Race Report: Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon

Newport Liberty Half Marathon, Jersey City, Manhattan skyline

Smiling before the Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon on Sunday, September 22, 2013 was my half marathon moment of truth—my second attempt at breaking the 2-hour barrier at 13.1 miles. My personal best from the 2012 Staten Island Half Marathon stood at 2:00:30. And… it still stands.

Let’s start with the race itself.

Newport Liberty Half Marathon, Jersey City, Manhattan skyline

View of Manhattan from Newport Town Square. (Photo: Phil Hospod)

Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon is a low-frills event in Jersey City, N.J. with 2,700 runners and a gorgeous course.

When I say gorgeous, I mean gorgeous. As the website claims, this is easily the most beautiful half marathon course in New York City’s metro area. I’ve run the NYC Half, Brooklyn Half, Staten Island Half and Yonkers Half. While they all have their charms—run through Times Square at the NYC Half, finish on the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, watch FDNY fire boats perform a water salute in Staten Island, and take in cliff high views of the Hudson River in Yonkers—the Newport Liberty Half Marathon offers more breathtaking views mile for mile than any other NYC area race I’ve done.

The Course

The course starts with a 4-mile tour of Jersey City streets. Nothing remarkable there. But before mile 5, runners enter Liberty State Park and are treated to the most dazzling views of New York Harbor, Manhattan and, especially, the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty is so close that you feel like you can run right up and touch her. Once she’s past your line of vision, you’re treated to a buzz by of Ellis Island, all the while downtown Manhattan glitters in the not-so-far distance. Runners pass a bucolic salt marsh, a boardwalk lined marina, and finally finish in the heart of Newport Town Square to a crowd of cheering spectators.

Newport Liberty Half Marathon course

The course

About half of the course is along the water. It’s also pancake flat with two teeny, tiny inclines along the way. But the course did have many turns, some sharp enough to prove tough to maintain pace. The ground cover was varied—from asphalt to boardwalk, a few short dashes over grass and stone pavers.

And as a largely waterfront course, wind was definitely a factor in 2013. While the race website touts its “flat terrain with open skies,” I did find the open skies part a bit challenging too. On a sunny, cloudless day, I was wishing for a bit of shade. But it did make for beautiful vistas.

The Organization
Liberty State Park, Newport Liberty Half Marathon

The promenade in Liberty State Park is part of the course. (Photo: SachinDaluja/Flickr)

As a charity race that benefitted the Jersey City Medical Center, I appreciated the lean efficiency of the race’s organization. There were no finisher medals, and cotton long sleeve T-shirts earned the race a pass for not having women’s cut shirts. (If you haven’t read my article about women’s cut shirts, please do). And there was no expo; runners simply picked up bibs before the race the old-fashioned way.

Runners lined themselves up according to pace in a very calm and orderly manner. The start wasn’t marked by a giant banner. Instead, a timing mat lay across the road with no other indicator that this was the beginning of something great.

Mile markers with clocks were placed at every mile. Water stations sat roughly every two miles and runners had a post race bounty of snacks to choose from: bananas, Cosi “Squagles” or square bagels, Nutri-Grain bars, an assortment of chips, popcorns, cheese doodles and the like, apple juice, cranberry juice, sports drink and water.

Getting to the race was easy. For drivers, free parking was just a few blocks from the starting area and for train riders, the PATH station, with trains to Manhattan and nearby New Jersey, was just a few steps to the start.

Best of all, the race cost just $40 if you registered before August 14 and $50 thereafter.

Karla’s Race
Newport Liberty Half Marathon, Jersey City, Manhattan skyline

I felt tired, but ready to race in the morning. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The good news is I ran a 10K personal best of 56:57. I haven’t raced a 10K since 2011, so this was likely to happen in any half marathon PR attempt for me. Yay to a mini-PR!

The bad news is everything else. This might have been the worst race of my life. I made no bones about the fact that I wanted my half marathon time to start with a “1,” as I mentioned in my pre-race post. But it wasn’t in the cards for me that day.

My husband, Phil, and I got to the race early. We sat on a park bench near the water to kill some time. I looked at him.

“I feel really tired,” I said in earnest.

“Your body or your head?” he asked.

“Both,” I said. Then I shrugged. “I’m still gonna give it my all.”

