Tag Archives: Central Park

My Victorious 1st Race Anniversary

“The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance — and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.” – Oprah Winfrey

Happy 1st Race Anniversary to me!

My first race was the NYRR Colon Cancer Challenge 15k in Central Park (2011) and on Sunday I ran it again.  Since this 15k (9.3 mile) race in 2011, I have run 133 miles of combined races over the past 12 months.  How?  One foot in front of the other. I wasn’t always fast, or smooth, or with a huge stride… just one foot in front of the other.

Back in 2011 it was a frigid, windy day yet the cold didn’t bother me. What I remember most were my cheeks hurting because I could not stop smiling throughout the entire course.  I was so proud of myself for discovering this new me, the Runner. I finished that race with a pace of 11:46 per mile.  This year I finished it with a pace of 10:15 per mile!

This past Sunday’s race was a challenge for me.  I did not go into it feeling I was in my best shape.  For the past 3 weeks I have been suffering from severe allergies and unable to train without heavy coughing and difficulty breathing. The day before the race NYC received a nice soaking of long-awaited rain that cleared the air of the high pollen count and cleared my nasal passages and lungs too.

Looking back at my splits, I was moving at a swift pace (for me).  This is my chart from the RunKeeper app.

mi Pace (min/mi) Elevation (ft)
1 9:56 25
2 9:26 -45
3 9:51 59
4 9:55 -30
5 10:03 -38
6 10:21 30
7 10:23 2
8 11:11 22
9 10:00 -45
10 9:15 7

Miles 5 through 8 is where I felt the struggle.  I need to work on my speedwork.  I have this problem where I’m running for at least 5 miles, feeling great, and then suddenly it’s like I’m breathing through a straw and it’s just really hard to get a comfortable deep breath, settle down on the pace and push along.  Instead I have to slow down drastically, sometimes walk a few seconds, stretch my arms up to open my diaphragm (although I don’t get a side-stitch I think a good stretch might help) and just focus on opening up my breathing. This breathing problem has only occurred when I’m in a long race which is when I’m pushing my pace the hardest.

The Gift of an Angel Runner

Running Shoe With Wings Clip Art

Mile 5  is when you start coming around the bottom of Central Park and roll into your 2nd loop, climbing the hills.  I needed a boost.  I needed, what I like to call, an Angel Runner, to make an appearance. An Angel Runner is that special someone, usually they are a stranger, who crosses paths with you in such a way to give you a jolt of positive energy.  It could be that NYRR male volunteer that usually can be found standing along the Northeast corner of Central Park cheering runners with uplifting phrases and high-fives. Or a runner who comes up along side you as you’re obviously slowing down and says something kind or gently pats your back in solidarity. Sometimes YOU are an Angel Runner too so pay-it-forward, it feels amazing and comes back to you on the course.

My very special Angel Runners are this dynamic female duo who I first met while running in a NYRR race last Fall.  I was fighting to keep a quick pace when up ahead of me were these two women who had a call-and-response thing going on.  One would shout something to the effect of, “Come on, we gonna do this.  Looking tight, baby. ” And the other would respond, “What? What? We gonna go for it.”  Back and forth they would give each other these little positive affirmations. When I first zoned in on them my emotional reaction was to be disgruntled and annoyed that I had to listen to hooting and hollering while I’m struggling to do my own thing.

No matter how much I pushed, I couldn’t pull away from the women. I had now run merely a mile with them by my side, sometimes in front, sometimes in back, but always within hearing distance.  Finally I decided I was just being ridiculous to try to work against what clearly was a sign from God that I needed to embrace these two hardworking women.  They were doing exactly what I was trying to do: run a race and feel great doing it.

I embraced the moment, pulled alongside them and chimed right into their chanting.  “Hey! Let’s go ladies. We are gonna finish this race together.  Come on now. Pull it tight.”  They welcomed me, and from a 2-way exchange it was now a 3-way.  I looked in both their eyes and saw a strength, determination and warmth unlike any other.  I was so happy that I re-framed the experience and opened these beautiful women into my mental running-space.  By letting them in, I was surprised by how positive and special the experience became. And it didn’t end with that race.

