There was a guy from Germany in the 5K yesterday wearing a rainbow wig and a bright blue cape and every 20 feet or so he’d holler “Germany!” and stop to take a selfie with some rando on the course. That is my kind of guy (German, heh heh) and my kind of race.
The New York City marathon isn't until tomorrow, but today they let us lightweights run a 5K that crossed the finish line. We started at the United Nations, headed west on 42nd Street, north on Sixth Avenue, and then into the park at 59th and Fifth. My running buddy Gail is recovering from a foot injury so we walked a lot, which was fine by me since I get to snap all these awesome pics along the way. It's by far the most fun I've ever had in a race.
The way I see it, summer is the price that I pay for autumn, and I'm milking this son of a bitch for everything it's worth.
No I'm not quitting this blog, I have many idiot things to report on now and in the future. But I did drop out of the NYC Half this week, after concluding that training for a 13-mile race in the middle of winter is something I absolutely do not want to participate in. And maybe not during any other season either.
This wasn't an easy decision for me to make, because I'm a Capricorn, a born climber, and quitting things is very un-goat-like. I mean, I quit things all the time, so I'm great at it, but it's always done with much hand-wringing and self-loathing and certainly isn't something I like to admit. I want the world to think I'm a finisher and I have no problem lying about that. So the fact that I'm putting it right out here in this public, award-winning space really takes courage. Not actual courage, like saving a drowning puppy from a vat of acid or something, but a faux-approximation of courage: I'm like Cyrano's white plume, which is only a physical manifestation of his courage, a smokescreen if you will, while it's Cyrano himself who's out performing all the courageous acts. (There is no Cyrano in this NYC Half scenario, but please appreciate my overdramatic application of useless literary knowledge to real-world events. You win again, liberal arts degree.)
Anyway, quitting this race was a real fucking relief. I've been in the dumps all month because of a terrible 10K I ran on the 10th, when the weather was bone-snapping cold and I had trouble breathing and ended up walking way more than I expected to. When I started running in 2013 I just wanted to be outside and get some fresh air and move my can. It's a sport and I respect that—I like that it's challenging and love the community and camaraderie of it, but I need it to be fun again and not something where I constantly have to feel devastated by my disappointing times vis-à-vis other, more serious people. Nobody goes to an aerobics class and thinks, I have to out-aerobicize all these other knuckleheads this week or I will feel like a total failure. Do they? Maybe competitive aerobics is a thing, I have no idea what the kids do for fun these days.
But I've decided from now on to take my running cues from comedian Liz Miele, who tells the latest Runner's World, "I'm not good at it, I just like it." How genius is that! The second I read it I knew this was it, this was what I've been waiting for: the simple but mind-blowing permission to not be good at running, to just stop caring about being good at running, and to continue devoting my fitness regimen to a kind of lazy, half-assed, shoddy dilettantism in pursuit of absolutely nothing, which not coincidentally I am 100% amazing at.
I take the same photos every damn year, but there's nothing that's more New York to me than this day: the weather, the colors, the spectators, the runners, the noise, the chaos, all of it. I meet my teammates on the Upper East Side, and coming through the park on the bridle path you can hear the cheering on Fifth Avenue from at least a quarter mile away. It's a spectacular sound.
Or, the day I actually enjoyed the race and met my own personal goal and decided I never ever ever want to run another half marathon. Although it's one of those things where you forget the pain a day later and are ready to do it all over again. So I may want to do this one again. Already all I can remember are the fun parts.
There were over 25,000 runners (magic 8 ball says it's the biggest half in the country), and at least 20,000 of them were on my 6:00 a.m. train. The course started at the Brooklyn Museum, went up and down Flatbush Avenue and around Grand Army Plaza, looped through Prospect Park (mile 1–7) and then down down down down down Ocean Parkway (a very long but flat mile 7–13) to end on the boardwalk at Coney Island (the dreaded .1).
I stayed with my training partner Gail until about mile 9, which is where I really started to slow down. Having someone to run with, even when you're too tired to talk, makes all the difference in the world for me. I tend to break down pretty fast when I'm out there by myself: "the mind leads and the body follows" is one of those running precepts that hasn't quite sunk in yet, although I've made huge brain improvements over the last 5 months.
SarahB was there at the end to capture me in motion. I mixed in a lot of walking for the last three miles, but by the time I hit the boardwalk and the finish line was in sight, I was more than ready for it to be over so I kicked it into gear. My high gear is pretty slow, but still. It's a gear, and I cut 90 seconds off my pace from last October, which is not small potatoes. And to end the whole thing at Coney Island with a hot dog and a beer (my running mantra being "Pain now, beer later"*) was kind of a dream come true.
* p.s. Not an alcoholic.
It was a billion degrees humid this morning but we ran our tails off. Up next weekend: finally a race not through Central Park. I need a moratorium on endless loops and gently rolling motherfucking vistas.