Race Report: Grete’s Great Gallop Half-Marathon

woman about to run half-marathon
Going underground: Alison en route to Central Park.

This race report is written by Alison Pellicci, a mom of two from Stamford, Conn., who is Sarah's “cadet” in the Saucony 26Strong program. Next month, Alison will be taking on her first 26.2, the Philadelphia Marathon, with SBS by her side. On Sunday, Alison ran Grete's Great Gallop, a half-marathon in NYC's Central Park, as a prep run for Philly. Last Thursday, Dim's cadet, Kelly Pollock, wrote a post on running the Rock 'N' Roll Montreal half-marathon. 

Sunday morning my husband, Anthony, and I head into Manhattan to run our second warm-up race before we both undertake our maiden 26.2-mile journeys. He is less than a month out from New York City Marathon, and I’m now just eight weeks from Philly Marathon (with SBS as part of Saucony 26Strong program)!

We hop on a Metro-North train and are in Grand Central in under an hour. A quick ride on the subway brought us to Central Park for Grete’s Great Gallop: a half-marathon in honor of Grete Waltz and to raise funds for Memorial Sloane Kettering Hospital. The course was a little more than two loops through Central Park. With a strained hip flexor, I was slightly nervous about the hills since my orthopaedist told me to stay away from up hills. (No glamorous running injury here: A slip in the shower has slowed my progress for the past two weeks!). After consulting with Sarah and my ortho, we decide I would run the race as a training run but not actually race it.

half-marathon runners in starting corral
Happy feet: "penguin" racers waiting at the start.

The previous day's storms ushered in a cold front: It is 40 degrees with a Real Feel in the 30s, plus the park is heavily shaded. Anthony and I keep on our extra gear on as long as possible and find a sunny spot to warm up. About 15 minutes before race start, we check our bags and head up to the corrals. There were about 7,000 runners and the corrals look like penguins huddling for warmth.

Finally, we start shuffling forward to the start line, then we’re off. I am a bit hesitant as I am not sure how my hip will feel throughout and am afraid I won’t be able to finish. Around the 2-mile mark, I feel warmed up and find a comfortable pace to run.

At around the 3-mile marker, I see a teenager holding a poster that says, “You have the eye of the tiger!” (the song from “Rocky,” which takes place in Philly). I take this as a (literal) sign from the running gods, reminding me to not risk the ultimate goal of running Philly. I restrain my urge to pick up my pace, babying my strained hip.

half-marathon race course
Bucolic meets urban: a view across the race field out toward the big city.

Shortly after that “sign,” I hear a blast of whistles and shouts of, “move to your right.” Remembering this is a double loop around Central Park, I realize I am about to get passed by the race leader. He is at mile 9; I am at mile 3. I check my GPS and calculate he is running 5-minute miles. I am in awe--as are all the other runners around me--as he effortlessly handles the course. Around mile 5, I once again hear the whistles and shouts as the women’s leader strides by with the same impressive effort.

The course brought out many of the local race clubs and their fans. Throughout the entire race, they cheer on everyone with great enthusiasm. The NYRR volunteers keep us motivated, and safe, as the park is still open to the public. We are running clockwise on the right, while Sunday runners and walkers re moving counter-clockwise on the left side. They, too, cheer us on with smiles, nods, and claps of encouragement.

Giddy up! The style of horse and carriage next to racers in Grete's Great Gallop.
Giddy up! The style of horse and carriage next to racers in Grete's Great Gallop.

After the cold start, we relish a perfect autumn day to run in Central Park, and I spend the rest of the miles enjoying running in a place I don’t usually get to run! We run past the grand Metropolitan Museum of Art, landmark restaurant Tavern on the Green, the beautiful Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, and down (lucky for me and my hip) Cat Hill. There is no music or entertainment provided by the race sponsors, but the unique sounds and sights of the humming city easily replace them. We hear the clip-clop of  horses pulling carriages, street musicians playing, the steady hum of traffic (interspersed with an occasional siren), and we smell of pretzels and hotdogs of street vendors. When I hear the calliope music from the Central Park Carousel, I know I’m getting close to the finish line.

As I round the bend and hit a small incline, the energy of the crowd carries me through the last stretch and into the finish. I give silent thanks that I only felt mild discomfort in my hip during the 13.1 miles. Although it wasn’t a record-breaking time for me (2:19:36):, it is for my husband (1:51:40)! It was a beautiful day on a great course; and we are both building confidence as we move closer to running our debut marathons.

woman who ran half-marathon
Alison, 13.1 miles closer to Philly Marathon!


8 responses to “Race Report: Grete’s Great Gallop Half-Marathon

  1. Congratulations Alison! I really enjoyed reading about your weekend half marathon. Your pictures are terrific. Sunday was such a beautiful day to run in Central Park. I don’t think the weather here in NY could have been any better for a fall half marathon. I was sorry to read that your hip is hurting from a slip in the shower. At least it is not a running related injury and will hopefully heal completely by the time of the Philly Marathon. I wish you good weather and injury free miles as you complete your training for Philly. I look forward to reading about your adventure in November!

  2. Running 13.1 miles can be quite a challenge, but you’ve managed it successfully. Congratulations and don’t stop!

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