Tag Archives: Half Marathon

Reykjavik Half Marathon

We came to Iceland because we love Iceland, but we used the Reykjavik Marathon as the excuse. I don’t like running in hot weather, so if you are going to run a race in August, it should be in a place like Iceland. This was my 3rd international race, after Havana and Budapest. It’s fun to see how races are different around the world.

The half and full both started at 8:40am. I got to the start about 20 minutes before race time, which is as early as I like to arrive. We lined up by expected finish time, but there was just a single continuous wave. The start went about the same as anywhere else. Except there was no national anthem, mayor speeches, or hyped music. Just a countdown and we were off. The beginning part of the course left downtown and entered a neighborhood. It seemed everyone was out cheering us on. This group was standing on their stairs, banging pots. I wasn’t thrilled that the sun was out at the beginning, but it did make running by the water awfully pretty.

Harpa, the arts center, is my favorite building in Reykjavik, so it was nice to run past it.It was also nice to run by the Sun Voyager sculpture.

The thing I like the best about international races is they are marked in kilometers, so you get more frequent confirmation that you are making progress. A half is just over 21 kilometers. There were water stations every 4 kilometers. After passing the sculpture, we did a long out and back that eventually brought us back downtown.

Having only trained in hot humid weather over the DC summer, I had been running at just under a 10 min/mile pace, so my goal was to do 2:10 or better. While it was cooler, with a race time temperature of 61°F, I like it even cooler. I kept a steady pace and officially finished at 2:06:13. I was pleased with the time and enjoyed taking pictures and soaking up the scenery rather than pushing for a better time.

Here’s a happy half marathoner!

Budapest Day 3: 13.1 Miles Of Fast Fun

Today was race day! Ellen came with me to the start. We helped a runner from Uruguay, who was racing around looking for the subway in near panic. We were glad to get her going in the right direction.

The expo looked pretty much the same as a race in the USA, except it was also set-up on race day.


There was a warm-up that I half-heartedly participated in, mostly because I don’t like to tire myself out before the race!

The race had 6 corals, even with an expected time of 2:10-2:15, I was in corral 5.

About 10:15am, I was off! The race started in Hero’s Square and went right down Andrassy Avenue. Much of our activity yesterday, House of Terror, Opera House, lunch, was on that street, the main boulevard in Budapest. So it was familiar.

We went right past our Airbnb, and then over the chain bridge to Buda. This is the only picture I took during the race, I decided I was racing for time.IMG_2457

So only a few differences between this race and a race in the States. I liked that the course was marked in kilometers. Even though you are running 21 instead of 13, you feel like you get more regular signs of accomplishment as you reach them much quicker. Instead of gels or gummies, the glucose they handed out were pieces of bananas and white sugar mints (that looked like marshmallows to me at first).

From my watch, I was under a 10 minute/mile pace for every mile except one, and that included water breaks every 2-3 miles. I knew I was on a good pace, and I wanted to try to beat 2:10. It was warmer than I like, getting up to 72°F and the sun was out. But I gave myself no excuses, picking up the pace the last several miles. Mile 13 in fact was my fastest at 9:04 and the last part of the race (.22 miles on my watch since you always go longer than the official race distance) was 8:37 pace. I was really happy with my finish, the 2nd fastest of my 13 half-marathons.

For the first time for me, I had raised funds with this race for the charity I have been consulting for. If you’d like to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages, please click here.

While I was running, Ellen was doing her own exploring. In those 2+ hours, she went to Hero’s Square, City Park, the zoo, and the Miniversum. We met back up near our apartment, going to the Spring Market (like a Christmas market but around Easter). I got a bread for lunch, Ellen got a potato latke-type thing with toppings. We went back to the apartment to eat.

Soon though, we were off again, We decided to treat ourselves to the baths and a massage. We went to Rudas Baths.IMG_2461

Saunas, pools of different temperatures, a beautiful outside pool that had a view of the Daube. And then after all that, the Lavender Dream massage, which was a scrub with lavender salts followed by a massage. Took much of the pain from the run away.

We walked back to the Pest side, pulled out our phones and found a place for dinner. A small cafe, Gerlóczy Cafe was just perfect. Salmon for me, duck breast for Ellen.

