you’re a distance runner, tell me about yourself. How long? How fast? Suggestions? Help? Anything goes, my friends. Rant, rave, brag. Show off. I want to learn from you.

Edited to add: The lovely Krissa had some great information about the dead parrot! And it made me feel better, so I wanted to share it with everyone. Read more about it here.


  1. First? Talk about running all the time if you want. I love it. I want to talk about it too.

    I tried several Halves (Halfs?) since 2006, training on my own. I was never able to run an entire one, always walking at least a mile or two. I think my BEST time, walking a mile or so, was 2:40’ish.

    Then I signed up for a training class last August for a local half through our Fleet Feet. That’s when I learned about “Speed Work”. We ran hills some nights, did work at the track some nights, and did “Tempo Runs” some nights. All of these things help you with speed. I learned I actually have different paces, who knew?

    Anyway – so my coaches encouraged me to aim for 2:07 at my half based on my speed work. I didn’t pace myself great, started too fast and ended too slow, but I got 2:07.

    BUT – I think my “happy” pace is more like a 10-minute mile for a half marathon. I did one in April and it was about 2:14 and it was perfect. I felt great the entire time.

    My point? You can get faster. (I’m 36.) Through all of that I cut 7 minutes off my 5K time. I did the same 5K two years in a row, the 2nd one being after I took that class , and my 5K time went from 33’ish mins to 26’ish!

    (And now my 5K PR is 25 mins!)

    I think you can get faster, but I also think – for me – that I’m happiest in a race where I’m going a little bit slower than I can go. I can run a half in 2:07, I’ve done it, but I didn’t like it. I liked the 2:15 one…does that make sense?

    Anyway – I hope this helps! I’ve learned so much about running and my potential in the last year I just can’t believe it. I love watching you on the same journey.


  2. Good for you, congrats. It is an accomplishment regardles of the time! I have run one 1/2 in my life. my goal was 2;10 and i missed it by less than a minute and I still think about it…

    I have always been a slower runner, not super slow, but definitely not fast…28ish 5K’s, etc. After my second child I started running again and for some reason decided to get faster. What worked for me (and i am guessing you already do this, but worth a suggestion) is the nike plus on my iphone. I think i used to generally know how far i was going and therefore generally knew how fast i was going, but nothing specific. Using the app where i got my exact time, splits etc WHILE i was running made a huge difference. The biggest difference for me was that i came to know what cadence = what pace. I learned to really pick it up on downhills instead of just coasting b/c the time you can gain there will cover and slowness other places. Sort of making myself accountable instead of just going out for a jog really helped. I have time to run 3 times a week, during the week are 3-5 miles and the weekend was around 7 or just over. The last race i ran was a 5K and i came in at 25:47 which was the fastest i have EVER done and nothing i ever thought i could do.

    meanwhile, i am now 37 1/2 weeks pregnant with my 3rd and haven’t run since i got pregnant, but i am looking forward to getting back into it this summer!


  3. I LOVE reading about running!

    I only really started running 2 years ago with a goal of running a half marathon. Since then I’ve ran 4 halves and recently took a year off from distance to deal with some injuries I didn’t want to deal with before (shin splints).

    My first half was my fastest, I did the Running Room training program and loved the 10:1 paces and managed to finish in sub 2 hours. All of my other races have been over 2 hours, mainly due to lack of training and (I think) a bit of exercise/stress induced asthma.

    I’m back on track for a half in October this year and am aiming for a full (yikes!) in October 2013.


  4. You knew you’d hear from me, right?

    The 2:10 goal is absolutely reasonable for you, and not in the least bit crazy. I ran my first half in November of 2010 in 2:29, and by fall of 2011 I was still only at 2:21. Then, this spring I ran the NYC half in 2:01! (My goal for this fall is sub-2.) You can and will improve as you stick with it; I promise.

    I will suggest that for your next half, look at some training programs that have a bit higher weekly mileage. The one I liked, which was the “Break 2 hours” program from TrainingPeaks, topped out at around 35 miles a week. It was hard to find the time, but I really improved. Also, speed workouts help, big time. I actually just registered for a speedwork class at the JackRabbit on the UWS – it starts next Tuesday if you’re interested! I’ll be there!


  5. I just started running so I have nothing to offer in terms of experience, but I will say this: Please do keep writing about your running! I really look forward to more running-related posts.


  6. Thank you all for the comments! They are definitely helping. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

    Zoot: You’re amazing. I can’t believe you’re doing so well. I’m proud of you. My 5K goal is definitely one day 25. I will make that happen one day. (Right now, my best is around 28 minutes.)

    Rachel: you’ve inspired me. And congrats on your third baby! You’re in the final stretch now. :]

    Ange: I can’t imagine taking an entire year off at this point. I think that’s harder than training! Just kidding. Good luck with getting back into it.

    Tara: I will definitely try and add mileage. It’s SO damn hard with two kids, but I now have some help during the week, so maybe I can make that happen. I have to, right? I just gotta do it.

