Race Report – Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon, New York

January 8, 2016

The Uptown “C” subway train took us to East 103rd Street. We knew we were on the right train because the carriage was filled with people in running gear and running bibs just like ours. From the station, Central Park was a few blocks west and we quickly found the large group of people and marquees that indicated the race start.

Now, first things first. Where are the toilets? We followed the signs and found ourselves walking past a long (very long!) line of people. “I wonder what they’re doing” we thought. Then realised that it was actually the line for the porta-loos! So we walked all the way back again to join the end of the line. We couldn’t even see the toilets from back there! Comforting to know they have the same pre-race toilet logistical problems as everywhere else in the world.

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Queue for the Loo

While waiting, we entertained ourselves by taking selfies.

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Mr Ironman evidently not very entertained

We finally got our toilet business out of the way and wandered across to the start.

Spectacular Central Park is a perfect place for running. It covers 843 acres in Manhattan, New York City, with a length of 4 km and a width of 0.8 km. There are several roads around and through it plus a network of trails criss-crossing its expanse. It is a quiet, leafy haven in the middle of a noisy, bustling city, has a population of approximately one billion squirrels (that may be a little exaggerated) and was by far my favourite part of the city (probably because it is the most non-city part of the city).

I love the photo below. I think it’s awesome that they leave this big, beautiful green space on what must be some very expensive real estate.

View of Central Park from the Rockefeller Center
The Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon loops Central Park twice with a smaller loop in between, making up the 21.1 km (or 13 miles for the locals).

Central Park map
A Strava trace of the run

This was the race’s third year and 1284 runners were taking part. The weather gods were looking after us, delivering an unseasonably warm winter’s day of about 15 degrees Celsius. Lucky I didn’t go out and buy those full-length tights I’d been eyeing off back home, when I was expecting to be running in about 4 degrees.

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And then we were off!

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I was not taking this race too seriously. A fast time was not my priority. Instead I was focusing on taking lots of photos and trying to finish the race without having to have a lie down on a park bench (a common occurrence for me due to a slightly dodgy heart – but more on that in a future blog).

Apologies for the sweaty, unattractive selfie, but it needed to be taken…

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It really is a very pretty place. It would be nice to see it in all its glorious seasons. Spring and summer for the green, autumn for the orange and red, and winter (well, maybe late winter) for a nice covering of fluffy white snow. I love snow and was quite hoping for some on this trip. It was mid December after all. I was warned there probably wouldn’t be any until later in the season but I still hoped. Unlucky for me, snow doesn’t usually fall when it is 15 degrees Celsius!!

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I bought a new running camera before this trip. It was one of those “tough” ones that are waterproof and shockproof. Perfect for wet, muddy, sweaty, dusty trail runs! A Nikon Coolpix W130 if you’re interested.

Although lacking in wet and mud, this race was a good opportunity to christen the new camera. I’m new to the running-while-taking-photos thing so I spent some time trialling the running selfie versus the walking selfie. Although not as much fun, I have to admit the walking selfie is a little more practical. One, there is less blur, and two, less chance of tripping over sticks, discarded cups or wayward squirrels.

The dodgy selfie below is just to show that I was actually in front of some people at one stage…

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In my quest to enjoy the Central Park sights, I may have taken a few small side trips here and there during the race. To take the photo below I had to leave the other runners, cross the road and wander down a hill. When I re-joined the runners I swear some looked at me accusingly – I imagine they were thinking “You’re not taking this race seriously at all, are you??” – before making a concerted effort to overtake me.

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I admit there was also a little bit of squirrel-chasing occurring. They’re so cute with their fluffy tails, funny little hands and fat cheeks that I couldn’t resist taking photos of them. Little buggers won’t stay still for a photo though, so determined chasing was definitely required.

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Caught this one off guard

Despite the fun I was having with my selfies, mini detours and squirrel chasing, the run was quite tough. Although mostly rolling hills, there were a few long uphill bits that had me gasping. It was only my second half marathon and my training was possibly not as good as it could have been (in other words I was a bit slack and didn’t train as much as I should have). That and the fact that I was really lacking sleep made it much more challenging.

By the way, the lack of sleep was due to our accommodation being on a very noisy street directly above the restaurant owned by Justin Timberlake. Which was always busy. So maybe his food is more popular than his music?

Luckily in this race, unlike many others, I did not need to lie down on one of these, below… Though, really, with a view like that, it would not have been too much of a hardship.

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On any given day this park is thronging with walkers, runners, cyclists, wandering tourists, ice skaters and people having naps on benches. Also horses and buggies! I was tempted to ask for a lift but I was suddenly overwhelmed by the stench of horse poo…

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The support from the sidelines was really good. Lots of cheers and encouragement. There were some high-fives up for offer and I swerved across lanes of running traffic to get me some of them. I also “encouraged” some high-fives from people who weren’t actually offering.

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As the miles ticked down and I felt I was plodding slower and slower, I questioned myself (as I always do in races). “Why on earth did I take up running??” When your muscles are weary and aching and your lungs feel like there is not enough oxygen in the world to fill them, you wonder if this running thing isn’t a bit silly after all.

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Pretty sure that last mile was about 5 miles long

And then you cross that precious, wonderful finish line and all is well in the world again.

Thank gosh for that!

Recovery meant collapsing on the grass for a long while then scoffing down bagels and hot chocolate.

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Oh, and gazing lovingly at my pretty new medal.

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New favourite medal! Takes first place from the cow medal

What a great run!! Very well organised, happy people and a beautiful location! If you are ever in New York in December, do it!!

Take some full-length tights with you just in case…

The Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon is now known as the Big Apple Half Marathon. The next one will be on the 8th of December 2019. Check out the details here. There are stacks of runs in New York City throughout the year. If you are visiting keep an eye out on the NYCRuns website here for what’s coming up. Our accommodation while in New York City was an awesome apartment in Midtown (yes, it was a bit noisy, but apart from that it was perfect). We found this apartment through Airbnb

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    1. Your photos are so clear Jodie and you don’t even look like you are raising a sweat! Loved the little squirrel too. Well done in catching him off guard.
      Glad you stayed away from the manure though…ewwwwww.

      Looks like this might be one half mara that I might look up too. Thanks for posting. Congrats as the medal looks awesome! 🙂

      1. Thanks Steve. We had a great time! It was so well organised and everyone was really friendly and helpful. If I wasn’t on the other side of the world I’d do all your runs!! 🙂

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