Make Your Own Race

This weekend was absolutely perfect — a wonderful combination of excess and exercise, fun and fit. Really, that’s how all weekends should be. It’s how all days should be. It’s how, quite frankly, all runs should be — a perfect blend of serious and silliness all mixed into one.

On Saturday, my cousin D and I planned on driving out to Riverhead for our annual apple and pumpkin picking adventure.

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(Graceful is my middle name.)

With that in mind, I allowed myself to wake up slowly in the morning. I could have run. Sure. But instead, I turned on the TV and saw that We Bought a Zoo was on, and so instead of lacing up and heading out, I pulled the covers up close to my face and nuzzled back into bed.

After four days straight of working out (not OMG crazy but perfectly respectable if you ask me), including two shorter three-mile runs and two longer five to six-mile runs, I gave myself a rest day. The previous week of running had afforded me some absolutely breathtaking (albeit breathless — not my finer performances!) views.

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And so with the scenery still fresh in my mind…

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…I resolved to channel some of those memories as I laid there, near-motionless, beneath the sheets thinking about how nice it was not to be running.

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Plus, Noah was away in Michigan, and it’s rare that I ever get the entire bed and all the blankets all to myself.

At any rate, I love heading out to the eastern end of Long Island at the very beginning of fall. While the leaves are changing, the air is still warm enough to walk around in a tank top and drink apple cider slushies.

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And the pumpkins and apples have yet to be over-picked by enthusiastic families, kids and farmers.

Typically, D and I head out later in the fall, so this time, because it was earlier in the year, we discovered fields full of wildflowers.

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I absolutely loved this. I’m not typically a big flower person — I’m not the type to tell you that I have a favorite kind of bouquet — but I do happen to love wildflowers and was super happy to stumble on this amazing little patch of them. They seemed to stretch for miles.

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(D in the field of wildflowers.)

Of course, a day out east picking apples and pumpkins is never complete without pie. Loads and loads of pie. And so, when I got home that night, I ate loads and loads of pie.

By Sunday morning, I woke up with the need to run — and I had a specific destination in mind. Typically, when on Long Island, I’ll do one of a few simple loops from my parents’ house around the neighborhood and back home, whether it’s around the park, to where my dad keeps his fishing boat, or to one of any of my childhood friends’ houses.

With bigger hopes in mind, I set my sights on my brother and his wife’s house two towns over for a run that would take me from Great Neck to Port Washington. I’ve had dreams of this run before, but for whatever reason had yet to actually do it. A few of the things holding me back:

  • Distance. It’s no easy feat getting from Great Neck to Port Washington. My runs in Great Neck are usually no longer that five miles. To my brother’s house, I’d be logging at least 6.5.

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(Thanks Map My Run for a very accurate reading. I obviously swam part of the way there.)

  • Paths. Or, lack thereof. There are several portions of the route that are sidewalk-less, making it increasingly dangerous and even more important to pay attention to oncoming cars. I was sure from start to finish to be mindful of corners, sharp turns and blind spots. At times, I turned off my music to listen for oncoming vehicles in either direction, or if I was coming up to an area where I know drivers tend to be reckless, I’d walk for a few moments until I felt I was in the clear.
  • TimingWhen I return to my childhood home, I rarely spend more than 50 minutes to an hour running in order to spend as much time shoving chocolate in my mouth. (To WRFG newcomers, my family owns a candy store.)
  • Convenience. I don’t have a running backpack on Long Island, and I rarely remember or have the foresight to bring one. So on Sunday, I rolled a pair of clean post-rundies into my shorts and wore my brother’s clothes until my parents were able to pick me up and bring me leggings and a sweater. To be clear, my oldest brother is 6ft tall and 10 years older than me. He also apparently likes the color green. This is what I look like wearing his clothes.

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Sunday’s run turned out to be absolutely awesome from start to finish, and it wasn’t just because I was fueled by an entire raspberry pie. For one, the weather was pretty spot on for a weekend run. The thick cloud cover provided shelter from what could have been a steamy sun, and a light mist provided just enough relief from the humidity without making it uncomfortable to be out there.

Despite what I had thought, there actually happened to be a lot more sidewalks than I had remembered — or at least from what I’d seen out the car window on my way over to his house before. But the best part of all wasn’t that I felt strong climbing every hill (and I assure you, there were tons of them) or that I maintained a steady, sub-10 pace (don’t judge — that’s fast for me!). It also wasn’t the fact that I was wearing the only sneakers I could find in my parents’ house (NOT running sneakers)…

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…or that the leaves were practically changing before my eyes.

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Rather, it was the sense that I had created a race in my mind long ago, and finally, I was running it. There were hardly any other runners around me — especially because of the moisture in the air. But there was something about the morning that had a race-like quality to it. I think, perhaps, it was because I had such a clear and deliberate finish line in mind. On top of that, I also had a key moment in mind when I knew I’d be in the clear — when I knew I’d make it the entire distance — and that location was right here.

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For runners, satisfaction can be defined by many things. For some, it’s a 10k. For others, it’s a marathon or an ultra or a rest day. I don’t think I can put my own sense of satisfaction into any single word or idea, but I am grateful for these moments in time that leave me with a sense of elation for days. And I’m also grateful for my brother, who made me this upon my arrival.

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  • Do you ever make your own race?
  • As a runner, how do you define satisfaction? 
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