    I hear tempo runs and hills is the way to go. I only recently added hills to my regular runs. I always dreaded them. And oddly enough, after adding them to my runs, I’ve gotten MUCH better. Now, the 10 K loop through Central Park isn’t so daunting. I always run the hills. This is where I’ve seen the most progress actually. Hills. I guess that’s a good thing.

    I’m doing a 5K through Wall Street next Thursday. I’m giving my body a break until then. Hoping to do a pretty solid race that day though. You guys are helping a great deal. Thank you.

    And keep the stories coming!

    (I, too, love talking about running.)


  7. Hi, Michele. You know me more from cats than running, but I’m a devoted runner who also started late. I was in my 40’s when I started racing, and the Half is my favorite distance. I’ve done tons of them, including one of my best (1:55) about a year ago, in my early 50’s. I’m also injury prone, so I’ve got to work carefully. I think you’d make a lot of progress by building up to running 4 or even 5 times a week. One speed session and one gradually increasing, comfortably paced long run each week will make a huge, huge difference (the other 2 or 3 runs each week can be casual). Build up to one or two runs of 13-15 miles with the last one 2-3 weeks before your race. I find that it’s good to do steady weekly mileage about twice the distance of your target race. You need that endurance base. So about 25/week for a Half. And running with other people is a huge help, especially for speed work. North Brooklyn Runners has both speed and distance sessions that are free, open to anyone and based at McCarren Park track. I’d recommend starting with some of the more social or beginner oriented group runs to get feel for things.

    If you are new to the Half, my best advice in the actual race is to get behind someone that you think is going too slow. And stay there. You’ll drift off, of course. But keep playing that game for 8 miles, or even 9. And then loosen the reins gradually over the remaining miles, if you still want to.

    Contact me offline if you want.


  8. Shawn! Of course I remember you. I think about you often, actually. I thought about you on Saturday. I wondered if you were there, at the front, being awesome.

    When do Brooklyn Runners meet? I know it sounds like an excuse, but I truly don’t have much free time—if any! Weekends are good, but my husband works until 7:30 PM every night and mornings are hard with the kids and school and all.

    I really want to make this work, but I’m not sure when.

    I do have a gym and I have been known to take Elliot down there in the stroller when he naps so I can run on the treadmill. But it’s just not the same. I guess I could start getting up at 5AM!

    I am a morning person, but somehow, it never seems to work out. hahaha


  9. In response to your second comment. Hills are great coaches. And you’ve got a great one in the Williamsburg Bridge. Also, a good target pace for a tempo run is your Half Marathon goal pace. But you won’t be there right away. A little experience with speedwork will help you get a feel for where your limits really are and how to pace yourself while also pushing yourself.


  10. I added the bridge into my short runs. :] It’s great. And I can’t believe it, but I kinda look forward to it now. Weird!

    I also do the NYRR races because the hills in Central Park are awesome and trying and it’s easy to see a difference since it’s the same course.

    You’re an inspiration. I consider you a pretty kick ass runner. I had no idea you started late. You’re truly an inspiration.


  11. Check out the NBR website for the schedule of group runs. I’d suggest starting with the Monday or Wed beginners or the Sat AM Bridge Run. Speedwork is Thursday nights. I haven’t done it with them yet. But I’m planning to. You and I can bring up the rear!


  12. So my brief running history:

    I grew up doing nothing athletic at all. I probably didn’t run more than the length of a basketball court until after I was 23 or 24. I did a 5K here and here but was adamantly against running because I thought I wasn’t built for it.

    In 2008 (I was 25) I signed up for a 8 mile road race on a whim – I was super scared, wore a heart rate monitor on every run, and ran close to an 11-min pace, but I finished. I then signed up for a half in the summer of 2008, trained for a solid 12 weeks, and ran a 1:57. (I have since dropped the heart rate monitor)

    I then ran another half and 2 full marathons in 2009. I was still somewhat terrified and did full training programs for each (12 weeks for the half, 4 months for the fulls). 2nd half – 1:53, full #1 – 4:19, full #2 – 3:55.

    I injured myself in late 2009 (IT band) and didn’t run for about 7 months. I ran another half in the fall of 2010, and 3 in the summer of 2011. My times held pretty similar in the low 1:50ish range, with the exception of the RnR San Diego 2011, where I got my PR of 1:46.

    I didn’t consistently get faster until I got serious about doing real speedwork this year. When I started doing track workouts I got significantly faster this year, and set PRs in every distance (first time I’ve ever completed any race at a sub-8 pace). This article is a good explanation of various speed workouts:

    I also like speedwork because it gives me something to focus on, and it makes the workout fly by. And if I can’t make it to the track? No big deal – I’ll just set up my Garmin or Runmeter app to run 400s or 800s or 1600s and run outside, or I’ll do them on the treadmill. I also make sure to stay balanced by doing lunges/squats, pushups, yoga and corework.

    It sounds like you did exactly what I did – got really excited about running and perhaps a bit overzealous. It’s possible that you signed up for too many races; however, I still think you can make it work. I like to sign up for races in-between my big goal races and use them for training runs. There’s nothing like a good race to help you get in a really good training run, but you also aren’t pressuring yourself for a specific outcome.