And I did. I set out to run a 9:00 pace to come in around 1:58. My first few miles were right on. But by mile 3, I was already really hot. What had been a rainy, overcast early morning gave way to a beautiful day. It was sunny without a cloud in the sky and temperatures hitting 70 degrees. My legs also already felt tired. I knew that did not bode well so early in the race.

Statue of Liberty, Newport Liberty Half Marathon, Liberty State Park

The Statue of Liberty seen from Liberty State Park. (Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

But I kept on plugging. By mile 6, I was feeling really winded. I was also feeling the wind. We ran with 19 mph winds gusting up to 29 mph at times. At times it wasn’t too bad and actually felt refreshing under the sun. But at other times, I felt myself being pushed sideways or having to work against it, depending on where I was on the course. I was starting to have doubts about my PR attempt.

But shortly after Mile 6, I rounded a corner to see the Statue of Liberty right in front of me. It felt like I was running to her. It was inspiring and motivating. I used that to keep pushing into Mile 7. I reached that mile marker still on pace for a sub-2, though my time had flagged a bit. I was running a 9:09 overall pace, which would have put me at 1:59:52.

Newport Liberty Half Marathon

The course and organization got two thumbs up. My performance got two thumbs down. You can see how sunny it was. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

But then things fells apart. I’d taken a gel at the Mile 6 water station, but it wasn’t sitting well. I was breathing so hard that I was starting to go anaerobic and my stomach churned. I suffer from acid reflux and it can be really bad when I run. The combo of my effort and the gel was a recipe for disaster. Shortly after the Mile 7 marker, I slowed to a walk as I nearly vomited. I managed to hold it in, but just kept walking as I gasped for breath. I must have looked pretty bad. Another woman, about my age, patted me on the back as she passed. “Hang in there!” she said.

I let myself walk for 1 minute, enough to get my breath back, then started running again. For a moment I thought, perhaps, I could pick the pace back up and get back in it. But as I pushed, my body didn’t respond. I struggled to maintain even a 9:30 pace the next mile. My legs felt heavy and tight, and I started vurping. Gross, but true.

By Mile 8, I knew my PR attempt was over. There was no possible way I could have pushed that hard for another five miles. So I just jogged it out. In the last mile, I managed to run a pedestrian-for-me 10:10 pace. Even that left me gasping for air as I crossed the finish in 2:15:06, a far cry from my PR of 2:00:30.

Phil was also gunning for a PR and he also had a terrible race. He too struggled with the sun, the wind and a general feeling of being underprepared. We commiserated after the finish line. And he made this vine of my race:

Lessons From Other Failed Races

The funny thing is, I’m not as upset as I would have thought. I was more disappointed by my bad bike leg at the Wild Dog Triathlon than I am by this. Perhaps because I also had a spectacular swim and run, where I nailed an all-time 3-mile PR, at that tri. If I’d done just 1:10 better in the bike, I could have finished top 3 in my age group, 3:20 better and I’d have won. The worst was knowing that I’ve biked much faster in the past. Instead I placed out of the medals in fourth. Wah-wah.

So at least I’m not beating myself up about this stumbling block. It’s part of life and it’s part of racing. It’s actually the fourth time in my seven years of racing that I went for a PR only to fall short.

The first time was a 10K in 2009. I wanted to break 1 hour for the first time and failed miserably. But I found a 10K the following weekend and ran 59:53. I felt vindicated.

The second time I failed at a PR attempt was in 2010 when I blew up in a 5-mile race for no good reason. I redeemed myself with 1-mile and marathon PRs later in the year.

The third time was in 2011 when I went out too fast in a 10K and missed my PR by 57 seconds. I redeemed myself then with a 1-mile, 5K and 5-mile PR later in the summer.

And the fourth time was yesterday. The moral of the story is that I didn’t give up and just kept on pushing myself. It’s always eventually paid off.

Where Do I Go From Here?

The question on my mind now is: So where do I go from here? I’m torn. I know I have sub-2 in me. I’ve been running faster this year. I’ve got my training log and that new 3-mile personal best to prove it.

Staten Island Half Marathon, running goals, resolutions

After running 2:00:30 at the 2012 Staten Island Half on a cold, cloudy day. (Photo: Phil Hospod)

The only thing that gives me solace is the Yonkers Half Marathon. I ran that race right around this time last year and struggled to finish in 2:15:40. It was also warm and sunny. But just three weeks later, I ran that oh-so-close to sub-2 PR on a cold, overcast day. It makes me think that my concern that I’m running a month behind in my training this year is completely founded, and that I just need to luck out with the right conditions.

