For the past several weekends, I have run my training runs mostly in Central Park; clockwise loops, counterclockwise loops, along the bridal path and the reservoir.
I woke up on Sunday morning to bid my last spring training run of 14 miles adieu.
“I think I’m going to run to the little red lighthouse,” I proclaimed to His Lordship.
“Oooh! That sounds like fun. It’s so pretty over there.”
I geared up and set off for Central Park in a counterclockwise direction. I started thinking about heading West toward the George Washington Bridge. As I don’t normally run in that direction, I had no idea where I was going, and the idea of running through neighborhoods I was unfamiliar with made me uneasy. I could just stay looping in the Park for two hours, after all.
I exited Central Park at 7th Avenue and 110th Street, and head West up Cathedral Parkway. Continuing on with staying in unfamiliar territory, I stayed East of Riverside Park and ran North with my sights set on the GWB. I saw other runners and cyclists heading to the bridge, families walking their dogs, and people playing basketball in the park. And then, after getting confused by all of the loops at Henry Hudson Parkway, I crossed over to Fort Washington Park.
Success! I made it to my destination. I looked down the island. The buildings in lower Manhattan were so tiny. I thought about where I was on a map. I had two choices: return from where I came, OR continue explorartion by heading North and back down the East side of the island.
Feeling challenged, I continued North through Fort Washington Park, and, HOLY SHIT, were there some hills (which, I suppose is good training for that 26.2 in Galway). I was now a lone runner; the only other individuals who came across my path were some cyclists and a man in bright red pants walking his dog while smoking a joint.
Shortly after I passed the Cloisters, I came to a hault. The running path was “still being constructed” in Inwood Hill Park, so I ran East on Dyckman Street. I started thinking how lovely it would be to bag the run at 8 miles and meet my friend Jeffery, who lives on Dyckman, for a beer.
I got to Harlem River Drive and found the running path. I started to feel uneasy. I was the only person on the path, which resembled No Man’s Land, with views of the Bronx to my left and a highway to my right. The only way to get out of it was to run further South in the direction of my home.
So I did.
Then I came to a stop—a ramp, actually, at 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Blvd. There was no more running along the river. My choice was to either run along the highway or down Frederick Douglass Blvd. I chose the latter, and head South through Harlem. Comfort zone? Completely gone. My pace picked up to my marathon goal pace for 30 blocks.
I made it back to 110th Street, across Central Park and back to my apartment. My last long run of the season had come to a close. While I’m perfectly delighted that I managed to change it up a bit, with a few painful hills and some confusion, perhaps in the future I don’t need to think that far outside the box to get out of my comfort zone.
Who knows, maybe this was the perfect way to get fired up to run in a place I’ve never run in. Whatever the case, I’m excited to see. And don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I won’t be making that decision again.