One more thing on the way home. Ellen wanted to ride the ferris wheel in a park near our apartment. So we did. The top had an awesome view of the Buda side, the castle and the church. IMG_2473

Budapest Day 2: Full Day (and then some)

We had a lot to do today, making up for some lost time yesterday. So first thing was to pick up the race packets. The expo was at the start/finish. IMG_2424

Luckily, that was also right at Hero’s Square.


We stopped at Coffee Cat for a quick breakfast.

Next stop was the House of Terror. Housed in the building where all the torture and killing took place, it told the story of the “double occupation” of Hungary, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. What a terrible 50 years this country had. No pictures inside, so here’s from the exterior.

Lunch was next, at a Rick Steves recommendation of Menza. It had an old time, kitschy interior, with really good food. Hungarian stew, anyone?

Because we weren’t bummed enough by the House of Terror, we then walked to the Holocaust Memorial Center. 90% of Hungarians Jews were expelled, with most turned over to the Nazis in 1944 and sent straight to Auschwitz. Just an awful reflection on the Germans and Hungarians of the time.

We figured we needed to lighten up, so we had a late afternoon dessert at Gerbeaud Bistro, near our hotel. IMG_2435

Now it was shopping time. Ellen found a Hungarian exclusive charm at Thomas Sabo. I found the Hungary national team soccer jersey, my souvenir of choice when we travel.

Had time for only a short rest, then dinner time. Pasta carboloading at Akademia Italia. A bright and friendly restaurant, we both had pasta. Yum!

After dinner we walked to the Chain Bridge and looked out over the Danube. Such a pretty city. IMG_2443


Now off to bed, there’s a race to be run tomorrow!

Cuba Day 2 (November 15, 2015)

Race day! Up at 4:30 for some carbs and water, back to sleep until 6. Our hotel is just 2 blocks from the start, which is always a great thing. Left the hotel just after 6:30 and milled about at the starting line. Promptly at 7, we were off!


On this trip was a high school classmate of mine. Had brunch with Jon Kirn about 6 months ago and mentioned this trip. He had never run a race before, but here he is!


The race starts (and finishes) by the capitol, which looks much like the US building. We were soon along the malecon, the sea wall that Cubans hang out next to. The waves were rough, so there was a lot of splashing over the sea wall.


IMG_0096About 1.5 miles into the race, I could tell that the humidity was going to be a huge factor for me. So I walked through the water stops. The water was delivered in plastic sacks that you bit the end off of. Much more efficient delivery than cups filled with water. Also, more liquid! Each sack held 250ml of water.


We passed the US Embassy near the end of the malecon, it was something to see the building and the US flag flying. Hills started around mile 5, which I was okay with to start. But I began strategically walking the later hills and at one point around mile 9. But only a little to recharge, and then back to running.


The Cubans along the course sat on their front lawns or up on their balconies and watched, but there wasn’t any cheering. That was okay, there was so much to see and absorb along the way, I didn’t miss the signs and bands and cowbells that US races have.


Insight Cuba hired Jenny Hadfield from Runners World as our running coach on Facebook and she was here with us. Around mile 11, I saw an Insight Cuba sign, then realized it was Jenny rooting us on. She had helped coach me through preparing for the heat and humidity, so it was uplifting to see here there. Jenny took this picture.


I pushed through the last 2 miles and was happy to return to the capitol and finish the race. I timed it at 2:38:05, which was fine with me given the conditions.IMG_0182


The race featured a mixture of Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Americans and a few other noticeable nationalities. There were about 5000 runners this year, a record for the number of Cubans and foreign nationals who ran here. It was an incredible experience to see Havana through the streets, so I’m so glad that Ellen encouraged this as the selection for our anniversary trip.

I was able to clean up and take a taxi with 2 other runners to join the companions for lunch at an organic farm outside of Havana. After getting back to the hotel, Ellen led me on a walking tour of old Havana and we did some souvenir shopping.