I’m scheduled to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in exactly four weeks. I’ve done the training and have just one 20-22 miler left on my schedule this weekend. But I’m tempted to switch to the half marathon there, which the race organizers kindly let you do, and pick another marathon in November.

If the issue is that I’m one month behind in my training, then this will solve it. If that’s not the issue, then I don’t know. Part of me wants to go ahead with the Toronto Marathon as planned, but another part of me doesn’t want to go into 26.2 miles with this kind of cloud hanging over my head. I’d rather use that event as one more sub-2 half-marathon PR attempt before moving on to a monster distance like the marathon.

I’m going to sleep on it. I know in my heart of hearts that I can run sub-2. I also know that it will feel even sweeter when I finally do. I just don’t know if it will be better to table it for 2013, or give it one more try.

Perhaps third time’s the charm…

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning is a regular contributor to SHAPE.com, the host of NYRR's On The Run web + TV show, and a race announcer at events like the TCS New York City Marathon. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 20 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

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23

09 2013

27 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Must’ve been something about this weekend. The weather was gorgeous in Dallas, and I went out running Saturday with a goal in mind, and did not get anywhere close :-(
    Lesley recently posted..Random Sunday Musings 9/22My Profile

  2. 3

    So sorry to hear about the day. Another reminder that so many things have to fall into place for a race to turn out the way we hoped. Weather is a HUGE factor for me. Too much sun/heat and I have to completely rethink my goals. And a second factor is my stomach/intestines. I totally get what you were feeling out there.

    As for Toronto, go with your gut but don’t give up on the idea of the marathon yet. I am in the same position as you. I only just did my first 30km + run yesterday. I am aiming to get one more in this weekend and that is it for long runs before the big day. I also really want to get in a sub 2 hour half but I figure there is lots of time for that after Toronto.

    I don’t know if you have time to listen but I was just interviewed for the iRun radio show about the ups and downs of marathon training and recognizing I might not reach my original goals. Not sure if anything I said in the interview will be of use but if you want you can listen to it here on the Sept 21 show: http://autopod.ca/chum/12/podcasts/
    (Warning – I am definitely not a professional radio person, my main goal was to make sure I didn’t sound like a blabbering idiot)
    Kristi Raz recently posted..32k Done Today!My Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      4

      Thanks for sharing the podcast! I’ll definitely give it a listen. I’ve met some of the folks at iRun at races over the the years. I’m just so torn about running a half or the full in Toronto. I DEFINITELY want to run a marathon this fall. Just thinking I might pick another race in Nov or Dec. Going to do a 22-miler/35K this weekend (which would be last long run before Toronto, like you) and then decide. No matter what, I’ll be up there racing one distance or another.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half MarathonMy Profile

  3. 5

    Weather plays such a HUGE part in running and unfortunately it’s something we have NO control over! I’ve always struggled on the “best” days when the sun is out and it’s warm – beautiful for the beach, but not PR weather! (I actually did throw up about a quarter of a mile from the finish line at the Falmouth Road Race this year…oops!).

    My half marathon PR came on a really cold, cloudy day in March and to be honest I think being about 2 months out from running Goofy really helped because I was so well trained for that – I’m actually going to run the race again this year shooting for another PR. If you’re still searching for that sub-2 in March you’re welcome to join me and we can try together, it’s the Allstate 13.1 in Queens, honestly not a great race by any means, but I’ve PR’d it 2 years in a row so I’m going to stick with it!
    Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile

    • 6

      I was actually thinking about trying that this year too (but timing might be an issue)…can’t beat a starting line 10 minutes from my apartment! :)
      Kellie recently posted..Week in Training (and I actually Cooked More than Trained!) 9/16-9/22My Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      8

      I just might take you up on that offer! I love early spring races. They’re almost always reliably cold. This throwing up biz is new for me. I nearly lost it at the end of one of my tris and now this. Grrr.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half MarathonMy Profile

      • 9

        Keep an eye out for promo codes, I registered a few weeks ago for like $40! I PR’d running with 2 friends last time, there’s something about having other people that you want to keep up with that really pushes you! Let me know, we can train through winter and go for it!
        Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile

  4. 10

    Great write up.

    I have some restaurant recommendations in Toronto for you if you’re interested. I used to live there and still go up regularly.
    Elle recently posted..Review: Simple Hydration, a Way to Run SimpleMy Profile

  5. 12

    Good attempt Karla. Congrats on the mini 10k PB en route (you must have a much faster time in you for 10k). Sounds like a great race – just a shame it was a tad warm on the day.

