Author

Kiersten McCartney

Browsing

Fly to the Finish – NYRR United Airlines Half Marathon

A Weekend to remember in nyc

As I sat in JFK sipping on some Bailey’s and coffee, waiting for my flight back to Chicago, I don’t believe my heart could’ve been more full. Yes, it was potentially the best I’ve ever executed a race, but more importantly, I spent quality time with many wonderful family and friends all weekend long – people who have shaped me throughout my life – that made this a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Guinness included!

TIme to Fly

I was talked into throwing my name into the lottery for the New York Road Runners United Airlines NYC Half back in the fall. [Just another thing I owe my best friend for…] The race fell at a perfect time to test my fitness on the road to Boston, and despite not focused on training and racing a half, I was excited to run the streets of New York again! It was good to be back in the home city, and I was flooded with memories from the NYC Marathon that November on my Saturday shake out run in Central Park and down 5th Avenue.

I hadn’t “raced” a half since October 2012, and since then have had many training runs over 13-miles during various marathon training seasons that would’ve been PR’s, so it was time to see what these legs could do! The plan was to go out conservative, knowing the worst part of the course is just after the 5K mark, when we head up Harlem Hill, a steep, nearly half-mile climb. With a projected tailwind for most of the race, I knew I could make up time in the second half of the race, as long as I stayed in control for the first 5K. Since the main goal of this training season is Boston, I wanted to test fuel, hydration and different psychological tactics in this race. How would it feel to hold back? Would I be able to turn it on when I needed to? Have I been adapting to the long runs in Barrington? Can I embrace the suffering of a challenging race and run to my potential?

I believe there’s something magical about a city being taken over by runners before the sun is even awake. People pouring out of the subway, some in shorts, some bundled up, wrapped in old foil blankets, bags stuffed with post-race clothes, shoes and food. The weather was beautiful, if cool, and the streets were mostly clear of the foot of snow dumped on the city just a week ago. It was a beautiful day to have a great day.

Simply put, I’m not sure I’ve ever executed a race so well or felt so strong at the end. Despite a slower-than-I-would-have-liked first mile with too much weaving, I came through the 5K right on target, and felt so smooth and strong up Harlem Hill, pumping my fist and calling out to Run4AllWomen! The worst was already over, I knew I had a few rolling hills, rolling through Times Square, and finally a straight shot to Battery Park on the West Side Highway. As soon as I hit the 10K mark, I knew it was on. Just after, you shoot out of Central Park on 59th & Broadway, running straight towards Time Square, and I got a rush of energy from the bands and NYRR Kids races going on – see those kids smiles is all I need to remember the love of the run. My mom, aunt and uncle were right on the corner of 42nd street, and their smiles and cheers catapulted me down 42nd to the West Side Highway as I continued to drop time and click off the remaining miles one by one.
For the rest of the race, I kept my foot on the gas, leaning into the burning in my legs that slowly started to creep in around mile 10, and smiling while repeating to myself: “this is your day.” The power of positivity, people, it’s real.

I stopped looking at my watch at mile 10, but took a sneak peak at mile 12, doing a quick calculation and just opening up my stride, willing my legs to move faster still. Shooting out of the tunnel, 2 quick turns and found the finish! Seeing my family right at the line was the cherry on top! A new PR, bigger goals to shoot for, and most importantly, a huge confidence boost heading into the last month of Boston training!

The rest of the day was spent celebrating, eating and catching up with my best friend and her family, my mom, aunt and uncle, an old college roommate and great friend who randomly happened to also be in NYC, and my host, great friend and Australian travel buddy. Who could ask for more?

What better way to end St. Patrick’s Day Weekend?

This is what I love about running, the places it will take you and the people and community that will be around you. After the thrill of racing – which alone is a feeling to continually chase – regardless of how it goes, there are people who come together after. It may be your family and friends, or your training partners, or a random stranger you hug at the finish, or someone who congratulates you on the train or bus when they see your medal. Running brings people together, and in many ways, brings out the best in us.

Onward and upward, keep chasing those dreams.

Eyes up, strong spirit alive.