Last week was a relatively laid-back running week for me. It started, as most weeks do, on Monday, with a short 3-miler to get my body going. Adhering to the every-other-day rule, I strength-trained on Tuesday, battled a cold on Wednesday, ran a routine 5 miles with Noah on Thursday morning and got rained out again on Friday, leaving me to my computer, yoga mat, and an old-school episode of Boy Meets World.
Throw backs. Is there anything better?
Any normal Saturday would bring with it the opportunity for a nice, long, uninhibited run sometime after waking up, eating breakfast slowly, and allowing my body to greet the day on its own terms. But rather than hang around the city as I otherwise would, watching Michigan football and trying to accomplish a laundry list of errands, I had plans to go pumpkin picking instead. On top of that, I needed to catch a 9:20 — no, 9:18 — train to Long Island.
If I needed to be on a 9:18 train, then I’d have to meet my cousin (the famous Dori from the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, if you recall) at Penn Station around 9:10. If I needed to be at Penn Station at 9:10, I’d need to hop in a cab at 9:00.
(Note: I rarely ever take cabs to Penn Station since I’m a mere 15-minute walk away. But on mornings when it’s walk to the station or take a cab so I can run beforehand, I will always choose the cab — a worthy splurge.)
If I wanted to hop in a cab at 9:00, then I needed to start getting ready at 8:15. If I wanted to start getting ready at 8:15, then I’d need to be in the shower at 8:10. And if I wanted to be in the shower at 8:10, and still run at least 3 miles in the morning, I’d need to be out the door by 7:40 — the latest.
I had gone back and forth in my head about setting an earlier alarm — one that would have woken me up sometime in the 6-7:00 range while the city was still dark and dreamy — so that I could squeeze in my usual Saturday 5-miler. To be honest though, I have no races coming up. I have no pressing goals (besides making sure my shin fully heals, of course).
On Saturday morning, I chose sleep, and scheduled a short run — should I wake up — into the day before heading out to the eastern end of Long Island; the only difference was that heading out my door at 7:40 meant that I could wake up on my own (like I’ve admitted before, I’m a grandma), which was all that I really wanted.
Saturday morning allowed me 3 short miles — miles that, after spending a day in the “country” eating caramel corn, too-salty pumpkin seeds, red licorice strings and, because I was dying for greens and vitamins midday, a delicious and hearty salad with grilled shrimp from a wonderful little spot called Lobster Roll, I was very much grateful for.
To rack up a few miles, I stayed in the neighborhood, taking Lexington down to Gramcery Park, then even farther south to the Union Square Greenmarket. At 7:50 in the morning, the vendors were just setting up.
I love watching the hard work — the very process itself — that goes in to setting up a tented area that would undoubtedly become a magnet for produce enthusiasts and other locavores in just a few short hours.
In only 3 miles, my run had its ups and downs. I suppose that, when you’re used to running longer distances, your expectations increase greatly when all you’ve got to bang out is three-fifths of the norm. Without dissecting the miles, it can feel as though you’re half-assing your regular routine without even trying to.
Either way, the run south on Lexington was strong and steady, and it felt wonderful to be cruising along sidewalks without having to swerve in between too many pedestrians. Better yet, my leg wasn’t bothering me. By the time I reached Gramercy Park, I was still loving every moment of being out there, a feeling which stayed with me until I reached the halfway point at Union Square.
The run home, which took me past Madison Square Park’s newest installation…
…felt a bit like a chore. It wasn’t the running, or the fact that I had managed to break a sweat reminiscent to that of a person who had run a marathon after a mere mile-and-a-half; it was the feeling of being pressed for time. Such constraints can really suck all of the fun out of a run, and by the time I hit the northern most end of the park, I began checking my watch incessantly to make sure that I was still on schedule to make the train — not for distance or time.
I made it home with room to spare, and although Map My Run said I had clocked in at closer to 3-and-a-half miles, I had a feeling it was truly just 3. Regardless, I felt accomplished enough. At the end of the day, it would have been very easy for me to forgo that early morning, pre-mini road trip Saturday run.
Like I said, the rest of Saturday was spent essentially transporting myself back to childhood — back to a far simpler time when the only things holding me down were my parent’s strict rules and Velcro.
Dori and I spent the day pumpkin picking…
…nerding out in nature…
…and being generally juvenile.
Although I was only out on the Northfork of Long Island for the day — less than 10 hours — it felt as though I had taken a three-day vacation by the time we were back on the road and heading home.
The quiet and tranquility continued from there. I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law and these two respectively handsome and beautiful angels…
…and was in bed reading Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run by 11pm. This was a lifestyle I could definitely get used to.
Waking up on Long Island on Sunday morning was equally pleasant as the rest of my weekend. It was sunny. It was dead silent (save for my cat Flounder walking around the house). Fall was right outside my parent’s windows, and there were no honking taxis or rattling trucks to remind me that beauty could only exist with a musical (I use this word lightly) soundtrack.
Naturally, I couldn’t wait to dig into my overnight bag and whip out my Brooks Ghosts and new Nayad sports bra (which doubles as a bathing suit, or the other way around. Either way, it’s freakin’ awesome. Much more on that to come.)
I had no idea where my run would take me on Sunday morning. Honestly, I was craving distance, but given the uncertainty of my shin, I wasn’t quite sure what my body could handle. With all this in mind, I made the decision to focus on enjoyment, not accomplishment. It’s fall, after all, my favorite time of the year. If I was going to get anything out of Sunday morning’s suburban, fresh-air run, it was going to be the colors of the leaves and the feeling of being alive, not the number of miles flashing back at me.
While the first 2 miles of Sunday morning’s run were undoubtedly tough — I hadn’t yet eaten and I was groggy and still half-asleep — I resolved to step it up during the back half that would carry me home. Best of all, I totally delivered. Focusing on my deep, steady breathing (no music meant I could hear my every inhale and exhale, bringing a sense of awareness to my morning that I don’t often have), and the feel of my feet each time they struck the ground, I began to slip into a slightly meditative state.
By the time I was back near my house, I wanted more, and so I tacked on another 2 miles atop my otherwise routine run.
This has been my longest route since the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I think I’m still smiling from yesterday.
Now, back to reality.
- How was your weekend? Awesome runs? Ridiculous pumpkins? Abundance of apples?
- Do you prefer running in urban areas or the suburbs?
- Do you still try to run, even in the face of an early morning obligation?