The New York City Marathon this year is on November 4. The runners pass on the street at the foot of our block. Most years, the spouse and I go and cheer and chat with our neighbors who are out doing the same thing. Not this year, however. I will be out of the country when the marathon makes its way through my neighborhood, but the approach of that event always makes me think back to the times when I ran that marathon and about my running days in general.
Running just seems boring to many people, but I never found it so. For some, running is a form of meditation where an activity takes a person out of themselves into a different realm. On occasion I felt that. But mostly I think about the new experiences I got and the discoveries I made because I ran.
After I had run for a while, I decided to try a marathon, and I ran two marathons a year—one in the fall and another in the spring. Several months before the scheduled date, I would start increasing my weekly mileage with the goal of running seventy miles a week in the month before the race. I looked for ways to integrate running into my life so that the time it took to put in the miles would be less burdensome. An obvious way was to incorporate running into my commutes to work.
When I prepared for my first marathon, I worked several days a week in White Plains, a community north of New York City. My normal commute in the morning was to take the subway from Brooklyn to Grand Central Terminal. Then I caught a train to White Plains. The subway ride to Grand Central took about a half hour. I found that I could run that distance in about fifty minutes, so, I figured, that the run only took twenty minutes out of my day. I ran with a backpack in which I carried a towel and some dry clothes. At Grand Central, I would duck into the men’s room, towel off, and put on the fresh clothes. I kept stashes of clothes in my office, and when I got there, I would shower and change into work attire.
I varied my route to Grand Central. This not only gave me different mileages on different days, but it allowed me to see parts of New York City that I did not ordinarily see, and seeing new things was one of ways to keep running interesting.
Some days I substituted running for a different part of the commute. I would take the subway to Grand Central but get off the commuter train before White Plains and run to my office from these intermediate stops. I was not very familiar with the suburbs I was running through and this added to a sense of discovery that running gave me.
I furthered to my geographical knowledge when I had extra time. I would take the subway to a stop in the Bronx, the borough north of Manhattan and south of Westchester County’s White Plains. I discovered long runs through parks in the Bronx and Westchester County, parks that I otherwise would never have known about.
These running patterns changed after a few years of working in the suburbs when I bought a car to get to my office. I often worked until 10 PM. I did not run that late, and the commute by public transportation at that hour was longer than in the morning or afternoon and, frankly, often scary. The car got me home much quicker at night, and I felt safer.
But I used that car for running, too. I would find some place in between home and White Plains to park the car, get out, and run in an area I would not otherwise have gone to. I ran the circumference of Roosevelt Island in the East River; I ran on the paths of Bronx and Westchester Parks; I ran the narrow streets of City Island, that seaside village that, surprisingly, is part of New York City. Except for that car and the running, I am not sure that I ever would have seen it and such places as Orchard Beach and Pelham Parkway and the dam up in Westchester, all spectacular places in their own ways.
(concluded November 2)
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