Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Running in Circles

This past Sunday was another long run day in anticipation of the fast-approaching Brooklyn Half Marathon (click here to donate to the Boston One Fund, the cause for which I'm running this sure to be awesome race!).  It was only 8 miles as opposed to last week's 10, which felt positively luxurious by comparison!

My plan for this long run, as it is for all of them, was to run the Central Park loop, which is about 6.2 miles, from the east side to the west side.  I love running a loop because it completely takes away any need for me to calculate the distance (that's also what my Nike Plus is for) or to wonder how I need to change my route to make my goal distance.  I just get on Park Drive and go - that part of my brain can check out.  Plus as a non-native New Yorker, I still don't know my way around the actual park - the inside of it - to save my life.  I have an irrational fear of getting lost in the park!

I also had a plan to run completely sans headphones.  I don't wear headphones for races (anymore, at least) because I prefer to be as present as possible to soak up the crowds, the course, and the fantastic energy that any race day brings, especially one as big as a half marathon.

Springtime gorgeousness.
To my utter dismay, I arrived on Park Drive to discover that the Bike Tour scheduled for the day was authorized to take up all four lanes of the loop.  My first reaction was total outrage and anger.  It's the loop!  New York runners run that as religiously as others attend church!  My outraged was shared and magnified by a lot of the other Type A runners who were making the discovery as I was, and being told by the endlessly patient, cheerful, and really nice course marshalls of the bike race that - sorry!  We were out of luck, and on a day when I didn't even have the silliness of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me! or my Jillian Michaels podcast to distract me from the inconvenience.

After starting to see some of the other runner reactions - "This is RIDICULOUS!" or defiantly running in the loop anyway, risking their safety and that of the bikers - I forced myself to take a pause.  For one thing, I really feel like the behavior of runners is under more scrutiny than ever.  We took some backlash around the cancellation drama of the NYC Marathon, and after the Boston Marathon the sport has gotten even more attention.  Reacting with grace and not entitled defiance was really what this situation called for - I mean, really, let's get some perspective!

Realizing this, realizing that my practice calls for me to be flexible in life much more so than in body, and realizing that making myself upset would only raise my heart rate and adrenaline levels and not help me on the 7.5 journey I still had ahead of myself, I just started following other runners who seemed like they knew where they were going into the park.

Lots of rules on the reservoir...
Happily, one particular runner led me to someplace in the park I've always wanted to run but have never "had time" to explore and find - the reservoir.  It's a much smaller loop, only 1.59 miles, but it's absolutely beautiful and has a softer surface on which to run than the asphalt of the loop.  It was really good for me mentally, I think, as well as physically to switch it up, and in hindsight I couldn't have picked a better day to go without headphones.  Not only for safety reasons to be wary of all those bikers, but also to talk myself down from getting annoyed and to truly appreciate the peace and stillness of the reservoir compared to the more heavily trafficked loop.  The reservoir felt more secluded, more surrounded by the nature of the park, and it reminded me a little bit of a mini-version of when Marc and I would run in Hyde Park in London.

After a few laps around the reservoir and then awkwardly navigating my way back to 5th Ave and 59th St, I found myself not only happy about the day's funny turn, but also thinking back to the second blog post I ever wrote.  Titled Best Laid Plans and written three years ago (wow!), it's a much more eloquent and yoga-fied version of how I (and hopefully a bit of the greater "we") tend to react and can choose to act when things don't go our way.  Try as I might, as a Type A New York Planner, things will always go wrong.  I hope more often than not I choose to accept and surrender, rather than resist and suffer.
Reservoir view of the skyline.

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