The Casual Runner

A Long Run In Central Park

Run Date: June 7, 2014

As a Casual Runner, I believe that a run doesn’t have to be during a race to be impactful.  I think it’s important to celebrate those random Saturday mornings or Tuesday nights that are just awesome.  Maybe you hit a pace you’ve been trying to make for months.  Maybe you ran a full 2 minutes before having to walk.  Maybe you saw a turtle crossing the road.  Maybe your IPod played a magical combination of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”, Bloodhound Gang’s “Discovery Channel Song/The Bad Touch”, and brought it home with the entire soundtrack from the musical “Cats”.  Maybe it was simply the fact that you pulled yourself away from “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix and successfully got out the door.  We have many more non-race runs than races, and we should recognize them for the awesome experiences they can sometimes be.

This is the story of one such random Saturday morning run.

Blog-2014-00005 Jen - Central Park Pic 1

Obligatory NPH plug.

To celebrate our 9th anniversary, my husband and I took the train up to New York City for a long weekend.  We lucked out—great weather, a surprise upgrade to a suite at our hotel, and options at the TKTS booth that allowed us to see four awesome Broadway shows (three of which have a bunch of 2014 Tony nominations and one of which included the always magical Neil Patrick Harris, but that’s probably a post for a different blog)…

What does any of this have to do with running?  Hold on, I’m getting there.

The last time we were in NYC was almost a decade ago, in the middle of winter, and long before I was doing this whole Casual Running thing.  I’ve always loved walking around cities I visit, and now that I run I still try to stick to my normal schedule and get my runs in wherever I am.  It’s a great way to check out the local running scene and spice up training runs that might otherwise just be another long slog.  So when we got the name of our Hotwire-deal hotel and discovered it was only a block south of Central Park, we packed our running gear.

Blog-2014-00005 Jen - Central Park Pic 2

Carriage ride in Central Park.

It would have been so easy to sleep in Saturday morning and skip our run.  We’d stayed up late Thursday and Friday nights for Broadway shows, and knew we had tickets to see two more shows on Saturday.  We’d walked more than 10 miles the day before while playing tourist.  But for us, 0700 is sleeping in.  So when the sunlight came streaming in through the window and revealed an absolutely perfect morning…sunny, warm enough for minimal layers but relatively not-humid and with just a very slight breeze…how could we not jump out of bed and lace up our shoes?

My normal runs are through my local neighborhood or on a nearby trail; I’m usually the only one out there.  While that appeals to my desire to be alone, it can sometimes be lonely and unmotivating.  What a difference running in Central Park is!  I jumped on the main running path on East Drive without any real plan except to GO!…and not get in the way of the serious runners.  I shouldn’t have worried, but this was my first time sharing a major running path with a lot of other runners at the same time (not in a race situation).  My husband was dealing with some shin pain, so he decided to stick to the walking paths instead of pushing his luck.  (My husband and I don’t normally run together because our paces are wildly different; splitting up this day was not outside of the norm.)

Blog-2014-00005 Jen - Central Park Pic 3

Is there any wonder why Central Park is so revered?

Pace-wise and mileage, this was not a particularly noteworthy run.  It was my first long run since the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon the week before, so my only goal was to get some miles in no matter how ugly the Garmin might look.  But outside of the Garmin, what lovely miles they were.

I watched as the ecosystems shifted from sports fields to water to woods to a castle to playgrounds to artists lining walking paths.  I passed and was passed by moms running with their kids, older couples walking hand-in-hand, tourists who also seemed to be studying their smartphones to make sure they didn’t get too lost too far from their hotels, “real” runners who are probably training for races I’ll never qualify for.  But I fit in…I was one of the group, worthy of the same head-nod acknowledgement we all give each other when we cross paths.  For the first time I felt I was part of a running community that I didn’t have to pay to participate in.  What a glorious, uplifting feeling!  I wasn’t in the way; I belonged!

Blog-2014-00005 Jen - Central Park Pic 4

We could get used to seeing views like these on all of our training runs.

Somehow my husband and I managed to time our runs almost perfectly and ended up at the intersection to our hotel within minutes of each other.  A husband who doesn’t have to wait too long for his (really) slow wife is a happy husband in our house!

For most of the people out on this same morning, this was probably just a normal Saturday run.  And that’s completely OK.  I have a lot of those, too.  But for me, Central Park on June 7, 2014 was simply magical.  The weather, the fact that it didn’t feel like a slog, the scenery, the sense of community…everything came together for a perfect 6.5 miles that morning.  This is a run that makes up for the cold rainy runs, the slogs filled with unexpected hills, the desperation when I realize I’m still miles from home but can’t bring myself to move another step.

Hold on to these magical non-race runs.  Remember them.  Because these moments are why we run.

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6 thoughts on “A Long Run In Central Park

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