On January 28 at noon, registration opened for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon. Just 52 minutes later, 27 thousand runners had signed up, filling the race to capacity. Suffice it to say, people are excited. But excitement will only get you so far. This distance requires training. At 13.1 miles, fitting in a few long runs (we’re talking 10 and 11 miles at a stretch) is non-negotiable. Ideally, those runs are completed somewhere without obstacles, or the need to dodge too many crowds, or pause for copious stop lights. With so many miles to cover, sustained exertion for uncomfortable periods of time is required. Interrupting that flow can be running death.
But around here, finding that flow is easier said than done. Brooklyn isn’t known for its wide-open spaces or for being lightly populated. It is big–more than 20 miles north to south–but there’s plenty of traffic and unpredictability to jolt a runner out of her zone. So when it comes time for longer outings in preparation for the Brooklyn Half, finding suitable, obstacle-free (or even obstacle-light) courses requires a little effort–but it is possible.
Here, then, are several options, scattered throughout the borough that will help you train for the Brooklyn Half (which, by the way, you should start doing by mid-March!). Within each loop, there is plenty of wiggle room–take a different street here, turn off a block or several blocks earlier there–but the basic approach is consistent. Prospect Park serves as an incredibly useful hub (a 3.35-mile-long circuit, which features prominently in the Brooklyn Half) whose spokes–shooting north to McCarren Park, northwest to Fort Greene Park, west to Red Hook Track, and south to Brighton Beach–add between two and six miles to each path. Better, because they all begin or end at parks and tracks (save for Brighton Beach but, hey, then you’re at the beach) it’s really easy to add on more miles at your end-points: Run around the cushy ovals at McCarren and Red Hook tracks, circle the undulating terrain at Fort Greene Park, or whizz (or hobble) by Prospect Park Lake once more. We might live in a big city, but that doens’t mean we don’t have a running oasis or two of our own.
Come race day, you’ll feel not only more connected to your course and the quirks of its terrain, you may even feel some hometown pride for having trained for it, every step of the way, right here in Brooklyn.
1. Fort Greene Park/Prospect Park Loop:
Start at the very top of the hill at Fort Greene Park—the concrete platform that holds the towering Prison Ship Martyrs Monument—meander down to the bottom of the park, merge with Fulton Street, and take Vanderbilt Avenue straight to Prospect Park. Runing the park loop and returning to the obelisk (a nice up-hill challenge at the end of the run!), banks you a seven-mile outing. Once again, extend your distance with loops around Fort Greene or Prospect Park.
2. Red Hook Track/Prospect Park Loop:
It goes without saying, each course can begin or end at either spot. When beginning at Red Hook Track, continuing to Prospect Park via Union Street, and after completing the entirety of the Park loop, you’ll have logged a nice six-mile run. Add miles with extra laps at the park or track at the beginning or end of your path.
3. Brighton Beach/Prospect Park Loop:
Take yourself down south, near where you’ll finish the Brooklyn Half race. The Q train stop at Ocean Parkway opens, as might be expected, onto Ocean Parkway, and that provides a direct path to Prospect Park. Once there, run the park loop and you’ve covered a solid 9 miles. Has your training been going surprisingly well? You could run all the way back down south for a more-insane (but exciting?) 15-mile course. With that much distance behind you, a half marathon will feel like breeze–a soft ocean breeze, which you’ll be near.
4. McCarren Park Track/Prospect Park Loop:
For all you north Brooklyn runners: Start a long Sunday run at McCarren Park Track, do a few warm-up laps, then head south down Kent. After merging onto Flushing, turn southeast onto Vanderbilt Avenue, all the way to the park. At the end of that loop, you’ve run a solid nine miles. Retrace the park perimeter once more, and you’ve practically run a Half Marathon. Way to go. You’ve got race day in the bag.