Sunday, October 12, 2008

What Is the Hardest Half?

This question comes up all the time, in various forms or fashion. Today, being Staten Island, I got the question: Is it harder than Brooklyn? And what's the hardest half?

Being the ultimate equivocator, my response: It depends. I haven't run Queens, so can't comment on that, but Staten Island remains my favorite half. I like the combination of rolling hills and flat parts, I love the volunteer and spectator support.

Is it the hardest half? Well, let's think about weather, elevation, your personal shape, etc. Personally, I think running the Bronx half in the dead of summer has been the most difficult in terms of conditions/course/etc. of my races. Then again, while Brooklyn is "mostly flat,'' try competing in sub-freezing temperatures with a headwind. And we're all familiar with the Central Park hills, esp. those in Harlem (and the familiarity helps a lot - I know how to run Central Park, albeit not always with the best results).

One way to look at it is to consider the number of people who finish under 1:30, and then create a percentage based on the overall finishers. (This method has a *ton* of flaws, not the least that Staten Island, because it's the closest in time to the New York Marathon, loses a lot of runners.)

That said, for illustrative purposes only, let's take a look at how the half marathons stack up:

Staten Island: Oct. 12
Finishers: 3624
Sub-1:30: 182
Percentage: 5.02

Queens: Sept. 14
Finishers: 3,059
Sub-1:30: 81
Percentage: 2.65

Brooklyn: May 3
Finishers: 5,832
Sub-1:30: 351
Percentage: 6.02

Bronx: Feb. 14
Finishers: 3,265
Sub-1:30: 164
Percentage: 5.02

Manhattan: Jan. 27
Finishers: 4,994
Sub-1:30: 272
Percentage: 5.45

So based on this, one could argue that the Queens Half was the hardest this year, and Brooklyn was the easiest (or put another way: You had a lot better chance running a faster time at Brooklyn than Queens this year).

Knowing from colleagues about the number of turns on the course, and recalling the weather: 73 degrees, 87 percent humidity, according to the Web site ... Queens this year definitely has an argument for the being the toughest. (And Brooklyn racing conditions were pretty sweet).

As mentioned above, there are tons of holes in this methodology - you'd need to take a look over time, use runners that had the same level of physical fitness, compensate for weather, etc.

It's open for debate, as always. And congrats to everyone who completed at least one of this year's Half Marathon Grand Prix (once a list surfaces for the Brooklyn residents who knocked out all five, I'll post it).

1 comment:

Laura said...

I found the Bronx half to be the hardest this year, because there was such a strong headwind on the long out-and-back. Manhattan was cold but perfectly fine course-wise, and I thought Queens was not nearly as hot/bad as people made it out to be. In a similar vein, though I was injured and didn't run it full out, I thought the Staten Island course was very easy - people had said hilly, but there were only two small hills.

I'd say Brooklyn was probably the easiest, at least this year.