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Tour de Central Park: 5 (or more) Amazing Miles

Posted Mar 08 2012 10:56am

Eureka! I woke up on Thursday morning with the same old feeling I’ve missed so much over the last week or so while battling that pesky fever: I wanted to run. Really, really badly.

Maybe it was the temperature, though I’d have probably geared up in layer upon layer if I had to if only to say that I finally ran 5 miles after a week of lounging on the couch (translation: shivering under a blanket watching 20/20 specials on albinism). Still, it was an amazing sensation to genuinely want to get out into the fresh air, and so without really thinking about it, I threw on old American Apparel leggings, a “Save Our Women” faded baseball shirt (wasn’t sure whether to wear long or short sleeves in this weather, so I met myself halfway) and headed out the apartment door.

This was my first solo run since that week-ish long break. I thought I’d have a lot to catch up on - conversations to have with myself about work, life, foods I want to try, other general goals. Strangely enough though, I really just took the hour to be somewhat mindless and to take in the spring-like scenery around me: commuters sans puffy coats, runners prepping for the NYC half marathon, flowers sneaking through the soil. It was the perfect New York moment, and for that alone, I’m incredibly grateful.

Despite pure elation, there were three moments of confusion during my run. The first was when I started to heat up and sweat. My first thought: This is bad, my fever is back. Goes to show you what four days of laying in bed with clammy skin can do you to; you start to think sweating is the first sign of the flu, while forgetting its correlation to a solid workout.

The second was that it felt a little strange to run without my winter running gear. Liberating, but strange. I’m used to my fingers covered in the fleecy fabric of my Nike gloves; my ears swathed in the thermal of my bedazzled 180s. Fortunately, my new Sparkly Soul purchase (see below) should help me get over the discomfort of running without any sort of head gear. And by the way, thanks to everyone who helped me pick out two awesome colors (black and purple) and tipped me off to get the thick bands for even less slippage. And to the girls at Sparkly Soul for inventing the most glittery running gear ever. Your accessories seriously speak to me.

The third quandary was one that makes me smile, even now as I write this. If you remember, three days ago, I designed a plan to get my body strong again. The first goal was to simply walk to and from work, for a total of one hour of light movement. On Wednesday, the plan was to jog slowly for 3 miles, just to get my body moving more efficiently again. And then came Thursday.

Today’s plan was a bit up in the air. I wanted to give myself the option to push my body, but without forcing myself to do so, especially since I was still feeling a bit out of it yesterday and it’s not like my sore throat is fully gone today. The backup plan was to run 3 miles again, but to spend 20 minutes doing plyometrics and muscle strengthening exercises either during or after the jog. The ultimate goal was to skip strength training and run 4 to 5 miles, 5 being the absolute limit.

Being out there felt oh-so-good though. I started the run by heading up Lexington for 20 blocks. I kept it slow and steady, just trying to settle into a comfortable pace without having to think about it. By 59th Street, I was ready to move over to Madison, since I prefer to climb that hill (you know, the East Side hill that spans from 60th to 67th) while staring at luxe clothing rather than Hunter Colleges’ grim buildings and somber students. By the time I hit the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, I felt like a powerhouse.

You can’t tell here, but it was 55 degrees as I crossed the threshold into the park. At this point, I was somehow about 10 minutes ahead of schedule (I’m not superwoman, I must have just left my house earlier than I thought), so at the risk of overdoing it, I slowed down. Remember, I told myself, the point of today is to run far, not hard. Just keep it together, and you’ll finish this without fueling another fever.

To maintain a steady pace, I decided to make the run fun and random. I veered right, jogging down the steps toward the Bethesda Fountain, just to hang out for a few seconds at one of the most peaceful places in all of Manhattan.

Then turned around, and frolicked around that little area made famous by the HBO version of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

Then headed back up the stairs toward the path to join the hordes of runners, many who seemed to be seriously training for the NYC half marathon. (Good luck to you all!)

It seemed that sticking to a steady pace worked, and by the time I was heading south toward the bottom of the park, past a couple of other really calming, picturesque, wish-I-could-stay-here-all-day type of spots…

…I found myself running north again, if only to squeeze a few extra blocks into this memorable morning run.

I considered exiting where I entered, at 72nd Street, but like I’ve said before, I’ve been known to overdo it. Go home Stacy, said my brain. So I did. I made my way back into the real world around 59th Street, and ran the entire way back home down 5th Avenue.

This run had everything: the sights, the challenges, the moments of total ease. There were times when I felt like I could run forever, and there were times when I felt out of breath (hi, congestion), winded and ready to call its quits. But the best part about Thursday’s run was that it was an accomplishment. I set out to do something at the beginning of the week, and so far, I’ve been able to check off everything on that list.

I know that a 30-minute walk to and from work doesn’t sound like a lot; nor does a 3-mile run; nor does a 5-ish mile run (to some). But these small achievements are all part of a bigger plan. I want to run the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, and I want to run it strong. After that, I’m sure I’ll have another goal in store. That’s just how the running bug works. It’s a little addicting, but if you ask me, there are way worse things to be obsessed with in this world.

On another note, saving change for the past year has finally paid off. I will officially be purchasing my next pair of sneakers with $95 of quarters, nickels, dimes and a few pennies.


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