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United Airline NYC Half Marathon Race Recap

So this is it! The 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon marked the end of a chapter of my running adventures in New York City. I was so glad I finally won a place to run the United NYC Half through the lottery, which was not bad only after 2 years of living here. I hadn’t realized how special this race was. The UA NYC Half Marathon is the only running race which goes through Times Square. I have never seen Times Square in such a positive light and I would love to do this again, maybe ten times more. Since this was my first United NYC Half, I couldn't tell how it compared with the old course. I have heard mixed reviews from my fellow runners, some didn’t like the old course because of the quietness and small crowds at the start in Central Park but they enjoyed going down the relatively flat course on the West Side Highway down towards the finish line in Financial District. It sounds like the old course was quite a fast one. The brand new UA NYC Half course of 2018 was challenging, the first half was relatively flat and the last four miles were hilly, so don’t expect to PR with a negative split unless you are in strong form and really know the course. For the first three to five miles, I felt I was kind of running with either a headwind or sideway gusts, or just wind chill from literally everywhere. I was looking out for a huge and tall runner to shield some of the wind, but for once this New York Road Runners race was soooooo wide and sparse of runners that there was nowhere to hide from the gusts. Just before Manhattan Bridge around mile one I spotted a tall guy slightly ahead but he was slowing to pick up previously discarded clothing and gloves from the ground because it was so damn cold. I should have done the same, but I couldn’t decide whether it was worth it or I could just run harder for the warmth. I overtook my only potential human wind shield, and by about halfway through the bridge I began to regret a little, it was freeeeezing! The middle part of the race was basically going up the FDR Drive to the United Nations on 42nd, across the avenues from the East Side through Midtown to Times Square, and then up 7th Avenue to Central Park. The run through 42nd Street was exhilarating and it reminded me of the Abbott 5K Dash to the Finish Line Race the day before the NYC Marathon. Times Square was even more fun. This is normally a place full of chaos and random distractions where no New Yorker in the right mind would go. For those who cannot avoid Broadway, most just meander through the tight streets and crossings like an obstacle course. I never really liked the Times Square area but this race came close to converting me. You just have to run the race to experience the euphoria for yourself. The last four miles in Central Park was just hills and hills, Cat Hill on the East Drive and a series of rolling hills called the Three Sisters on the West Drive. At the very last mile, I was finally rewarded with a downhill from around 86th Street to the finish line on 75th Street. The last half mile went by so quickly that I couldn’t even see my husband and my mum (YES she was visiting from Hong Kong!) who came to see me race. The last mile was glorious and Central Park looked so beautiful in the morning sun. I finished in 1:53:05, a couple of minutes slower than my recent PR 1:50:41 at the Fred LeBow Manhattan Half two months ago. I didn’t PR but I was happy with my time and I have really enjoyed the unique experience. I loved every moment of the race, all the way from the sardines packed train ride to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the long wait in the freezing cold at the start line, strong gusts of wind in the first 5 miles through to the challenging hills at the end. The conditions were quite uncomfortable but I was glad I could chat to so many people and feed on the positive energy and excitement from runners around me. The sense of community is somewhat hard to put to words but it’s one of the many reasons why I like running so much. If you hate running in the winter, if you hate the cold and gusty wind, maybe this event is not for you. Hopefully one day you may decide to give the UA NYC Half Marathon a chance. For my experience, I could say that the running community, the volunteers, the crowds of families and friends, plus the stunning views over Manhattan Bridge, the FDR Drive and through Times Square, was well worth an hour of shivering in the freezing cold and loosing sensations in your toes at the start line. Crossing the finish line in Central Park in the glorious sunshine and having completed this world renowned race in New York City made all it worthwhile.

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