    Yes, go the switch to half for Toronto. I’ve run parts of the course there – it’s dead flat. Sure to be cool too, and hopefully calm. Get that 1:XX:XX half time and go the November full. Good luck!
    Ewen recently posted..Wagga Wagga Trail Half MarathonMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      13

      Thanks, Ewen! I def have a faster 10K time in me. I want to make a point of racing some next year to get that time down. I’m a little worried about wind in Toronto too. Having grown up in Chicago, I know how windy it can be on the Great Lakes. Going to run 22 miles/35K this weekend and then decide.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half MarathonMy Profile

  6. 14

    I hear ya! My PR came on a PERFECT weather-wise day: mid-April, 60s, sunny, but shady (thanks Central Park trees)…if not for the hills of doom who knows how much faster I could’ve been! It’s so tough when you train for something and then your fate is determined not by your training but by something completely out of your control. But it’s great you aren’t discouraged! You shouldn’t be! The sub-2 hour is yours, you got it :)
    Kellie recently posted..Week in Training (and I actually Cooked More than Trained!) 9/16-9/22My Profile

  7. 16

    Congrats on a hard fought race. Don’t discount the impact the heat and wind had on you. It would have been a different race in the right weather conditions. Tough decision, I would be torn about that too. The goods news (at least this is what I keep telling myself) is that there will always be another race to go for your goal and it will be that much sweeter when you get it.
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..I Won the Klean Athlete Oath Challenge!My Profile

  8. 18

    Congrats on an amazing race even if you didn’t PR. It sounds like you pushed yourself through a lot of things that would have made lesser runners drop which is a big deal. Perhaps it was a mental PR kind of day! With your confidence and training you’ll definitely nail this thing soon! No matter what you’re inspiring other runners like myself!
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted..I Just Ran 8 Miles for the First Time (OMG)My Profile

  9. 20

    You pushed through the race and that counts more than any time ever will. You totally have a sub-2 PR in you, no doubt in my mind. Let it sit for a little bit, wait until your marathon is over and see how you feel- a little time to let the excitement and motivation build up again! :)
    Laura @losingrace recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Running Beyond the LyricsMy Profile

  10. 22

    It’s so tough to accept the factors we can’t change. I totally feel you there, and you really did tough it out. I’m very impressed at the 10:10 pace despite all the nasty things happening.
    Sadye recently posted..Late to the story, but that’s OKMy Profile

  11. 23

    Sorry that it didn’t go the way you wanted it to, but seriously I admire your perseverance. There are so many random and uncontrollable factors, but your attitude is a PR. : )
    Diann_D recently posted..Easing Up and Sailing Into New WatersMy Profile

  12. 24

    I’m trying to do the same thing and it’s so frustrating but you’re so close you’ll do it eventually!
    Nicole recently posted..Marine Corps! (and oh yeah shutdown…)My Profile

  13. 25

    My current PR came on a wet and cold day in January. I do not do well in heat. And that wind!! Wow! Congrats on pushing through especially with the tough conditions!! You are so close and I know you’re going to get it.
    Emily recently posted..Dumbo Double Dare 2013: Wonderland 10KMy Profile

  14. Jules #
    26

    Thanks for sharing your story. I ran NYC half and I did great and felt great since I run better in a cooler climate. When I ran Brooklyn, I was so disappointed and I didn’t do the time I truly wanted. I am training for the NYC marathon this year and I was thinking of doing this one since I am going to be out of town for Staten Island. I have the same goals you had for Newport but now that I am reading this, I am not sure if this will be he race I want to sign up for and redeem myself from Brooklyn. I want to go under 2 hr. but if its going to be hot , I am not sure how possible that would be. The reason why you felt it went bad was it because it was too warm?

    • Karla Bruning
      27

      Yes, it was the double combo of the heat and the wind. The course has very little shade and if it’s a windy day, you’ll get whipped around. 2013 had 19 mph winds gusting up to 29 mph at times. It’s SUPER flat, which was great but the weather made it tough. September races in the NYC area are tricky. You could have great weather, or it could still be hot. On a cool, calm day, this is definitely a PR course. But I struggled with the weather. Good luck choosing a course! I’m still deciding on mine for the fall too.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Living La Dolce Vita in Italy’s Lake ComoMy Profile


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