Early last week, I mapped out a plan to run a particular number of miles each day to both get rid of the plague and to train for my upcoming race in D.C. Now, Sunday night, as I sit here reflecting on the past two days, my muscles melting into the couch, I can honestly say: mission accomplished.
I got off to a slow start on Saturday morning. Excess wine drinking on Friday night left me writhing in pain, and while I didn’t necessarily want to get out of bed, I was also itching to break in my new running sneakers. There is nothing like the feeling of slipping your feet into new running sneakers.
Since I had to help my brother out with a small project at the chocolate store, I headed out to Great Neck with my kicks in tow. They’re not the prettiest color, but I’m pro-pay-for-last-season’s-style to save 50 bucks; after all, I’ll probably need to recycle these in a few months anyway.
Running in the suburbs offers such a different experience than along the city streets. When running in an unfamiliar environment, I tend to get overwhelmed and bored all at once, as exemplified by my experience in Bethesda just a few weeks ago. Really, there are only two non-urban arenas that, over the years, have really grabbed my attention. The first was Ann Arbor, the place I learned to love running. The second is Great Neck.
Flashback: 3 years ago. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I moved back into my parents house to save what little money I was making at my first job. Transitioning into the professional world meant I’d have to change a lot about my daily habits, but the biggest decision I had to make was how to squeeze running into my life. I knew I had to make it work, if only to offset the misery of real life, moving home and no longer having access to my parent’s credit card. (Kidding. Kind of.)
With an 8:09 train to make each day, it meant I’d have to leave my parent’s house around 7:50. Which meant I had to be showered and ready by 7:40. Which meant I had to be back from my run by 7. Which meant I had to be out the door for my run at 6. Which meant I had to be up to eat breakfast by 5:30. Never in my life did I think that I’d voluntarily set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. All of a sudden, I found myself craving it, if only to satisfy my hunger to run.
During the 10 months that I lived at home, I developed a lot of the same habits and routines that I have here in Manhattan – favorite paths, ways to extend my run based on timing. Today, when I go back to Great Neck, many of those same penchants return.
Hungover or not, I knew I was going to take advantage of the chance to run in Great Neck. Because Sunday was supposed to be far warmer, I decided to run for a shorter amount of time on Saturday. I was aiming for 3 miles; I ran about 4.5, making my way through the park where I was once a camp counselor, the street where my grandparents live 6 months out of the year, the mansions of King’s Point, and back up through the village I grew up in. One thing I noticed: not once did I have to weave around a pack of slowly moving, iPhone using New Yorkers. It was really comfortable.
Which brings me to Sunday’s run, which was packed with slowly moving, iPhone using New Yorkers.
Sunday morning, I prepared a large, healthy, delicious and fresh breakfast of whole wheat French bread and homemade tabouleh (made using bulgar wheat, chickpeas, peppers, blanched asparagus, tomato, feta, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and black pepper). It’s not only nutritious, but it’s also a great dish for getting rid of veggies from the fridge.
Central Park was truly beautiful today, though I couldn’t help but selfishly wish some of the masses would disperse. Since I prefer early morning weekday runs, it’s not often that I have to weave in and out of other people as though I’m in a race.
Still, I couldn’t complain. Whereas earlier in the week I had planned on running 7 miles, I woke up in the morning with an unyielding desire to run the entire bottom loop of Central Park. So without really thinking about it or contemplating it too much, that’s exactly what I did.
The run wasn’t necessarily easy, even though it felt awesome to complete. I really had to be mindful of my body from start to finish, monitoring my breathing as I ascended and descended the many hills of Central Park. I never really hit a point of total ease, but I also never felt defeated. In a way, I was actually glad that I had to push myself throughout the entire run; it was a good feeling knowing that I was able to control my mental state even in the face of a challenge.
With the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler only 3 weeks away, I feel a lot more confident in my abilities now that I’ve essentially covered that distance. Presumably, I’ll also be going into the race in much better condition, i.e. having not drank heavily and passed out at 2 the night before.
Fortunately, it’s that familiarity with the paths of Central Park that makes my daily runs such a pleasure. I know when to brace myself for an incline and when to lose myself in nature. (Isn’t it amazing that this is New York City?)
I know when to slow down to preserve energy (like right here, just moments before Harlem Hill creeps up)…
…and when to put it on cruise control and let gravity do the work.
And although I may have struggled at certain points throughout the run, I also felt incredibly content during others. My knees were aching and my head was pounding (how are all the water fountains still off?). But it didn’t take much for those feelings of negativity to be completely trumped by the warmth of the sunshine, the satisfaction of heavy breathing, and the home-like sense of comfort brought on by a Sunday afternoon run in the greatest place on earth.
This strawberry, banana and coconut milk smoothie waiting for me at the end wasn’t so bad either.