Box of Rain: My Morning Running the Staten Island Half Marathon

Me on the Staten Island Railway before the race. I bundled up due to the cold and had two layers of shirts on.

I have done two Spartan Races at Citi Field, but I never did a mud run. Until Sunday.

Thanks to yesterday’s rain, the Staten Island Half Marathon became an obstacle course of its own, between precipitation, unrelenting wind, tons of puddles, and the end of the race covered in mud. And I had the time of my life running it!

This was my final road race before the upcoming NYC Marathon, which is just four weeks away. So I wanted to do well in this tuneup, and know where I stood after training all summer for the marathon.

Last year’s Staten Island Half was not a good one for me, and, as I wrote earlier this week, I wanted to conquer some demons today and erase last year’s bad memories.

Fortunately, I’m in great shape now — literally the best shape of my life. Not that that’s saying that much, but I’ll take it!

Josh and I before the race. I had gotten my hair done the day before, but the rain made this a very bad hair day for me!

“M,” my running coach, has trained me well. He’s had me build up my mileage gradually, which has kept me healthy. And once I got my mileage up, he’s had me run 20 or more miles at a time four times now, which has given me the confidence to face the challenge of the marathon. And I feel physically strong, thanks to all of this training.

I’ve run in all sorts of weather conditions while training, from heat waves to torrential rain; M has pointed out that I need to be prepared for any sort of adverse weather, as we don’t know what the weather will be like on Sunday, November 6, marathon day.

So when I heard Saturday night that it was likely to be pretty wet during today’s half marathon, I wasn’t too worried. After all, I’ve run in the rain before. It wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I resolved to plow through the race. I wanted to beat my disappointing 3:00:49 performance last year, as well as the 2:43:46 I ran in the Brooklyn Half this May. McMillan Running estimated me as finishing at 2:37:26. I had a pacing strip for 2:35 on my arm, but was hoping I could do even better.

Josh, Catherine, and I before the start.

I know I’ve improved as a runner because I’ve finally moved out of Corral L, the last corral that New York Road Runners has (they rank corrals by race speed.) Not only that, but Subway Squawkers’ friend and fellow blogger Josh was a 2:15 pacer for the half marathon, and I was in Corral K with him! This is the first time we’ve ever been in the same corral during a race.

I saw him and fellow running club members Catherine and Jacky before the race. Josh had said I’d also see him again on the course, as it’s partially an out-and-back race, which means that runners pass by each other in several places. He was wrong.

A quick selfie just before the race started — and a photobomb in the back! Our friend Jacky is just behind us, and Catherine in the pink headband behind her.

It turns out that for the first half of the race, I was running even faster than I had hoped, despite the rain. For the first half, it really was fine. I was averaging about 11 1/2 minutes a mile, and ended up with PRs for both the 5K and 10K distances.

I knew I was having a great morning not only because of my Garmin numbers, but because of two other pacing indicators. Right around the 6 mile mark, I was running right by the 2:30 pacer!

The other indicator was that due to the way the course looped around in that area by the beach, I never saw Josh after all, because I wasn’t very far behind him at this point.

Fellow club member Andy caught me around the 1.5 mile point. Obviously I didn’t know he was taking the pic, or I wouldn’t have had this weird T-Rex hand motion going!

When I had reached the turnaround point, I was feeling great, and the weather was tolerable. That didn’t last long. Once we started heading north on Father Capodanno Boulevard, near the beach, we headed into some strong, heavy headwinds. I had run in heavy rain before, but never with the wind. So I started to slow down a little just fighting the wind.

Then, around Mile 7, I was in the zone listening to the Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain,” “Bertha,” and “Cumberland Blues.” Then I felt somebody tap me on the shoulder. I didn’t know what was going on. Turns out it was M, my running coach! He wasn’t running in the race, but was in the neighborhood after his morning run, and he stopped by to check on me and see how I was doing. M said my form was great, and I looked very strong out there. That was great to hear. He also gave me advice on how to run in the wind.

As the race went on, and we had two big hills, I physically still felt great — a relief, after being injured in last year’s race. But the weather conditions were getting worse, and there was only so fast I could go in those winds. And the puddles! Oy, the puddles! Around Mile 11, when we were on Front Street, the puddles were ridiculous. There was no real way to avoid them. My shoes were completely soaked, and my socks drenched, a feeling I hate.

Me after the race. Usually I look like a mess after running, but I think I actually looked okay Sunday, all things considered! Thank goodness I have a time stamp on this pic, in case I need it to show where I was!

