I recently visited the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Looking out across downtown, straight to Staten Island and then over to Brooklyn and Queens all I could think is that I am actually going to run all of that distance! I’m literally going to run this town. The cool thing was that as I slowly visualized the entire course and put my body in the moment, I knew I could do it. What once seemed impossible, is possible and will happen.
I feel like there’s a rocket quietly sitting in my heart just waiting to take off! I have this vision of the Space Shuttle on the launch pad, 100% ready for the long journey, patiently waiting for the countdown and GO FOR LIFT OFF from the mission control room.
Training began back in late-May. My coach put me on a steady running program with the goal being to run slow and steady about 5x a week. He recommended a Garmin watch and that I track my heart rate. In those early weeks the alarm would beep wildly as my heart-rate would go too high and outside of the target zone.
As the weekly runs and training programs pushed on through the hot summer I started to see a difference in my heart-rate. I was able to run faster while my heart-rate remained low. This meant I was more relaxed and comfortable running faster rather than huffing, puffing and gasping for air while running a sub-10 minute pace.
On Wednesday evening’s our coach gave group training sessions. We were introduced to Hill Repeats and Interval Runs. Hill Repeats simply meant we would run – dash – up a steep hill, learning to pace our movements so that by midway up the hill we could push faster. Since they were repeats, we would charge up the hill 6x. I can feel myself panting and the strain in my legs just writing about the difficult process!
Thank God for my running mates. Their companionship and support made the entire experience a lot of fun. The nice part about Hill Repeats is that once finished, I would run a 2 mile cool-down where my lungs felt open and my legs strong. Now I’m programmed so that whenever I see a hill my mind imagines how it will feel to do hill repeats. I instinctively want to charge up it and go faster.
When we did interval training runs we learned how to pace ourselves and shift gears. Intervals are very empowering. One of the training programs I had to follow was to run 4x 1 mile intervals at a 9:00 minute pace, recover a 1/4 mile at a slow jog. The first time was always the hardest because my heart-rate was pulsing out of my ears. By the second time I was questioning if I could hold out and still do it two more times. By the third interval I was settling in and realizing I could probably go faster than a 9:00 minute pace. And by the fourth time I was like a bat out of hell and would run 8:20 min pace just to shut-up my nagging-self and prove that I am by far stronger than I think.
I flip through my mind the memories of months of training runs. Here are some random snapshots:
- The 5:30am morning runs where I would share the residential streets with just a handful of folks: the newspaper delivery guy driving slowly in his car tossing papers out the window, the woman collecting recyclable bottles, the bread-delivery guy for Key Food whose truck gave off a sweet aroma. And the only sound ringing out on the quiet early morning streets was my Garmin watch beeping my heart-rate was too high or my RunKeeper app on my phone telling me my current pace and distance.
- The runs in the extreme heat and humidity where I would seek out water fountains just to cool-down my arms and neck.
- The runs in the pouring rain where the only hard part was mustering the will to walk outside the house into torrential rain. Once I was soaked, the rain just didn’t matter. I thought of the rain-runs as a sort of holy blessing from God.
- The runs I squeezed into my schedule while on vacation or a business trip.
- The countless loops in Clove Lakes Park & Silver Lake Park. Getting to know the ‘regulars’ in the parks including the gaggle of seniors I fondly labeled as the Silver Sneaker Walkers… the grey-haired gals huddled together for a brisk walk and the clusters of men likewise out for their a.m. walk
- The long-runs I enjoy every Sunday morning with my running mates and coach. Starting at 7am, the summer months they began in a bright sunlight and now that it’s October we begin with starlight twinkling away at the break of dawn. We would begin our morning as any dedicated running group: by panting, groaning, sweating and chit-chatting about everything and anything for a good two hours or more.
- Our beautiful, adventurous, suburban long-run courses: From Clove Lakes Park, along College Avenue out to the majestic Bayonne Bridge pedestrian walkway with views of skyscraper cargo ships and the Bayonne Windmill blowing in the direction of the NYC Skyline, down along Avenue A and the Brooklyn-looking streets of Bayonne and into sprawling Stephen R. Gregg Hudson County Park and further into Richard A. Rutkowski Park (also known as the Waterfront Park and Environmental Walkway, a 40-acre wetlands preserve) before heading back all the way to Clove Lakes (approx 14 miles depending how you map the course). Or in the Greenbelt Trails that would be accessed by parking in the Costco Parking Lot. Or along South Beach boardwalk to Miller Field and out to Fort Wadsworth.
I am now less than two weeks away from the NYC Marathon! Every single time I think about it, or see an advertisement on an MTA bus or subway , or get a newsletter from NYRR, or see a commercial on TV, the butterflies flutter with anticipation. Now I just have to sit and wait for mission control to give me the green light.