It’s been said that bad news comes in threes, and when it comes to loops of Central Park, I can personally corroborate that that is, in fact, the case.
One 6-mile loop is positively sublime, navigating the park-goer past such noteworthy landmarks as the Loeb Boathouse, the Sheep’s Meadow and the Tavern on the Green.
A second loop, while a bit redundant, can force a runner to notice the more subtle things he may have missed the first time around, from the bronze Balto statue at 67th St. to the Ghostbusters Building – allegedly designed by Cult of Gozer leader Ivo Shandor – at 55 Central Park West.
A third loop, and a leap into the zoo’s polar bear exhibit seems a welcome change of scenery.
Yesterday, I completed three full loops, and – having crawled my way back out of Gus’ wintry habitat – can honestly tell you 18 miles in Central Park is entirely too many. To be fair, 26.2 miles in downtown DC is also probably too many, but we’ll let Oct. 28 be the judge of that.
The race – the ING New York City Marathon Tune-Up 18M – certainly meant well.
Organized for fall marathon runners as a chance to test their stamina weeks before the big day, the course allowed participants to trial run their pacing, passing and hydration in a mock-marathon setting. The No. 1 rule of marathoning is not to try anything new on race day you didn’t practice in training, so the idea of an 18-mile road race certainly makes sense on paper.
You know what it doesn’t make sense on? My quads.
Sure, the sun was shining and the air was crisp and the post-race bagels were deliciously raisin, but the rapid rise and fall of Central Park’s infamous hills were sheer torture on my legs. Throw in a faulty alarm clock that almost saw me miss the starting gun and the extra mile I had to tack on to reach my scheduled 19-mile long run and I think it’s safe to say this was not my preferred way to spend a Sunday morning. (That honor goes to pancake-eating-in-bed-with-any-of-these-1990s-heartthrobs. Thanks for sharing, Meredith.)
It wasn’t pretty, but I finished, clocking in at a net time of 2:41.21 for an average pace of 8:58 per mile. Not terrible, but not quite good enough to reach my rather ambitious marathon goal of 3:59.59, according to most online pace extrapolators. I realize my debut marathon objective should simply be to finish, but beating finish-time-fibber Paul Ryan’s 4:01.25 by more than a minute would feel pretty darn American.
I’m hoping come marathon Sunday, the cheering of the crowds will help push me through the full 26.2, but to all you more experienced runners out there: what can I do in the next five weeks to ensure I reach my goal time without burning out? Hopefully your answer includes the phrase “spend the next three days in Cancun,” because – surprise! – that’s what I’m doing. Hasta la vista, readers.