Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Brooklyn Half Marathon race report by guest blogger, Shawn P. Mahoney

Enjoy the following race report from my friend Shawn:

I arrive home red faced from the cold of an Arctic Vortex. It has been too cold to run for days now. I take off my boots by the door; start to peel off the many protective layers of clothing. I turn on my computer. In between a woolen cardigan and a flannel shirt I begin scrolling through Facebook updates. I sit on the edge of my bed waiting to thaw. I notice members of my running group posting about signing up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Unbeknownst to me this is this first day of sign up. Runner after runner enthusiastically chimes in on Facebook that they have signed up. The radiator is clanging and hissing. The apartment was hot and dry; my face starts to feel flush in the other direction. I take off my long sleeve thermal shirt revealing my final layer. It is my team shirt, my running club shirt.  I’m wearing my Hudson Dusters shirt. It seems like a sign. I log on and sign up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. I had not run a half before, in the midst of an Artic Vortex; I decide to run the Brooklyn Half. My wardrobe is what really makes the difference.

Now several months later it is 5:30 in the morning. I’m sitting on a jam-packed subway train on my way to the race. I feel anxious about just getting there, and finding my coral. I have done races before but this one is daunting in its length and its sheer number of participants 25,000 plus. Soon 250,000 toes heretofore passive in their sneakers will take to the streets of Brooklyn. This train car carries at least a couple hundred of them. There is the musty smell of sweat as the train clatters through the tunnels to Brooklyn. I put on my headphones and set my music to shuffle. Don’t Stop Believing by Journey followed Don’t Cry Out Loud by Melissa Manchester. My shuffle, through select bombastic classics, intuits what I am thinking. Don’t Stop and Don’t Cry. Those seem like pretty good themes for my first half marathon.

The train takes much longer than I expect and I am late. I ran to drop off my bag at bag check then run along the entire coral of 25000 runners trying to find the right coral. I want to start on time and in my coral for my first half marathon. 5000-5999 - that is me. Anxiety and tardiness turn out to be the effective distractions. I have a little sweat going. I climb the coral barrier making it just five minutes before race time.  Just then a tattooed guy explodes out of one of the coral port-o-johns screaming “Whoo Hoo! Now that’s what I’m talking about!’ he chest bumps his friends as they exchange crass expletive filled encouragements to one another. I check my shoelaces. The National Anthem plays, then the starting gun, and in an instant I am running.  Officially my race has begun. I signed up alone, trained alone, rode the train alone, now I am running the Brooklyn Half with 25000 other runners. It is hard not to sprint through the throngs because my excitement on this perfectly warm sunny morning is real. The Artic vortex seems long ago. Crowds cheer along the race route. I give high fives to a few people along the way.  Many people held placards and signs of encouragement, “ Your Perspiration is my Inspiration!”  “Keep Calm Run Brooklyn” and my personal favorite “The F train is Faster!”

The racecourse doubles back on itself and the lead pack of elite runners pass us on the opposite side of the road. Everyone in the race spontaneously starts cheering for them. We become both participant and spectator. One of the best aspects of running races is the positivity. I can feel camaraderie of total strangers cheering us onward.  A few times I hear total strangers yell “Go Hudson!” Good Job Hudson! Keep it up!” I’m probably never going to hit a homerun in the World Series or hit a winning backhand down the line to win the US Open Tennis Tournament, but I am running in a race with some of the best runners in the world. My best is cheered just as much as theirs. Running is a simple thing. Everyone can do it. I can do it. I can do it anywhere, at anytime that suits me. There are no short cuts, no magic tricks, no matter your ability level you have to do the running. It is such a primary human activity. That is why I love it. Today that is on full display. At certain points I drift away into a Zen like state. I relax into that heavy float of the morning, some time between the first alarm and the snooze bar, when your body is heavy and sleepy but your mind is floating somewhere fanciful that you never get to remember. I get that happy feeling when I am having a great run. Before I know it I am passing mile 7, halfway home. There is a long straightaway down Ocean Parkway toward the beach. There is a fat guy in an American flag Speedo on the side of the route, “The Beach is that way!” he shouts into a megaphone. The runner next to me and I share a laugh together. I can see the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn, an old parachute ride long since abandoned and painted red. The finish line nears with every step. I am on the the Coney Island Boardwalk – music blaring, cheering crowds, and that huge finish line sign with the digital timer waiting for me. Flush with adrenaline, I am sprinting. I am sweaty. I am smiling. I have done the thing I set out to do. And most importantly, I have the best runners high. 

-Shawn P. Mahoney

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