Categories
Running

“Wendy, Michael, John! Tinkerbelle, c’mon!”

If you were to ask me why I run, I could give you any number of predictable and entirely true answers.

  • I run because it helps keep my weight in check.
  • I run because it allows me to work through my anxiety in a healthy way.
  • I run because it grants me precious alone time in an otherwise bumbling metropolis.
  • I run because it gives me the feeling of control when life can be at times overwhelming.
  • I run because they sometimes give out free bagels at the end.

I imagine if you ask any runner in the world that question, they would spout off some combination of this same answer: we run because it helps keep our physical and mental selves in balance. Certainly if I were to tell you that’s why I run, I would be telling you the truth – at least, 95% of it.

The other 5% of the reason I run is something entirely different. I don’t know if this is a universal runner thing, like our love of bagels, or if – as I suspect – this is something a little more unique to me. It’s not something I share regularly, because it all sounds a little whimsical and childish, but I’ll go ahead and lay it out there anyways:

I run because every now and then, when the conditions are just right, running can feel like flying.

Now, I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was a two year old in tights mouthing every word to Mary Martin’s Peter Pan. I was captivated with the idea of weightlessness, dreamt about it constantly, and scraped many a knee jumping off staircases and out windows during Ronald Reagan’s second term. It was only my love of all things Neverland that persuaded me to keep a pixie cut for several Olympic Games past the time period where it was socially acceptable.

Luckily, I'll still cute here. I wasn't as a third grader.
Luckily, I’ll still cute here. I wasn’t as a third grader.
As I grew older, my desire to fly diminished, largely driven by an intense fear of heights solidified at years of summer camps ropes courses.  I had become a regular Peter Banning – afraid of heights and carrying a giant flip phone – and thought flying had been taken off my bucket list once and for all.

And then I became a runner, and all that changed. Now don’t get me wrong – not every run gives me the feeling of flying. In fact, only a small percentage do, and even then, it’s never for the entire workout. The conditions have to be perfect – I’m warmed up but not tired, the weather is just right, my gait feels long, my feet feel light – and then, if I’m lucky, I’ll experience it. Every now and then, when all those stars align, it feels for a few magic strides like I’m soaring. I felt it during the NYC Marathon this past November as I entered the streets of Brooklyn. I felt it during my last Central Park race as I rounded the curve by the Central Park Zoo. I felt it during today’s 10-miler in Riverside Park where the path curves and there’s a garden – which, consequently, is also where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks get together in their third (and best) feature length film together.

Sometimes whole months go by and I never get that feeling – I may be too out of shape, or too tired, or too distracted – but on those rare occasions it hits, the feeling of flying in my running shoes is even more uplifting than pixie dust. I can only describe it as feeling like you’re in the exact right place at the exact right time, and it’s at least 5% of what keeps me coming back to this sport again and again.

Does anyone else ever feel on top of the world – or even hovering slightly above it – when a segment of a run feels just perfectly right?

Categories
Running

Back Up Plans

Every runner I’ve ever met has a mantra that loops on repeat in their heads as they tackle the toughest parts of training. Something encouraging to calm their minds, reset their focus and push themselves through a challenging segment. Phrases like:

  • One mile at a time.
  • You’re tougher than the rest.
  • Everything is temporary, including this haircut.
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“Please don’t post this nude photo of me on your blog.”

For me, the mantra that helps me dig deep when the going gets tough is this one: They didn’t say it would be easy; they said it would be worth it.

From the last six miles of a marathon to every time I climb Harlem Hill, those 14 words keep me pushing myself forward toward my goals, even if I’d rather throw in the towel and quit.

I had that idea in mind — that tough things are worth it, especially in fitness — when I decided last week to register for the Prospect Park Track Club Cherry Tree 10-Miler, scheduled to take place this morning in Brooklyn’s slightly smaller and more inferior version of Central Park (I realize them’s fighting words.)

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Sure, it was supposed to get cold this weekend, but with the NYC Half Marathon just five short weeks away, I thought forcing myself to race 10 miles on a cold Valentine’s Day morning would be just the challenge I needed to get myself in half marathon racing shape, mentally and physically. They didn’t say it would be easy, I thought to myself as I handed over my credit card and completed registration; they said it would be worth it.

And then I woke up this morning to find this:

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Part of me wanted to bundle up anyways, make the hour-long commute to Brooklyn, race that 10-miler [climate-be-damned] and prove that even -19 degree windchill wasn’t enough to get me down. It wasn’t going to be easy; it was going to be worth it. But then I thought about it, and I realized there’s a big difference between pushing through a challenging workout when you’d rather lay out the couch and doing something reckless and dangerous just to be stubborn. They didn’t say it would be easy; they said you’ll get frostbite.

A big part of being a successful athlete is knowing your own limits, and for me, negative double digit temperatures fall into that category. But that doesn’t mean I just stayed on the couch. No, sir. I fell back onto another of my mantras instead: Choose your battles.

In this case, the battle I chose was to skip the race entirely and do a self-inflicted indoor triathlon at beautiful Yorkville gym Asphalt Green with my friend Leigh-Ann instead.

Sure, there were no bib numbers and no timers and no high-speed transitions and no water stations, but we still went through the motions of doing all three workouts back to back to back.

First, we swam laps for 30 minutes in a pool that’s fancier than even my wedding dress is going to be.

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Then, we took a spin class, and I even turned the dial (a little).

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Then we hopped on side-by-side treadmills for a speedy 5K (and a progress check on the neighborhood’s new Garbage Transfer Station. Fine craftsmanship.)

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By skipping the 10-miler and doing our alternate triathlon instead, that means we didn’t get medals or bagels or t-shirt or anything. But we did complete a 2-hour long cross-training workout before noon, burn off the chocolate hearts we’re sure to eat later, and prove that flexibility is key when it comes to working out, and hey, that’s not a bad lesson for this rigid schedule-follower to remember on a cold, February morning.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE! How are you taking care of your heart?