I listened to music for the first 2/3 of the race, but just before we got to the Fort Wadsworth hills, I finally gave up. My iPod Nano had run out of power, and I didn’t want to potentially damage one of my phones by taking them out in the rain. (I just had to spend $99 to get my iPhone replaced last week due to liquid damage!)

It was also hard to get water and Gatorade, thanks to the weather. The poor volunteers (God bless them!) were stuck out there for many hours, and the wind kept on blowing the cups over. So at a few stops, they had to manually pour one cup at a time and hand them to us. (Usually, there are a slew of cups set up for the taking.) But that’s what the weather did to the race.

Once we got back on Bay Street, around Mile 12, I realized that thanks to the weather and the hills and the puddles, I wasn’t going to make 2:35. (I had given up on 2:30 once we hit the hills!) But I still had hopes to make 2:40. So I put it in high gear, as my running club friend Amy can attest. (She saw me just when I was passing Borough Hall.) With a downhill part of the race right before Mile 13, I thought I might be able to make it.

Then I entered Richmond County Bank Ballpark to the finish line and saw the mud.

Josh, on the other hand, usually looks great after races, but he seemed pretty worn out after this one.

Because this was in the stadium where the Staten Island Yankees play, the field is covered in dirt and grass. So the path to the finish line became a sea of mud due to the rain. I plowed through to the end as quickly as I could, but I just missed getting below 2:40. My final time, according to Garmin? 2:40:08. Given the circumstances, I was extremely happy with that time. I ended up with a half-marathon PR, and had passed another test on the way to next month’s NYC Marathon. I was muddy but jubilant. I was happy to get my medal and celebrate.

But something malfunctioned during the race with my chip timer on my bib. It captured me at the start, and the 5K mark, but not for the rest of the race. After the race, I called Squawker Jon, and he asked me if I was okay. It turned out that NYRR still had me listed as out on the course!

Ironically, the chip finally worked when I passed by the 20K mark on Bay Street on the way to my friend Robin’s post-race party. But it never showed me as finishing the race!

Robin and other fellow runners told me that NYRR was very good on adjusting such things, though. I submitted info afterwards showing my Garmin watch time, as well as explaining why the 20K time showed up. I also told them what I was wearing and who I was with at the start of the race.

And apparently, thanks to all the photos that are taken during the race, they will be able to track when I finished, and adjust my time. I just don’t know when this will happen. Fingers crossed!

My race info, courtesy of my Garmin watch.

After I went to my friend Robin’s home for the party, I was able to shower and get into a change of clean clothing — and fresh socks and shoes! What a relief, after being in wet clothing for hours. It was also great to talk to her and fellow half-marathon finishers there; they assured me that my time would be fixed. And the post-race champagne there was excellent, too!

I also got a call from M, my coach, after the race. And he told me something that made me feel even more excited about the day. He said that when he ran by the course to watch me, he saw a lot of runners behind me, and was impressed by my progress. He then said, “You’re not at the back of the pack anymore. You’re in the middle of the pack.”

I don’t think I’ve quite reached that level, but it was good to know that my coach was so impressed with my performance!

Afterwards, I still felt great physically. Good thing, given that I’m going to have to run twice as much in a month. I was also able to do some mystery shopping work and walk a few more miles. This was my fifth half-marathon, and I don’t want to say it’s become routine, but I do feel much better towards the end than I did at my first one.

As for the day itself, I was very impressed with how NYRR and their volunteers managed the race. They couldn’t do anything about the weather and the wind and the puddles, but they kept a positive attitude during the day and were all very friendly.

Location unknown! Yikes! Hopefully NYRR will correct my numbers soon.

I do wonder what happened to the foil sheets that they often hand out during big races. They didn’t have them at the finish line. If there were any day that those sheets were needed, it was Sunday! I did hear later that they had some sheets in the medical tent, but I think everybody could have used one.

In all, though, despite the weird weather — Josh’s budding meteorologist son said that this was a remnant of Hurricane Matthew — it was a great race day. I will treasure this medal — even if the rain discolored the cloth on it a little! It gives the medal character, I think. What a day!

Thanks to Verizon for loaning me a Moto Z phone. I used that to take most of these pictures. And thanks to Andy of Run & Shoot Photography for the race photo, to Catherine  for taking the pre-race photos, and to Sreeni Nair for the post-race ballpark photo. And to Robin for her post-race hospitality!

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