There was a dinner celebration for the whole tour group, with most of the runners going back to the US on Monday. At each table were 2 Cuban runners. We occasionally had a translator, and otherwise used some Spanish and some English to communicate. It was a special exchange, to talk and share as runners and citizens. It was warm, friendly and uplifting. The race organizer spoke at the dinner about the special bond between the Insight Cuba groups and the Cubans. Maybe there is something to this people-to-people exchange idea.


New York Half Marathon 2014


After my 2 fall half marathons, I was on a runner’s high when the idea of a spring half marathon in New York came up. It would be a chance to run Manhattan and to visit with Andrea and Will. I entered the lottery for the New York Road Runner’s March half marathon, assuming I wouldn’t get in. But I did!

So the training began in January. This was a tough winter to train for a March half. The cold doesn’t bother me, I’ll run in any temperature we get in DC. But the snow and the continued cold, made finding clear trails to run distances was a challenge. As was my 12 mile run a couple of weeks ago. 11 degrees at 5 am, I set out with water in a Camelbak backpack. I got a little water at 2 miles, but the water froze solid in the tube, no more to drink.

I might have missed one or two runs all winter, but I got in all my distance runs and, despite being a little slower in the cold, was happy with my training.

So March 15, we were off to New York. We decided to drive to make it easier to get up and back without being on a schedule. So we pointed the Prius north and drove to New York Saturday morning.

We were staying in one of the race hotels, the Millenium Hotel in the financial district. We checked in and were amazed at our view of the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 memorial.

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After checking in, we took off walking towards the race expo to pick up my race packet. We loved all the people, shops, restaurants and residences along the way. We needed to eat, so we stopped at the Washington Square Diner for a quick lunch. Loved the New York-y feel, the clientele made me feel like we were in a Woody Allen movie.

We walked up to 18th Street and the race expo. It was well organized, but small with not all that much of interest. Back to walking, we passed a Greenwich Village fire station with a shrine to their lost 9/11 firefighters.











We had tickets for the 9/11 memorial. While we were long gone from New York in 2001, Ellen had worked at 140 Broadway and I worked at the American Express Tower for years, so we knew the area quite well, in fact commuting via Path in and out of the Trade Center for years. Andrea and Will joined us. We now have visited 9/11 memorials in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville.




The memorials in the footprint of the towers had the names of those lost around the outside, and water falling along the perimeter, which led to a square in the center where the water disappeared into the center. I was overwhelmed with a sense of falling, of the towers themselves and the jumpers.

A brief return trip to the hotel (and Ellen got a visit in to her favorite department store, Century 21), and then we we walked to Little Italy for dinner. Andrea had chosen the restaurant, Da Nico Restorante, and it did not disappoint.

We all had various pastas, with a white pizza as an appetizer. And on the house, a zeppole plate! Andrea and Will headed back to Columbia, we walked back to the hotel. Early to bed, with the race in the morning!

I got up at 5, ate and showered. Staying in a race headquarters hotel, busses were provided up to Central Park. That was the good news. The bad news was they left at 5:45, which got us up the race start at 6. My wave started at 8:10. It was 30 degrees with 20-30mph wind. There was no where to go and nothing to do. I should have taken the subway up myself later, it was difficult to just stand in the cold for 2 hours. But eventually the time passed and it was time to get in my corral. Race really well organized, so you got in by race number, so even within waves there was seeding by time.

Finally, it was 8:10 and we were off! The race started at 72nd Street on the east side in Central Park. We headed north to 110th, and then came down on the west side of the park. I was aiming for a 2:15-2:20 time, but was running by myself and not really paying attention to pacing. Ellen, Andrea and Will had arranged to meet me around 69th on the west side, about 5.5 miles into the race. They were just where I expected, Andrea with her tradional “Let’s go, Popsy!” sign. I handed off my gloves, and got half of an Absolute Bagel in return. A good swap!

We ran to the southern end of the park, then exited at 7th Avenue. Immediately, you had a view of the electronic signs in Times Square. It was exciting to run there, we were told that Times Square closes only twice a year: for New Year’s Eve and this race.

For the only time during the race, I took out my phone to take a picture and a video. It was definitely the highlight of the race. Here’s a link to the video I shot.


