United NYC Half Marathon and Half Mile

What a day for my Garmin Forerunner to start feeding me bad information. I was running in the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon this past Sunday and as if the new course isn’t hard enough my Garmin somehow tacked on an extra half mile. What’s weird is that the Garmin is usually pretty darn accurate in tracking my race distances.
A few minutes after I crossed the finish line my wife sent me a screen shot of the NYC Half Marathon app where she had been tracking my progress. I replied “oh wow that’s slow” and immediately went from being satisfied with my race to being a bit disappointed. The elapsed time seemed consistent with what my Garmin was telling me, but the 8:55 per mile was way off from what I expected. My average half marathon official time over 19 races is 8:35, and I’ve only been as high as 8:55 on 4 occasions – my first half marathon (9:14), 2 marathon training races where I deliberately ran a slower marathon pace (9:11, 8:58), and the Nashville RnR last year that was quite warm (8:56). Just this year I’ve run 3 half marathons, officially averaging 8:32 with a high of 8:40 and a low of 8:23. Based on the way I ran Sunday I really expected to be right in that range when I was done.
The past 2 years we had stayed in Westchester for this race and that was not so convenient. This year’s start in Brooklyn would have made it even less so. Fortunately my son left town to visit South Florida (probably to avoid us overcrowding his studio apartment) and we were able to stay in the city on Saturday. We had dinner with some friends and retired early to get good and rested for the big day.
Awaking in New York at 4:45AM was still tough, but after some coffee and oatmeal I was ready to go. I saw a couple of young female athletes carrying United NYC bags getting into an Uber outside of my sons building. I was about to ask if I could join them but figured they’d see me as some creepy old guy so I spared them the intrusion and walked up to Union Square to take mass transit – just as the race website recommended. I grew up in Long Island back in the days when taking the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn was seen by sheltered suburbanites as a risky venture, especially at 5:30 in the morning. But times have changed and I wanted to get my full New York City on so I figured I’d give it a try – surely there would be some other runners on the train. I could barely squeeze on to the Q when it arrived, packed full of half marathon hopefuls. It was just like I remember rush hour being when I commuted to the city, although people were collectively a bit more fit and dressed a lot more comfortably!
Not wanting a repeat of the Miami 305 half a couple of weeks ago, I headed straight to my corral and queued up for the port-a-potty when I got to Prospect Park. Thankfully I was able to complete my “race preparations” with some time to spare. I’m not sure others were as lucky – there were still long lines as we moved forward to our start. My advice – get there early.
It was for realz cold waiting for the start and shivering notified me that I probably stripped off my outer layer too soon. The worst part was my feet were getting numb. By the start of the race I couldn’t really feel them so the first steps were kind of tentative. It wasn’t long though until I was warm enough to unzip my shirt and pull my sleeves up.
A beautiful clear bright blue morning set a stunning backdrop to the panorama of New York City as we cruised through Brooklyn and over the Manhattan Bridge. I loved running up the FDR drive, across 42nd street, through Times Square and up 7th Ave to the park. My last time in Central Park was the final stretch of the TCS New York Marathon last fall, feeling so good knowing that I was going to be able to complete the race still running – with even a little closing burst. I wasn’t as elated this time, feeling the hills at the tail end of a much faster run. Still I pressed on at an effort level that seemed comparable to my last few races.
At brunch I studied the details of my splits to see where I had dragged enough to finish at 8:55. Then I noticed that Garmin had pegged my distance at 13.72 miles, putting my pace at 8:32 – which was just about what I was expecting. Why was the distance so off? Just a bad day for satellites?
I know it is not unusual for fitness apps to lack complete accuracy in tracking your distance, but for the 6 half marathons and the one marathon I’ve run using the Garmin Forerunner 225 prior to this race the tracked distance has only varied by an average of +0.5% versus the official distance. At 13.72 miles, my Garmin had tracked the 2018 United NYC Half Marathon at +4.7%! Here are those tracked distances compared to the official distances.
Race #1 13.26 101.1%
Race #2 13.16 100.4%
Race #3 13.14 100.2%
Race #4 13.17 100.5%
Race #5 13.16 100.4%
Race #6 13.13 100.2%
Race # 7 26.40 100.7%

NYC Half 2018 13.72 104.7%

Today Garmin says that my Tuesday morning run was the same distance as last Tuesday’s, so at least everything seems back to normal. I just hate posting that slow time to my NYRR record. Maybe my Garmin will give me a half mile back next year to make up for it? 🙂


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