    You are kicking so much ass in such a short time! Just be diligent with your training and you will get to your goals.


  13. The funny thing is, except for being tired and not having great times on the halves, I feel pretty good this time around. (I did this once before when I was 31 and got hurt because I did too much too soon. I didn’t run for a long, long time after that.) But this time? This time things went relatively well. I haven’t had any injuries (until last week) that were more than just a day of ache.

    I’ve actually been pretty amazed that I’ve gone this far without really getting hurt, like out of commission for two or more weeks.

    I don’t know if I bit off MORE than I can chew, minus the last half, or if I’m asking too much of myself speed-wise.

    Does that make sense?

    Cristen, I would KILL to have your times and so wish I’d started running races back when I was your age. Stick with it!


  14. I second Shawn’s suggestion of hill training. I’ve just gotten back into running after an almost 3 year break (Oh, back to running 3 months post-partum? You’re my hero and model for when I have Kid 2.0, as it took me 3 years to get back to things, slow or fast no matter). The weird thing is that I am getting faster – faster than I was in my 20’s when I ran way more.

    I attribute this, completely unscientifically, to three things:

    1) I am running less, either several times a week but not very far or only a few times a week, medium distances. When I was younger I would try and do at least 5 miles a run, several times a week. I could never do that now, time-wise or probably energy-wise. Running less gives my body and mind time to rest a bit, and I feel far more ready to tackle longer distances races because of it (I think).

    2) Hills. When I started running again it was chilly so I did 1.5 – 5K’s on the treadmill at the gym. They were slow, slow runs but I used the random hill feature, which was something I never did when I was younger. In the past I preferred to run longer distances on a flat surface via treadmill because I could do better times. But the hills have REALLY helped with my endurance and pacing, especially once I began running outside and in races. And then, in time, it also helped me run faster because I wasn’t slowing so much when I did hit hills. I am now usually able to maintain a level pace uphill and flat, as opposed to having to slow down at a steep incline.

    3) I’m not sure if you use weights, but I have found that they’ve helped me a lot with running (both upper and lower body). I was having a ton of problems with my knees/quads but once I started using very low weights in addition to runs, I felt a lot stronger. I did this when training for the NYC Marathon a million years ago and it was very effective – not sure why I ever stopped.



  15. Corie: Thanks! Yeah, time is definitely an issue of mine. And I think I will definitely do that treadmill hill workout you mentioned. I can do that. I can do that every day. I’ll just do it while Elliot naps.

    And as far as getting out there and running 3 months postpartum? It was easier the second time around. With Em, it took me forever to get back into exercising as I had no idea what a schedule was.

    But with Elliot, it was much, much easier. I actually ran 4 weeks after he was born, but only a mile and on the treadmill. I was amazed I could move all that extra weight! Anyway, you’ll find it much easier this time around, I promise. And you’ll be out there running again in no time.

    Thanks again, everyone! For all the great advice. I’m going to add hills in every run I do, whether it be over the bridge or on the treadmill. And I’m going to keep my long runs anywhere from 5 to 10 miles. Once I get closer to November, I’ll add even more to that weekly mileage and hope for the best!


  16. Okay I can’t contribute anything to the running stuff although I love reading it! I basically think running is impossible and I hate it and will only do when chased by bears. Not even little bears, either, it would have to be a slobbering grizzly.

    However, I’ve recently become obsessed with bike commuting and if I still blogged, the only thing I would blog about anymore is what a badass I feel when I climb the hill up to my house and week by week I am less winded when I get to the top. GO LEGS!

    What I wanted to add, though, is that the parrot was 90% likely to be one of the marvelous monk parrots that live in Green-Wood Cemetery, near my house, and if it’s any consolation, those parrots have a damn good life and it probably enjoyed every second of the glorious sunny day it was flying through, watching all you crazy running fools, before let’s say it had a sudden cardiac arrest and dropped out of the sky dead. Not bad for a parrot!


  17. Krissa! Thank you for the parrot information! You really DID make me feel better. I wish I could have known that while running! :] I had no idea there was such a thing. So amazing. And you live down that way? Lucky girl!

    Also: Why not consider starting a new blog solely about biking? I’m not kidding. Post pics, write about routes, what you wear, etc etc etc. I know several people personally who would love such a thing.

    DO IT!


  18. You’re so sweet to say so! There are so many great lady cyclist bloggers already, I’m not sure what I would have to contribute. But I might start using Tumblr to document each commute (I’m doing about twice a week at the moment) and see if that can be maintained.

    Yes, it’s marvelous living near Green-Wood … it’s not just the monk parrots but also the red-tailed hawks! We don’t see them in Sunset Park itself often, but sometimes they visit. If you go to GWC around dusk, the parrots are all making a ton of noise in the gate towers, it’s really delightful. The kids would love it! The cemetery is generally a lovely place to visit with kids, surprisingly. I see families taking long walks in there all the time.


  19. Hmmmmm

    ::runs off to price real estate on trulia::


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