New Sneakers, Suburban Escapes and a Long Central Park Run

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.

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74 thoughts on “New Sneakers, Suburban Escapes and a Long Central Park Run

  1. I really want to get to the point where I love running like that, but I just haven’t been able to. Kudos on taking pictures and obviously planning your next blog post while taking a long jog. Impressive multitasking!

    • Why thank you! For me, running became a necessity because I avoided ever putting pressure on myself. I don’t run with a watch or ever time my miles. For many years, and even now, for the most part, if I feel like stopping at 3 miles, I stop. If i feel like running for 7, I go. Sometimes, I throw in a quick cookie or dumpling stop. And I always wear something glittery or that’s otherwise awesome. A love for running really comes when you make it your own; you’re definitely capable of that. Good luck!

      • I’ll totally want to read that. I’m constantly trying to find new ways to make it my own; I’m sure you’ll have plenty to add.

      • I love what you said about making running your own, Stacy. I’ve stopped doing races for a while since back here (Philippines), the run has sort of become a fad, and I don’t want to feel like running just because its en vogue…I want to keep running (and I have) because I love running and because it never fails to amaze me. I’ve also just stopped timing myself and logging in my miles (for now). I just run and enjoy it…every moment of it. ^_^

        Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

      • I can totally relate to all of that. Races are great because it adds a community aspect to running, but day to day, I definitely like to keep it personal. Thanks for the comment and well wishes!

    • Well, that’s because it is intimidating. It’s NYC! But I absolutely love it here and always have. Rent may be high, but I know some great hole-in-the-wall dumpling shops, burger joints and dollar beer bars. (Seriously, I recently paid $1 for 6 dumplings. Amazing.) On that note, if you’re a crazy runner, then you’re in luck too. Running is the cheapest way to keep busy in NYC – and one of the best ways to get to know it.

      • Well I don’t do much running anymore, but I have recently developed a biking hobby. I’m trying to see how many miles I can rack up before next winter. Thanks for the input though. =)

    • I just moved to NY and was worried about paying a lot more than I was paying for rent in Chicago. I found a great place in Harlem (no, its really not as scary as it sounds), I’m blocks from Central Park (and run there frequently!) I have lots of space and I pay the same amount that I paid in Chicago! If you’re into cycling, The West side of Harlem is perfect because its right near the West Side path. Good luck with your move!

  2. It’s always been my dream to run in Central Park! Didn’t get a chance to when I lived in Brooklyn because I’d always wind up in Prospect Park, which was just a block away from where I lived. Still, I will do it someday! Thanks for the beautiful pics and write-up!

    • It’s everything it’s cracked up to be and more. Though there are lots of other wonderful places to run in NYC too!

  3. Sometimes you know something is good: like running and eating vegetables, but you still sleep in and eat peanut butter instead.

    I will start working out again, the day after tomorrow.

    • There are those days too. While I love my runs, there is nothing like a rainy Sunday on the couch. Peanut butter, on the other hand, should be incorporated into every day.

  4. NYC is on my to visit list. So hopefully one day… and better soon… I’ll see those places with my own eyes. So far thank you for sharing your own experience of NY.

  5. I absolutely LOVE the feeling of running in new shoes… I did the same thing on Monday night and broke in my new Brooks. There is the same amazing feeling of running an old reliable trail, but I found a new one the same night and can’t wait to run it again. I hope you can do the same… find a new trail, that you love as much as the same trail that made you fall in love with running. I know I have, and that’s after 12 years of running.

  6. I admire your perseverance and always positive attitude even in face of the challenge.
    I cannot possibly do that since running or jogging are always something I would like to push away from my life.
    However,to be honest,a little run or other kind of practice would make your life and work so efficient and mood so good!!!:)

  7. Excellent post! I appreciate the mindfulness that you bring to your running. I am a cyclist – not a racer, but a commuter and lover of spokes. I don’t know that I am quite as good at conserving energy as you are, and just taking time to consider where I am and why I need to pump it up or relax – I just go. I think that a bit more thought will keep me balanced, and at work on time!

    Congratulations on being pressed!

    • Sometimes I think my ability to “conserve energy” is really just me being lazy. As in, hmm, I could amp it up, or I could continue plugging along at a moderate pace. I guess whatever works, right? Thanks for commenting!

  8. This was such a good read and I do envy you. I only wish I had a nice refreshing safe route to run which I didn’t have to drive 10km fighting traffic to get to. Oh well, sometimes we runners have to make do with what we have if only to better appreciate the weekend routes and race days.

  9. See, I feel the opposite about non-urban areas, but that’s just me. When I expand upon unfamiliar territory, I feel excitement about what’s ahead of me, what path I’ll plot on my own. It’s just a feeling. Everyone is different. I love running in the city, too, but I’ll take rural America any day.

    Nice blog. Thanks for sharing! Good luck with your race.

  10. definitely know all about habits and normal routines that you fall into as you run more and more. they become second nature as you make your way around the parks and the paths that you know. they become comfortable and they are just the right length. i really like it when you complete a run even when its been a bit tough but you can feel that you have achieved a mega amount 🙂
    nice post, keep writing!

  11. One of my favorite New York memories was going for a run with my sister. We started our run from her apartment in Cobble Hill crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall. Not a long run but very inspiring and memorable. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I admire your hardcore committment to running. 18months ago I started running (hated it at first but then loved it), and I was brave enough to run three times a week- this a big achievement for someone who avoids exercise at all costs! Anyways, this evening I’ll be going for my first run of the year! Don’t judge me. I’m looking forward to it but I’m also scared lol. Wish me luck!

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