On Saturday, more than 27,000 runners raced 13.1 miles through New York’s most buzzed-about borough to cross the finish line at the largest half-marathon in the country—the Airbnb Brooklyn Half.
The iconic course takes runners from the Brooklyn Museum, through Prospect Park, to the Coney Island boardwalk. It’s no wonder this year’s race sold out in a record 52 minutes in January.
“There’s a definite energy here that you don’t get in a lot of other races,” said Dorothy Williams, 57, from Wilton, CT, before the start. Williams ran the race for her fourth time this year, with her daughter Becky Williams, 23, and friend Jeanette Trujillo, 54, from Norwalk, CT.
“We’re a little delirious from getting up this morning at 3:00 a.m.,” said Trujillo, laughing. “The race is fun, though, and the finish is great. When you’re on Ocean Parkway and you finish on the Boardwalk and see the Cyclone, it’s exciting!”
The first male across the finish was Ayele Megersa Feisa, 28, of the West Side Runners, in 1:04:22. Abu Kebede Diriba, 28, also of WSX, quickly followed in 1:04:38 and Harbert Okuti, 30, of the Westchester Track Club, was third for the men in 1:04:41.
Caroline Lefrak, 32, of the New York Athletic Club, secured the top spot on the women’s side in 1:14:45, with NYAC teammate Esther Erb Atkins, 30, and Jane Vongvorachoti, 32, of Henwood's Hounds Racing Team, finishing second and third in 1:14:50 and 1:15:13, respectively.
A cool morning with temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s made for close to ideal weather for racing. Once finishers collected their medals, they entered MCU Park for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half After-Party and took advantage of the cloudy but comfortable spring day. Many kicked off their shoes, sprawled out, and listened to live music. Others celebrated 13.1 with hot dogs and cold beers—totally acceptable for 9:00 a.m. when you’re at Coney Island.
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half After-Party at MCU Park was the second time this week that runners celebrated Brooklyn-style. Race week kicked off Wednesday, when Brooklyn Bridge Park played host to the three-day Airbnb Brooklyn Half Pre-Party Presented by New Balance. Against a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline—the perfect photo op—Pre-Party goers got a true taste of Brooklyn after picking up their race bibs and tech tees. Runners lounged in hammocks and listened to live DJs; picked up tacos, mac and cheese, and craft beer from food trucks; and shopped for exclusive Airbnb Brooklyn Half gear made by New Balance. Lawn games, like oversized versions of Jenga and Connect Four, proved popular with kids—and kids at heart—as they took it easy in the days leading up to Saturday’s 13.1 miles.
“I’ve been running for a long time and I feel like I’m going to get a personal record this time,” said Phoebe Morgan, 27, of New York, while swinging on a swing at the Pre-Party, where she kicked back with runner-friend Mia Manatan, 28, also of New York. “We run a lot of races together and thought this one would be a good chance for us both to go for best times.”
On day one of the Pre-Party, 26 Young Runners from 187K in Brooklyn received New Balance running shoes. After lacing up, the kids participated in relay races with NYRR President and CEO Michael Capiraso and NYRR President of Events and Race Director of the TCS New York City Marathon Peter Ciaccia. The kicks came just in time for Saturday’s NYRR Kids' Boardwalk Run at the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, a one-mile race for youth ages 7-18.
More than 1,500 adult runners in Saturday’s race were also in it for the kids—they ran as part of NYRR’s Team for Kids. Each TFK runner raised a minimum of $300 to benefit NYRR’s free youth running programs, like Young Runners and Mighty Milers.
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half was the second of five races that make up the NYRR Five-Borough Series, a celebration of what makes each borough unique, inspiring, and an amazing place to run.
Damian Flores, 39, who moved to the Bronx from Mexico 10 years ago, is a perfect example of that inspiration. He and a group of about 15 friends wore matching shirts with the Mexican flag on the front and their last names embroidered on the back. “We are doing the Five Borough Series this year,” said Flores. “Our goal is to get to the TCS New York City Marathon—as true New Yorkers.”
David Fernandez, 42, of Queens, is chasing a similar goal: “I’m doing 9+1 this year so I can finally cross the TCS New York City Marathon off my bucket list as a native New Yorker,” he said. “I’ve caught the running fever!”
Even though for many, the Airbnb Brooklyn Half is part of a longer journey, for others, it’s a hometown race.
“It’s my fourth year running this half,” said Johana Mendoza, 36, from Bushwick. “I run other half marathons, but this one is by far the most fun. It’s a party, it’s where I live, and it’s around people I know, which I love.”