We turned west down 42nd Street, and ran into a solid headwind coming from the west and off the Hudson. I was glad I had trained during the windy days, I was ready for it. We got to the West Side Highway and headed south. The wind was either from the side or behind the rest of the way.

Nothing to do but run south. My support team was aiming to meet me again at 12th Street. That became the focus of my running, if only I could keep going, I would see them. I knew they were dependent on the subway to get there. I learned later it was a frantic effort, but Andrea and Will were there, Ellen had encouraged them to run ahead. Meant so much to me to see them, I greatly appreciated it.

I kept going, fixating on the Freedom Tower ahead. It took awhile to get there, given how far away you could see it. I enjoyed running past American Express, the WTC memorial again. We were at 11 miles, not too much further to go. I thought about all the training runs I had done, running in cold, wind, getting up early. I leaned on that to finish. We entered the Battery Park tunnel and exited at 20K (12.4 miles). Soon a sign said 800 meters to go. Ran awhile, then it was 400M. We turned on Water Street, and the finish line was in sight. I finished at 2:16:22, a time I was fine with given the conditions and my “speed” this winter running in the cold. Got the medal, a heat blanket and a bag of food. We had to walk about half a mile to exit, in the shade, strong wind coming off the water. My hands were freezing. It was the wrong direction too, we had to walk all the way to the South Street Ferry entrance before we exited and could turn back towards the hotel.

I slogged along, never so happy to eventually make it to the hotel and warmth. Showered, packed and we got the car to head home.

The weekend was wonderful, we loved being back in New York, walking, being urban, seeing the kids, eating well and the race went well. Think we’ll try to do it again next year.


Philadelphia Half Marathon


So I’ve completed my marathon! It might have taken me a month, but it was a lot of fun.

Philadelphia is one of our favorite cities to visit. It’s only 2.5 hours away, there are lots of good museums, the historical part of the city, and great restaurants. So it was a good choice for a destination race.

Our first stop of the day was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Ellen had gotten tickets for the Léger exhibit. I didn’t know much about Léger going in, but I learned a lot about his role in modern art. Image

We then drove to our hotel. I am absolutely in love with Kimpton Hotels. The boutique style, the friendly staff and the small touches just make it like staying with friends. Maybe even better. So when we could book a race rate at the Hotel Monaco, it was a no-brainer. And they did not disappoint, we had a great stay.

It was now lunch time, we didn’t have anything specific in mind, so we went to the Food Network app. There was a Spanish restaurant, just down the street that was recommended by the “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show. Our meal at Amada was delicious. From the brunch menu, we shared lamb meatballs, potatos bravas, tortilla espanola, lemon ricotta pancakes and chorizo con papas. Everything was so good!

Next stop was the Philadelphia Convention Center, as I had to get the race packet. For a race with 30,000 runners, the packet pickup was well organized. We walked through the expos, picking up all the runner fuel food and thinking about races in all the interesting places. Once you have the bib, it’s on!Image

We went into Reading Market, always a fun place to visit. Having had the big lunch, we snacked only on a cupcake from Flying Monkey Bakery. How can you resist that name?

Back to the hotel briefly, it was then time for dinner. Ellen had picked a French bistro, Bistrot La Minette. It was a nice .7 mile walk, and we love exploring the neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The restaurant was cozy and warm. Ellen had trout for dinner, I had butter-basted chicken. Great meal! Walking back, we went down South Street, which is quite the visual experience of bars, restaurants, stores, tattoo parlors, etc. It wasn’t exactly our crowd, but it was fun to observe.

The race start time was 7am on Sunday. That meant my pre-race meal at 4. I slept okay, but was paranoid about sleeping through alarms. So I got up a little before 4 and had a banana, granola bar and apple sauce. Then back to bed for a little more than an hour. Thought I was just going to lie there, couldn’t get back to sleep. But eventually, I must have fallen back asleep, until the alarm went off at 5:10. Up, showered, dressed, out by 5:30. In the aftermath of Boston, they asked for runners to be there 2 hours early to get through security. That seemed ridiculous.

