The largest half-marathon in the country, Airbnb Brooklyn Half unites the diverse neighborhoods of New York City’s most populous borough. Excitement builds during race week at the three-day Airbnb Brooklyn Half Pre-Party Presented by New Balance, and the After-Party at MCU Park and other post-race gatherings keep the celebration—and community spirit—going.
As dazzling a race as it’s become, though, the Airbnb Brooklyn Half retains a distinctly Brooklyn feel. “This race is Brooklyn,” said Nick Nikos, the manager of Tom’s Coney Island restaurant, located right at the finish line on the Coney Island boardwalk. “I don’t know how to explain it, but it just has an energy like no other.”
Each year, Nikos and the rest of the Tom’s staff eagerly await the race, which kicks off the summer season a week before Memorial Day weekend. “People forget that this area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012,” he said. The 2013 Brooklyn Half played a vital role in jump-starting the economic recovery that’s ongoing.
“We’re back, for sure,” he said, looking around at overflowing tables of runners wolfing down hearty breakfast fare, “but every year we’re still grateful for how this race helped us.”
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half has deep roots in Brooklyn: The first running was in 1981. “I ran it many times when it started on the boardwalk and finished in Prospect Park,” said Kevin Glover, a Harlem resident and longtime NYRR member. “It’s a great to run through Brooklyn, no matter which direction.”
The first Coney Island finish, in 2009, was an instant hit. “I love that this race brings so many people to this beautiful part of Brooklyn,” said volunteer Daisy Marcelo, a resident of nearby Bensonhurst. “Hopefully they’ll have a fun time and come back.”
That hope seemed well-founded as thousands of runners and fans celebrated at MCU Park and other Coney Island landmarks and enjoyed plenty of hot dogs and beer along with their pretzels and Gatorade.
“This is why I run this race,” said Brooklyn native and current Long Island resident Kevin Doody, gesturing at the celebratory scene that surrounded him in MCU Park—runners sprawled on the infield, kids darting about, music playing. Doody ran all 13.1 miles today with his brother John, who still calls Brooklyn home.
“He abandoned Brooklyn for the suburbs, and I’ll never understand why,” said John.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Kevin with a smile. “I’ll always love Brooklyn.”