For Brooklynite Billy Henehan, Half-Marathon #42 May Be the Best Yet
You won’t find a runner with more enthusiasm for the United Airlines NYC Half than Billy Henehan. The 40-year-old from Brooklyn has run the race seven times—and he can’t wait to toe the starting line again this year. “The NYC Half is very special to me,” he says. “Since 2008 I’ve only missed it a couple of times. I often tell friends it’s the fastest you will ever move through Times Square.”
He’s enjoyed the course changes, such as the finish moving from north of Battery Park to Wall Street near South Street Seaport, and the addition of a Harlem segment. As much as he loved the old course from Central Park to lower Manhattan, he couldn’t be more thrilled about this year’s brand-new route.
“I'm very excited for the huge change in the course this year—especially since it involves a whole new borough being added,” he says. “I feel that this change makes the race a true NYC half.”
An MTA NYC Transit professional, Billy has two pro tips for getting to the start on race day: “One, buy your MetroCard the day before the race,” he advises. “Two, download the MTA’s Subway Time app. It is a game changer. It lets you know when the next few trains are arriving for every stop and every subway line.”
Once the starting horn sounds, he’s looking forward to the opening downhill stretch on Flatbush Avenue. “I know I’m going to need to repeat to myself over and over not to go out too hard,” he says. “I can definitely see people going out way too fast. I’ll enjoy passing those people on the Manhattan Bridge ascent.”
Billy is also excited to test his fitness coming off a training cycle that includes many runs pushing a stroller. “My daughter Violet will turn two a week before the race,” he says. “My favorite runs these days involve pushing Violet in our running stroller. She loves it too. For her it's like a roller coaster ride.”
Though the cold, snowy winter has created some scheduling challenges, Billy believes that what he may have lost in weekly mileage, he’s made up for in strength gains. “There are few things as satisfying as passing someone on an uphill while you're pushing a gleeful toddler in a stroller,” he reports. He’s aiming for a finish time around 1:36.
He’s also looking forward to sharing race day with his November Project teammates. “I have never met a more enthusiastic group of individuals,” he says. “At every workout, everyone is cheering each other on. We also have what can arguably be called the loudest cheer squad in the local running scene. We cheer for everyone on race day, regardless of team affiliation.”
The 2018 United Airlines NYC Half will be Billy’s 42nd half-marathon. “I love the half—I think it’s the ideal race distance,” he says. “It’s challenging, but it doesn’t require the 20 weeks of devotion that a marathon does.” His personal best is 1:32, run at the Brooklyn Half in 2015.
Billy has completed 127 New York Road Runners races in the past 12 years—and he appreciates every one. “In 2003, I slipped on some ice and broke my leg very badly,” he says. “I was in a full leg cast for two months and was in physical therapy for about a year. I was told I'd never run again,” he recalls.
Clearly, he proved that prediction wrong. “All I can say,” he says, “is always believe in yourself and never give up.”