The hotel was 2 miles from the start line. I took the SEPTA subway one mile to City Hall, so then just had a 1 mile walk. There were lots of people on the street, it was a fun atmosphere. First thing I walked past was the famous Love statue. Not so crowded at 5:45. Image

Security was not difficult to get through. I eventually found my way to the purple coral, the place for fast runners like me (hah!).Image

It was right near the Rocky statue. Rocky was in race mode, as he was sporting the race shirt. Image

I don’t think I’ve run a race this large before. Just seeing all the runners lining up was pretty exciting. Right at 7 the race started. Took my coral just around 20 minutes to get to the start. And we were off! I was trying to hold myself back, but I got a little caught up in the excitement. First mile was my fastest of the day, 8’52”. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep that up. Next mile was just a little slower, 9’01”. I was happy to have banked some time, but clearly this wasn’t going to last for the whole race. So I settled down in mile 3, a comfortable 9’30”. We had run across the city, past the liberty bell to the Delaware River on the east side. We ran along the water for a little bit, then back west. We ran on South Street, which was familiar to me but quite different early on a Sunday morning.

Around mile 5 was near the hotel, so I was looking for Ellen. She wasn’t certain when she was getting up, and wasn’t certain she would be there. But I had a hunch she would be. Came up 6th Street, and there she was. I was excited to see her, put an extra spring in my step. In fact, mile 7 was back to  8’55”! Running across Walnut Street was probably the most exciting. Somewhat narrow, it had so many spectators on both sides. It was thrilling to have so much support and made the middle part go fast.

Crossing the Schuylkill River and things changed. Course less crowded with spectators. I think it was Drexel we ran through. A fraternity was out, offering Keystone Light. Right, like I’m going to lose time to stop and drink bad beer!

The course was amazingly flat, until mile 10 where there was a small hill and then a very long one. Had my slowest mile there, but it was only 10’05”. It was followed by some turns around a park and then a steep downhill. Downhill should be easy, right? It wasn’t. It was really steep and a little painful. That brought us down along the river though. Soon I was about 11.5 miles in and the Art Museum was in sight. I tried to pick up the pace a little, but managed only 9’54” on mile 12 and 9’43” for mile 13. We crossed the river, went around the museum, and suddenly had only .2 miles to go. The mayor of Philadephia, Michael Nutter, is a big supporter of the race. He was standing right at the finish line. I got my high 5 from him just before crossing the line. Turned off my watch, saw my time, which was officially 2:07:27, a pace of 9’44”. That was almost 2 minutes faster than Atlantic City last month, so my 2nd fastest of 4 half marathons. Was very happy with my race.

I got my medal, aluminum blanket and some food. I had thought it silly to take the subway back, so I walked the 2 miles back to the hotel. I was slow, but so were all the other runners. I did think that somehow all the curbs has been raised a couple of inches, as lifting the feet to step up and down was difficult.

Ellen had spent the morning after seeing me wandering the city. She had gotten back to the hotel just before me. I cleaned up, we checked out, and then headed to lunch. That was another selection from the Food Network app. Guy had visited Percy Street Barbecue, so so would we. We had a great meal, Ellen had ribs, I had brisket. Oh, and I had a root beer shake to celebrate. Image

We then got going for the drive back home so we could pick up Colby.

I had been a little concerned about running such a large race. But Philadephia did great at staging it and spreading out the start, so it never really felt that crowded. You got a lot of energy from the crowd. The cheering and the signs made it fun to people watch as you ran. The signs entertained me, although a “Go Victor” sign around mile 8 choked me up, thinking about my dad. But I was just that more determined to run hard. I am leaning strongly to running this race again next year, it was a great complete weekend.

So a very successful running year is drawing to a close. I’m running the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase 10K next week for the 16th straight year. I’ll run a couple more weeks into December and then take a two week break. I exceeded my 1000 mile goal for the year in October, I’ll have run one 10 mile and 2 half marathons. I’ve stayed healthy. I’m very thankful.

Thanks to Ellen for so many reasons, mostly for putting up with me and allowing me to pursue this passion. We enjoy these destination races. Thanks to all in the DC running community, and friends both real and virtual who have motivated me and kept me accountable. This discovery of running as a passion is not even 3 years old, but it’s something I enjoy very much.