My marathon training plan called for a half marathon at week 8, and I couldn’t make my usual Newport half. So I looked around for a race in the same timeframe and sort of stumbled upon the Queens Half. Chris has family out there we don’t visit enough, so I figured it’d be a two birds, one stone situation. The $50 price tag definitely didn’t hurt either, so I signed us both up.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the race was a really great experience! They had three packet pickup options, two before the race in different locations and one on race morning. I love being able to grab my tee shirt and number in advance, so this was pretty nice, and I took advantage of it. I picked up both our packets on Friday after work at Jack Rabbit Union Square. The pickup was awkward as they had crammed everyone in the very back of the store which made it a little chaotic. I’ve never been to Jack Rabbit before and was hoping to do a little shopping, but after grabbing my packet I just wanted to get out of there. Luckily, that was the only snafu of the experience.
We were up before the sun on Sunday and out the door by 6:30. The drive was pretty easy because no one was really on the roads yet. We got to take in some pretty stunning views too.
Chris drove, and I navigated (poorly). Everyone had warned us that the parking situation would be difficult, but public transportation would have taken us hours. Chris found a nearby garage, and it was well worth the $8 to park there and not have to worry about it. We had a bit of a walk to the start, but it wasn’t too long, and the neighborhood felt safe even at that early hour.
We made it to the race just before the 8am start only to find long bathroom lines. They had like 15 porta potties for almost 1000 runners, so it was a little busy. We sort of panicked because we thought those were the only bathrooms on the course so it was now or much later, but we also didn’t want to miss the start as pre-race emails warned it was starting at 8 on the dot. Thankfully, the race directors decided to push the start back to 8:15 to accommodate everyone waiting in line. That was so awesome of them. I’d never seen that outside of a hometown race before, so that was much appreciated.
The start was really calm and fun. Everyone was just hanging out talking waiting for the start, and just like that, we were off. The course itself was so much better than I was expecting. I knew going in that it would be two loops of Flushing Meadows Park, and figured that would be boring, but it really wasn’t. We passed so many iconic Queens landmarks like the USTA tennis center, Citi Field, the unisphere (big metal globe in the park) and the Queens museum, zoo and theater.
We crossed a bride to get to the other half of the park which runs around some marsh land and was really beautiful. The course had flooded a bit due to Saturday’s rain, but we were redirected, and the new route was clear and easy to follow.
The course was pancake flat with the only “hill” being the climb up the bridge. The roadways were a little uneven which meant looking down and concentrating on picking up my feet in places, but it was manageable. The first place runner crossed in 1:15 if that gives an indication of the course.
Two loops meant we passed each water stop twice, and they were all stocked with water and Gatorade. It never felt like we went more than 2 miles in between water stops which was great because while the weather was pretty perfect (65 at the start), I did get hot in the sunny stretches. The sun was almost humorously abundant. We kept commenting on what a perfect day it was.
The standouts of the whole race though were the volunteers. They were all over the course and just as cheerful as you could imagine. Volunteers were dancing and clapping and encouraging each individual runner. This is really saying something too because we are not fast. If you’re still that peppy for the last quarter of the pack, you’re an awesome volunteer!
The finish line was run smoothly. We passed the timing mat (our bibs were chipped) and were handed nice medals and cups of water. To keep things moving, they had bagels and fruit farther down the chute. They had tons of food, and the bagels were real NYC bagels with butter and cream cheese! I’m so used to hard dry bagels that I just about cried when I saw the tub of butter. Why don’t more races provide bagel toppings?
Everyone we encountered was just so friendly. We ended up hanging out in the park a bit waiting for Donny to arrive, and I started to get chilly from the bay breeze. Chris asked a volunteer next to a box of extra tee shirts if she could spare one, and she gave him one right away. That was just so nice.
Overall, this was a great race. It was well organized with an interesting course and excellent volunteers. Compared to other races in the area, this was my favorite. It was much more organized than any Rock N Roll race I’ve done. Unlike RNR, this felt like a hometown race rather than a huge spectacle. NYRR races are also very well organized, but they’re so much bigger, which sort of necessitates a “no exceptions” type environment. I can’t see them delaying the start or handing out extra shirts, and those little details help make a race memorable.
On the drive out, I said I couldn’t see us driving to Queens for a race again, but I might seriously reconsider now.
Thanks for a great race day NYCRuns!