Home races When Technology Fails: My 2016 United NYC Half Recap

When Technology Fails: My 2016 United NYC Half Recap

by Nellie

The last eight to ten weeks of my life have been exhausting to say the least. From the never ending illness to a close family member passing unexpectedly–my world has been spinning, literally.


Training for the NYC Half was much less than ideal. Sure I ran the Princess Half in Disney World a month ago, but I was also still sick so I took it very easy. I didn’t have that kind of option or time to spare in the competitive surrounding of NYC runners so I was a bit scared yet excited about this race.


This race was also a big payoff for me. Since I didn’t get an entry in the 2015 NYC Half lottery, I ran 4 races in 2015 in order to qualify for guaranteed entry. These races included The (emotional) AirBNB Brooklyn Half, The (hot and humid) Queens 10k, The (omg this is hilly) Bronx 10 miler, and The Staten Island Half Marathon that I ran hours before boarding a plane to Israel.


So yeah, this was a big deal.

Even though I was emotionally and physically exhausted (I had spent most of the Saturday prior unable to move from the couch) I made it to the start line with little time to spare. It is always so nice to people watch and listen to conversations, so many were talking about how beautiful Central Park was and we’re looking around in pure awe. It was only then did I remember this race, like the NYC  marathon, was an international race. There were 20k people running today and most were from out of town.


Technical difficulties

It was so cold. I have never run a half in anything less than 40 degrees. It was 32 at the start. I layered up accordingly but I was a bit scared. To add insult to injury as I was searching for my playlist for the half I watched my iPhone battery go from 77% to 22%. I went into an immediate panic. I restarted my phone and just that quickly my battery level read 15%. I knew I wanted to get at least one picture in Times Square but I’d have to shut off my phone and prayed it turned back on. The saddest part about all of this was that I had no access to any music. Running in the cold was sort of manageable, running 13.1 untrained miles in the cold with no music?! No. I swear I almost turned around and went home. I know my limits. I know the noise of my own thoughts would doom me pretty much immediately.

Then I remembered that I had a bit of music on my TomTom Spark. I’d never added any, but I knew that something was there by default. I paired it with my Bluetooth headphones (that I had purchased 2 days prior) and listened to the same 37 minutes of random techno music. It wasn’t ideal but it shut out my thoughts and allowed me to press forward.

Central Park

I am intimately familiar with Central Park because of the dozens of races I ran last year. This didn’t make things any easier. It seemed like the longest 10k ever. Right before the three mile point I saw the sweep bus about a mile behind me which was a wake up call for me that I would HAVE to keep moving as stopping was not an option. I didn’t run four entire races last year for this opportunity and turn around and get swept for the first time? No sir.

Times Square

It was such a relief to exit the park on 7th avenue. The crowds had thinned but those that were still there have me so much energy. Even though I worked in Times Square for nine years, running through was a completely different story. It was breathtaking. It was hard to keep the emotions at bay but somehow I managed.


As we turned on 7th avenue straight down to the west side highway, the crowds were fantastic and I gave more than a few high fives to drivers on the left side. Body was hurting terribly at this point but the environment was a great distraction.

my hair was crazy but I was in Times Square!

my hair was crazy but I was in Times Square!

The hardest was the west side highway. My thoughts took over here, thoughts of extreme sadness, wonder if the sweep bus was close or not, the cold of the west side highway penetrating my bones and desperation to finish. After what seems like forever I got to the Battery Tunnel. I have been through this route a million times so being there on foot was simply the coolest thing ever.

The Finish

As I pushed through towards the finish line, I really couldn’t believe I made it to the end. No music that I liked, no timing device, no phone. As I approached the timing mat the CEO of The New York Road Runners was there high fiving the back of the pack and really that simple gesture meant the world to me.

My cousin waited for me and I appreciated that so much because it was so nice to see a family member and talk about the race. She pr’d which was so great.


It was an emotional race. The kind that I had to dig deep, then dig a bit deeper in order to keep going. It was colder than cold, I wanted my bed. The technical difficulties made a hard situation almost impossible…but I did it. This seems to be the reason why I run. Sometimes the conditions are perfect, sometimes not, but each time–I complete it. I make it to the end. I toe the start line, I move at my pace, and I make it through. Some days I don’t even know why I run, but I know deep inside its because I impress myself. My times are never impressive to everyone else but to me they are matchless. Running proves to my inner doubts that I can do anything I put my mind to. It helps me in my work, it helps me in my writing. It is hard, so hard, but so is life. If I can push through these 13.1 miles, I can push through life as well. Through grief, through disappointment, through illness, through triumph. I can handle it.

[Tweet “When technology fails how do you cope? No watch, no music, in the COLD–My #UnitedNYCHalf Recap “]

Has technology ever completely failed you during a race? How often do you run without a watch timing you? Have you ever used fitness to get through something difficult?


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CARLA March 30, 2016 - 5:32 am

I didnt know your WHY but when I saw you say on FB how DEEP YOU HAD TO DIG and how hard it was and so so gratifying I knew (because you are YOU) that you werent exaggerating.

Allie March 30, 2016 - 5:56 am

YES you can and YES running does all that and more!!! I love how you have developed into such an understanding of racing and running and appreciate all that it brings into your life – THAT is what it is all about and you so get it. I’m so proud of you Nellie! I know I say that all the time but truly, after going though the cold and no music and sadness and sickness and still, you crossed that finish line. It just doesn’t get better than that. Congratulations!

Janine HulDie March 30, 2016 - 6:32 am

As always you are quite amazing to me. That said if anything would have thwarted me it would have been the cold as I am just truly not a fan at all. But still so proud of you always!! 😉

Kimberly G March 30, 2016 - 7:40 am

Oh my! Well you already know about my NYC Half experience, lol. I give you all the credit in the world for running without the best music. Last year my ipod suddenly died during the first mile of the Bronx 10 miler eventhough I had charged it the night before. It was a miserable run to put it nicely, lol

Leslie March 30, 2016 - 12:08 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you are an inspiration. I can’t imagine running that far without my music. Just the fact that you finished is wonderful. Feel proud!

Tamara March 30, 2016 - 1:23 pm

Ahh.. running without music. I don’t know if I’d do that well, but hearing the running and chatter of others must have been fun. And the cold! And having been sick. I know all those feelings so well.

Carly March 30, 2016 - 1:37 pm

Nellie, that’s one of the most beautiful, honest descriptions of the ‘why’ behind running and racing that I’ve read. Congrats, you badass!! (And of all the times for your phone to die!!! Ugh. )

Lashawn March 30, 2016 - 1:46 pm

So proud of you! Because girl.. No tunes? I would have been on the train home.

Nellie March 30, 2016 - 7:31 pm

This was strongly considered…like for REAL.

kita March 31, 2016 - 12:12 am

Oh I can’t do anything without my music lol. You pushed through though so I am super proud of you

Janelle April 11, 2016 - 10:02 am

I have definitely had technical difficulties during a race – just yesterday my music just decided to stop playing while I ran, but thankfully it was a short race! Congrats on finishing despite the challenges! I still need to run a race in NYC, it just looks so beautiful!


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