Posts Tagged ‘race bandit’

Last weekend was the New York City Half-Marathon (sponsored by Nike). In an earlier post, I complained about the fact there’s no way to pre-qualify for this race, and about the way in which members of the NYRR’s were notified they hadn’t been selected. While I still hold these truths to be self-evident, I was nevertheless looking forward to spectating. The pro field was strong (my faves: Ritz and Catherine the Great) and international in scope; and I could also count on recognizing dozens of running buddies on the course. As schedules would have it, I had to get my long run in on Sunday. So far, I  haven’t found anywhere in Queens where I can get in an unobstructed long run (no way am I dodging traffic for 13 miles), so I knew I’d have to at least head in over the bridge and go up the East River. This made me consider, much to my surprise, about jumping in and running the Half-Marathon course. I could jump in at 0.1 miles, which would enable me to see Dathan and the other elites dash by, and most of the field. But, I have strong opinions against banditing a race, not wanting to take the race amenities and resources from the paid participants, nor to take advantage of all the vounteers and cheering spectators, and also believing that a race run without a bib doesn’t count towards my personal race results, pure & simple. These dog days of summer are getting to me, though, and while logically I know that 13 miles doesn’t even really qualify as a long run in my marathon training, it feels interminable in this humidity. When I decided that I would go against my anti-bandit policy and jump in, it was because I was more afraid of running in the heat all alone than of my guilty, post-race-stealing conscience. 

Early in the AM, I headed into the city with my house keys, Metrocard, and stocked Fuel Belt, determined to tread as lightly as possible on the course. The race course is seven miles in Central Park, and six out through the city, down through Times Square to the West Side Highway to end in Battery Park. I entered the park not really comfortable with my shifty and devious plan, sure that everyone could see I was going to steal the race. But then Ritz came by, in the lead pack, and I was hit with a rush of excitement so strong I almost took off after them. Now antsy, I waited as runners streamed by (I saw one guys with a GMR shirt on), until the 2:20 pace group showed up and I jumped in, looking nervously over my shoulder. The whole time in the park I tried to run behind bunches of runners, in the middle of the course, so race volunteers and officials would be less likely to see that I wasn’t wearing a number. Seriously-I was sure I was going to get thrown off the course and stripped of my NYRR membership card (not that I was carrying it, or any ID, for that matter; if caught, I would identify myself as Jenna Bush). 

By the time we exited the park (which couldn’t have come soon enough-the hills were annoying, and the trees blocked any chance of a breeze, leaving the first seven miles airless and numbing as we all trekked the loop we’ve run on hundreds of times before), I was a little more relaxed. I had come across some training buddies I knew, chatted with a few women who were running their first ever Half, and seen my old TNT coaches cheering from the sidelines like mad. I tried to demurely trot by these cheering squads, hoping they wouldn’t recognize m-since I wasn’t racing I didn’t want to steal any of the encouragement intended for real competitors. In the same vein, I apologized profusely whenever I bumped into anyone with a number, and tried my best to defer to them on the course-I didn’t want to get in the way of their race when I was just there to rack up the miles on the way to November 2nd. Are these attitudes too much? Maybe I took them on to hide the plain fact that I was a hypocrite; stealing the race even though I have so vociferously argued against that very thing in the past.

I ran the last few miles with SR, a TNT teammate from the Winter 2008 season. It was great to catch up with her, and have someone to chat with. I passed MZ, the team captain from our Green Mountain Relay and ran with her for about half a mile; she was in town from San Francisco for work and was a jump-in runner just like me, except without the guilt. My old student (and fast marathon runner) AL was cheering for his teammates on the sidelines, so I trotted over to him for a quick hug & hello. (Props to AL for hugging my sweaty self.) And then, we were at the finish line, just like that. I let SR run ahead and cross the finish line; she had a fantastic race and has gotten so much stronger as a runner since Disney. My training run took me 2:16:51 for 13 miles, about where I wanted to be given the heat. 

Once out of the recovery area, I walked straight to the subway, where I stretched on the ride home. It gave me a taste of what it must be like after the NYC Marathon – all these sweaty runners splayed all over the subway cars, congratulating each other, snacking on potato chips, sipping Gatorade and apologizing for leaving puddles of perspiration on the seats. Man did that AC feel good. I got home, ate, drank, showered, and took a three-hour nap. So did my guilty conscience.

I have to say, I am glad I tried banditing. It’s definitely not for me–I really did feel badly for taking up even the tiniest bit of anything that was intended for the racers. But, at least now when I get on my high horse about it, I can speak from experience.

Here are some race reports by other bloggers. Run Dangerously welcomes a guest blogger, Marathonomy created his own half route, NYC Fly Girl gets in her mileage and her spectating, Kat wears her purple proudly, Runner NYC reviews the music on the course, Famous Ankles gives two fantastic spectator reports (part one has photos of the elites), Trakmaniac at Crazy Bandana races (and bonks) just a week before the San Francisco Marathon, Quinto Sol runs his half in the same model sneaker as Haile Gebreselassie, and Cowboy Hazel sets his speed at “full intensity.”

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