A Change of Pace: Snapshots of a Birthday Weekend

The last few weekends have been based around running far. This weekend, as I eased in to my 25th year, I decided to shoot for a change of pace, instead focusing purely on enjoyment.

I’m not big on birthdays, but if there was one thing I wanted to do on Friday morning as I turned a quarter of a century old, it was run. So that’s exactly what I did: an easy 5-mile run around the lower loop of Central Park.

Central Park was delicious as always, the sun shining bright as ever even though the rest of the day turned out to be on the cloudier side. 5 miles went by quickly, and before I knew it, I was heading back south toward my apartment.

The run was a winner for two reasons. For one, it was a fantastic way to begin my quarter life crisis. On another level, if you’re new to WRFG, Friday runs are simply one of my favorite ways to kick off a weekend. And it was a great weekend indeed.

To start, my mom and I share a birthday, and so it’s become somewhat customary to spend that special day together. Noah and I met my parents for dinner at Pylos, one of my favorite restaurants in all of New York City. Traditional Greek comfort food was a welcome meal following an indulgent night out with Noah at the Bourgeois Pig, where we shared drinks and a cheese plate…

…and Upstate in the East Village, where we dined on scallops with brown rice and mushroom risotto, crab cakes and kale, and oysters. (This was my fourth time trying oysters, and I’m still not crazy about them; actually, I don’t really get them at all. They taste like ocean.)

On Friday night, I met a handful of amazing friends out at a great little bar called Summit in Alphabet City and made a valiant attempt to maintain some level of sobriety and ultimately keep it classy. After all, I wanted to be able to run on Saturday morning.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting in some pretty hard core runs – 12 milers followed by 15 milers followed by many consecutive 5-plus mile days. So when I woke up on Saturday morning, I decided to take it slow – you know, lounge around the apartment and cook breakfast before even thinking about getting dressed (in a particularly girly, pink outfit at that). I also decided that, instead of anything aggressive, I’d make Saturday’s run a strictly fun one.

Noah agreed to run with me downtown to the Hester Street Fair, which was opening for the season. If you’re not one for giant, overwhelming markets, but love artisanal food and cute hipster finds, then the Hester Street Fair is for you.

The total distance was probably just around 4 miles, or maybe even a little less, but the primary portion of the run took us along the East River, and that alone was enough to satisfy my craving to be outdoors and in fresh air. I hadn’t taken such a short run in a few weeks, but in reality, that was exactly what I needed.

I figured that Sunday would be more of the same, and woke up early enough to get dressed and leave before Noah had even opened his eyes. My goal was to run between 3 and 5 miles, depending on how I felt, and to take in the sights on the High Line, which I hadn’t been to in months. It definitely didn’t disappoint.

Whereas the first mile, as I crossed from the east to the west side of Manhattan, wasn’t particularly special (my calves were unusually tight and I couldn’t shake my exhaustion), I started to pick up the pace somewhere in the middle of the High Line. At that point, I was finally feeling good – like, really good.

Maybe it was the music; Noah recently introduced me to Kaskade’s Coachella set (listen here), which completely blew my mind. All I want to do when I it is race, and run up big hills, and totally kick ass. (There was a time when it would have made me want to go to a rave, but see how far I’ve come?) This is going to be a playlist staple for weeks to come.

Or maybe, it was the warm sun and blue sky. Either way, I couldn’t help but begin to feel like I was walking on air. Or running on air. Whatever.

To be fair, I wasn’t moving quickly; I was simply moving contentedly. And so I kept going, making my way to the Hudson River and heading south on the West Side Highway.

When it was all said and done, I had squeezed 8 1/2 miles under my belt, managing to hit the Financial District, Tribeca, Soho and Gramercy. The official route:

After 2 solid days of delectable restaurant eats, I dedicated the rest of my weekend to preparing food in the comfort of my apartment – simple ingredients without the butter and salt. When I got home from Sunday’s early run, I enjoyed a much-needed, healthful breakfast of cucumbers, avocado (with a bit of black pepper), a hard boiled egg white, and a crab salad roll from Grand Central Station.

I spent the rest of the day taking in New York City the way it should be: on foot. Noah and I managed to get ourselves out of the apartment to enjoy the flawless weather, taking the ferry over to the Brooklyn Flea Market; I had never been and was dying to check it out. The day, the food, the shopping, and, above all, the views, were spectacular all around.

So yea, that’s it from me. Overall, this was an unbeatable few days. And while food, friends, and fun little purchases were the primary factors for why I enjoyed the weekend so much, at the end of the day, I was also completely taken aback by the freedom with which I ran. From Friday through today, there was no pressure. It was just me, New York City’s people-packed streets, and the sense of happiness that running has always – and hopefully will always – instill me with.

How was your weekend? Did you run? Race? PR? PDR? Take pretty pictures? Eat good food? Drink fine wine? Conclude that you still hate oysters? 

On Savoring the Distance: Tips For Increasing Your Mileage

Now that I can officially kick off my quarter life crisis (Mom, I know you’re reading this; happy birthday to you too!), it’s time to do a little reflecting.

