This past Sunday I had the opportunity to tackle the United NYC Half Course with members of my We Are NYC Running Club and members of the United NYC Half Facebook Group! It was a beautiful Sunday morning for the run. A little chilly but we waited around for everyone in a nice section of Prospect Park that had lots of sun shining on us. In seeing this course again this past Sunday and in running it the last few years, I thought I would share a review of the course.
Some of you may know that the United NYC Half Marathon course has changed from previous years. In 2019, the course started inside of Prospect Park Brooklyn for the first time. This past Sunday, we pretty much excluded the first two miles which take place inside the park. As far as those two miles are concerned, based on my running the race last year, you will encounter an uphill in the first mile. It comes in the second half of the first mile and it’s a net climb of about 80 feet. Just around the time that you finish that first mile you will exit the park and encounter crowds for the first time. You will be on Flatbush Avenue and you will head out on a 1 ½ mile out and back on Flatbush Ave adjacent to the park. The first half of this 1.5 miles is a steady downhill. Be careful though because you will have to come back up that same stretch but this time do it uphill.
Once you are done with this out and back, you will be at around the 2.5 mile mark and you will be passing Grand Army Plaza and leaving the park completely. Here you should encounter a good amount of spectators. When you reach this portion, do your best to put your adrenalin in check because the next mile or so is a steady downhill! Strava measured this mile to be a decrease in elevation of about 96 feet. I have to admit, this is also a nice wide road with lots of local shops. Assuming it is a decent weather day, I am 99% positive that this stretch of the course is going to be filled with spectators on race day. With that said, these spectators, along with the steady downhill will you give you the temptation to unleash a fast mile. I will say to just be careful here, because you have a long way to go and some challenges ahead.
As you reach the mile 4 mark, you will start your climb onto the Manhattan Bridge. This is where your work and challenges will start. From the 4 mile mark, its a long steady climb onto the bridge until you get to the middle of the bridge. Your total climb will be around 90 feet. As you get to the summit of the bridge take a nice exhale for two reasons. First, the views are amazing here so enjoy them! Second, the next mile and change is a nice and steady downhill. I strongly suggest you enjoy this stretch. Let your muscles recoup. Think about taking a gel or some type of energy supplement at this point because you will need it for the second half of the race . Think about how you feel. Keep your emotions in check and remember, you are here to have fun!
Once you get off of the Manhattan Bridge you will enter Chinatown where the crowds are always amazing! Soak in the crowds because you are headed for the FDR Drive soon. The FDR drive is a popular NYC highway that closes one direction just for you on this day. On the surface, New Yorkers may think that it is pretty cool to be running on the FDR Drive, but I find that these approximately three miles can be pretty boring miles on the course. Yes, there are nice views of the east river but the crowds are also very small on this stretch. As I mentioned, your time on the FDR is close to three miles as if boring miles are not enough, you will also gradually be climbing throughout these three miles. I did say that the second half of the race would be challenging right? (lol)
You will finally exit the FDR Drive at 42nd St as you pass the United Nations, another very nice scenic view during this race. As you start to head west on 42nd street, you will be passing the 10 mile marker and you will continue to climb in elevation for about 40 feet until you get past 5th avenue. Here you will begin a small gradual run downhill that will take you into a very cool portion of the race, none other than Times Square. I mean other than New Years, eve, Times Square never closes for anyone but on this day, it closes for you! Take this stretch in because once you turn onto 7thavenue at around mile 11 and approach 45th street you will begin an approximate one mile climb up that will take you up another 40 feet in elevation and will leave you right at the entrance to Central Park. As you run thru Times Square, take a look for the Youth Run that shold be taking place on the right side of 7thavenue. I think its pretty cool that they are running their own race, while we run ours!
Back to our race though, as you finish your uphill climb on 7thavenue, you will enter Central Park and soon approach the 12 mile marker. Once you enter the park, a series of small uphills and downhills will await. Nothing too drastic. Keep it all together here and focus on your stride as you’re still about a mile from the finish. The park has always given me adrenalin. There is some rich running history here as it’s where the NYC Marathon finishes every year. Use this adrenalin to push you that last mile. During this last mile in the park, you will make a left turn at 72ndstreet. Save some juice for this last quarter mile because there is one more sneaky hill in the last quarter mile as you turn left again onto Central Park West Drive. Give it all you have on this hill because just beyond it, is your finish line!
I can’t rel you how much I love this course. The views, the towns that you go thru, Times Square and Central Park all make it amazing! A personal record is not impossible on this course, but it is also not easy. How you attack this course will be key. Go out too hard during the downhills in the first half and you will may pay the price on the hills that await you on the 2ndhalf of the course. For me take advantage of that last mile in the park. It’s a great mile to finish a great half marathon!
I hope you have enjoyed this review of the United NYC Half Course! As always you can follow me on Strava under my name Cesar Trelles or on Instagram @catrunsnyc_2018 ! Leave me some comments after the race on either of these on what you thought of the race course! Good luck to all of those that are running the 2020 United NYC Half Marathon!