I had planned on an early arrival in Central Park, but this was a bit over the top. The alarm on my Iphone was set at 05:30 am. My biological alarm however went off at 04:30. And after laying awake for 45 minutes I had had it and decided to get up. Could not stay in the room because that would wake up Esther and the lobby at the Z Hotel did not look that exciting either. And so I arrived at Central Park at 05:50 am.
The day before it had been cold and rainy but this seemed to become a nice day. If not for the aggregates I'd for sure hear the birds singing. Baggage drop off went smoothly and the atmosphere was good. Fun and laughter among the many volunteers. Behind the entrance gates into Central Park a group of grimlooking NYPD people were waiting for me. Like I was Bonnie (without Clyde). Wanted to take a picture but decided that that would not be appreciated much. On my "this is somewhat intimidating guys" one of the now-not-so-grim-looking cops smilingly said "it's for your own safety m'am".
I was directed to my starting corral. Thought I was walking in the park all by myself until I heard "What? Where are the other 19.998 people? Are we heading in the right direction?". That was David from New Jersey who was running this half (and had been doing lots of similar events in New York) for the 6th time. A couple of minutes later we met Linda, who was looking for the restrooms. Central Park was her backyard and she was running her tenth half. Slower than ever because she just had had a baby and was making a comeback. It was great talking to these two New Yorkers about their lives in the city. How it had changed over the years and how on earth people could afford to buy a 95 million dollar penthouse in what is going to be the highest residential building in New York City (see part of it's construction in the picture hereunder).
Very slowly it became light out and soon we were surrounded by lots of people. David and Linda made their way into their starting corrals and I stopped to make a selfie. Which I quickly deleted because I made the Phantom of the Opera suddenly look very handsome. Jamie, came all the way from Washington to run, offered to take a picture. I politely thanked her and we had a real nice conversation while she was in the corral and I was on the other side, hanging over the fence. We were talking so much that we completely forgot about the time and I had to rush into the corral before they closed it. The Star-spangled banner was sung live and gave me goosebumps from head to toes. It gets to me every time I hear it. That and the thought "why does every performer want to add their own thing to it". Which always ends up sounding a little too loud, too long or just not right.
And off we went. The first 9,5 K's through Central Park. Which is very hilly. Did you know that? I do now. Then on to 7th Avenue and Times Square. Another goosebumpmoment. Being cheered on by the crowd. Clapping, yelling, whoo-hoo-ing. Having fun. Having a good conversation. In Dutch. In Dutch? Hey, Dutchies! Two Dutch girls passed me. They: "Do you also live in New York?". Me: "Yep! Almost this whole week". It actually does feel like I live in New York, every time I'm there. It feels like home. We ran towards the Hudson and had a nice view on the Freedom Tower for a long time.
Long story short; the United Airlines NYC Half was a whole lot of fun. With drinking stations at every 2 K's where the volunteers were being thanked by most runners. At the first station I heard someone yell "THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS" and I continued doing that throughout the race. Sometimes people looked at me like I was some nut but most of the time I was rewarded with big smiles, thumbs up and encouraging words. Near the Jane a guy said "you're looking good" as I passed. I don't think he was even talking to me but I yelled "SO DO YOU". The look on his face...completely flabbergasted. That made me giggle for a couple of minutes.
The last part went underneath Battery Park. A long tunnel. My least favourite part. But the view on the Brooklyn Bridge when we got out was a reward. The sound of people cheering became louder. The last 800 meters were long. I was tired and had gotten a bit cold. But I managed to speed up a little all the way to the finish line, thanks to the heartwarming encouragement of the crowd. It was cool. It was great. It was terriffic. And it took up a lot less time than the NYC marathon.....