In the past year alone, well, less actually, I’ve conquered a lot of fears. I’ve been a runner, or whatever that means, for quite some time now, and yet it wasn’t until May of last year that I signed up for my first half marathon.

Up until that point, I had never quite hit 8 miles. 3 miles marked a normal weekday run and 5ers were reserved for ultra early mornings and weekends (though really, there was nothing ultra about it). Within 2 months, after having to sit out for a solid 4 weeks due to piriformis syndrome, I was as trained as I’d ever be to attempt half marathon numero uno, and by August, I had accomplished the first of many I’d participate in during this past very race-filled year

While I hated everything about that first half marathon – from the never-ending straightaway to the 2 laps around an ugly reservoir – I’ve loved everything about what my life as a runner has become ever since. For one, I’ve gotten over my distaste for distance quickly, shedding the notion that I’d never run another half marathon again just as soon as I recovered.

Since running the Queens Half Marathon, I’ve run the Manhattan Half and the More/Fitness Half, along with a 10-miler thrown into the mix in D.C. But not only is distance something I’ve come to truly appreciate on race day; it’s also something I’ve come to cherish on what I consider to be an everyday run.

Whereas 5-mile runs were my “pushing it” runs and 7-milers were practically unheard of only a year or so ago, I’ve managed to increase my endurance by today, the 25th birthday I’ve been dreading so much, so that 5-milers are the norm, 7 makes me happy, and 10 feels freaking awesome. Eventually, this complete shift in mentality will presumably fuel my desire to complete my very first marathon. (Though for now, my PDR is 15 miles—which you can read about here in my More/Fitness Half Marathon recap.)

I’m not sure I ever thought that long runs would become such an integral part of my repertoire, but I have to say, now that it is, the sense of achievement that comes along with it is undeniably satisfying.

I can only hope that, if you’re a distance runner, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you’re not, I hope you find the confidence to one day get there. In my experience, once you defeat that little mental hurdle lodged in your brain, the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few of the tricks I’ve used in order to gradually increase my mileage over the last year:

Plan your route. Maybe this is just me, but if I run without an intention, especially in a new place, 1 mile can feel like 20. By mapping out a run ahead of time, you allow yourself to be aware of how far you’ve gone and how far you’re going. The notion of truly “wandering” has never worked well for me except in Central Park, where I can generally calculate distance in my head.

(Ah, the reservoir. This means I’m 3.5 miles from my apt. Do the math for total distance.)

Make it worth the squeeze. End your run at a donut shop, or a dumpling store, or a flea market, or your brother’s apartment where there’s a ridiculously cute nephew waiting for you. In a way, it’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. (Yes, I just compared my nephew to a carrot.) For me, if I know there’s awesome vintage jewelry, delicious food or an abundance of smiles waiting for me, I’m more likely to make the effort to get there.

(Maybe he’s more of a meatball. Either way, he’s delicious.)

Be your own DJ. One of my favorite parts about racing is creating a playlist. (Scoff now, music haters!) Ask yourself, what type of music will motivate me at the start of the race? When should I plan on incorporating the most upbeat tunes in my library? Search around the internet and look for awesome remixes; ask friends for recommendations; prod fellow runners. In the end, it’s funny, because you actually begin to associate your music with running rather than the other way around.

Breakfast and snacks. I used to run on empty—literally. Being a morning runner can be tough because I’m not quite hungry enough to fuel my body with food, and yet I know that without some sort of sustenance, I won’t be able to make it more than 7 miles. For longer runs especially, however, it really is important to nourish your body. This can make all the difference. Make breakfast fun by cooking up eggs or buying your favorite muffin the day before. Either way, by the time you hit the halfway point, your body will definitely thank you—by working even harder.

Run with a friend. While some runners actually create entire routes around running with friends, I like to divide my time. For a 10 miler, I might run a mile or 2 to meet my cousin, for example, spend 6 miles together, and then branch off again to run the last 2 miles back home. It’s incredible how quickly the time goes by when you break up your runs with the company of others, while that little bit of alone time enables you to concentrate on personal goals for the day too.

(Noah was my running buddy. Then he got too fast.)

Wardrobe check. Sounds stupid, but nothing can ruin a long run more than a floppy hoodie, a too-tight tank, or long sleeves under a boiling hot sun. Check the weather, and plan your outfit in advance. Don’t run with earmuffs on a 50-degree day. Do run in a waterproof jacket and fleece leggings on a snowy race day. (This is Noah and I before the Manhattan Half Blizzard Marathon.)

Spoil yourself. Give yourself a boost of motivation by factoring in a reward. It doesn’t have to be big. After I ran my first half marathon, for example, I allowed myself to purchase a pair of Toms, which I had been wanting forever—because, you know, I’d need comfortable shoes after covering that much distance. Other possible prizes? New running gear, a post-run mimosa, or a giant Levain’s chocolate chip cookie. Whatever floats your boat.

  • I used to prefer 3 milers, now I love running between 5 and 7. What are your thoughts on running long?
  • How do you motivate yourself for longer runs? 
  • Have you ever used a reward like food, or new running shoes, or a post-run cocktail as motivation?
  • How do you savor the distance?