Larry O'Connor is the man behind the blog Running for Your Life: part-training tips, part-road memoir, part-inspiration guide (run4yrlife.blogspot.com). We asked O'Connor why you, dear Brooklynite, fresh out of your holiday lethargy, should think about running the Brooklyn Half-Marathon this May.
1. Coney Island In the early days of the Brooklyn Half, runners took their marks on the boardwalk, and then ran to Prospect Park—kind of boring. Now we mass on Center Drive in Prospect Park, run a couple of circuits and beetle out on Ocean Parkway, where folks line the streets, cheering, handing out cups of water, occasionally even spraying a garden hose. There are more famous "final stretches," but none as satisfying as the Brooklyn Half. Coney is in for a corporate reno of the worst order, so this is the year to see it in May like you've never seen it before. Save some energy for a final kick, and sprint along the boardwalk to the finish line, with hundreds of people lining the oceanfront cheering you on.
2. Quaker Parrots You'd think the Quaker parrots of the Green-Wood Cemetery main entrance and the nearby Con Ed substation on Sixth Avenue would fly south for the winter. Nope. Do more than one winter training run around the Green-Wood perimeter. (You can walk the cemetery grounds, but not run on them.) You'll want to check out the headstones and, my favorite, the Jackie Gleason bus depot, but the parrots, which escaped from a botched JFK delivery in the 60s, are the highlight. These guys are great inspiration: loud, smart and strong, setting their nests on the leeward side of the Richard Upjohn-built arch to guard against the worst of the frigid New York Harbor winds.
3. Prospect Park Casual jogging is one thing, but working your way up to that magic 13.1 for the Half will allow you to experience the park like never before. Start by leaving the headphones at home: Even in winter, listen for the chirp of the cardinal, the sound of the mallard landing on the lake. On a long run, bring a little water, since the outdoor drinking fountains are turned off. Take paths deep into the park, and maybe you'll even find the Vale of Cashmere everyone's always talking about.
4. Perogies! After the finish, load up on carbs—beer, perogies and kasha—with your adoring fans on the Brighton Beach boardwalk. First half-marathon? Then encourage a toast; you've graduated from jogger to runner. And do not worry about the calories. Here's the scoop: Calories burned per hour while running: between 800 and 1,000. Swimming range is 300-650 and biking (13 mph) is 660.
5. The Other Half Who knows, you might surprise yourself, the way I did when, after I ran the Brooklyn Half in 2009, I thought I could have kept going a few more miles. So the following May I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon, and in October, the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA, where I qualified for Boston, which I will run in April 2011. The Brooklyn Half can be the first step toward being part of the most elite group of runners in America. Last year, only 467,000 people, a fraction of Brooklyn's population, ran in a U.S. marathon. Your Other Half could start in Brooklyn this May.