Just about EVERY race I have run since then I have crossed paths with my Angel Runners. Every time I see them we run a little ways together giving each other words of inspiration, compliments, a pat on the back… a fuel with more value than any Gatorade or Gel pack could ever provide.

Here I am struggling around Mile 5 when, Surprise! I see one of the angels up ahead. I scooted up alongside her and said, “Hello my running friend! Here you are.  I was wondering if I’d see you.” She gave me a smile and her eyes lit up when she realized it was the strange friendly girl she keeps bumping into at a race. I asked for her partner and she said she was home nursing an injury.  Quickly we fell into a comfortable pace. My struggles dissolved.  “You look great! What?” “We gonna do this” “Yeah, let’s go” “Make it happen now.” On and on this wonderful call-and-response went until we hit a fluid station and we wished each other well and I pushed on alone. She thanked me for giving her a boost. No, THANK YOU!

Now I was feeling super-charged.  I hit the hills in the Northeast corner of the park with steady determination.  Ah, but once again my breathing closed in on me and I was struggling.  I knew I would finish but I wanted to finish feeling strong.  I started to feel deflated as I slowed down and runners I had passed a mile earlier jogged past me.  A year ago, none of these running struggles would have bothered me in a race. I was just happy to be doing it.  This year it was starting to irk me, badly. My enthusiasm and motivation were faltering.  I needed to change my mindset.

Success lies in the significance of the little victories.

I thought of how this is my anniversary race and how far I have come since last year.  How much I have learned about running and fitness. How much is immeasurable beyond the actual miles, the pace, the ranking. I wasn’t always a runner. I wasn’t always passionate about fitness.  I am a work-in-progress and I need to celebrate every victory, including the tiny ones, even the ones that can start out being perceived as a failure but when you look closely you realize are a victory.

Like when I hit around Mile 8 and drastically slowed down to an 11 minute pace.  Ironically, last year an 11 minute pace would have been fast for me. This year I felt like I was practically stopping.  I reminded myself of that fact; that improved strength. (A victory!) And then I passed Mile 9 and remembered all my previous long distance races, including 6 Half Marathons, where I passed the Mile 9 marker and found strength and pride that I was here doing it yet again. (Another victory!)  And all the miles I had in the muscles of my legs. (There’s a victory!).

Recognizing all these little victories helped me find my inner-strength. My pace increased, the wind was blowing my hair and I couldn’t stop smiling, again. I gained control of my breathing and more importantly of my mind and flew across that finish line,  victoriously!

 
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Manhattan Half Marathon 2012: Running in a Beautiful Snowstorm

Last Saturday (Jan 21) I ran the NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon in the heart of a beautiful cold, slushy, icy snowstorm.  From a week out I was watching the weather reports and “Wintry Mix” kept appearing in the forecast. I knew I had a choice to make. I could either moan and groan and worry about all the discomfort and troubles that snow might cause or I could just accept it and make the absolute best of the situation.  I decided to accept it. To that point, I decided to fully take it on, embrace it as a wild adventure and truly enjoy the challenge of running in a snowstorm for 13.1 miles for the very first time.

Every time I looked at the weather forecast I automatically reacted with an enthusiastic ‘Yes, Snow! Bring it!’ and decided no matter what the scenario, I was going to finish this half marathon. Nothing was going to hold me back unless the NYRR organizers decided to cancel the run.

A few days before the Manhattan Half Marathon I started reading “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.  (I’m a voracious reader because I spend a lot of time commuting for work.) I was deeply affected by the notion of the Law of Attraction and the tremendous power we have within our thoughts to project us onto various frequencies.

“Your thoughts are the primary cause of everything…You are the one who calls the law of attraction into action, and you do it through your thoughts.  You will attract everything that you require.
“If you’re feeling good, then you’re creating a future that’s on track with your desires. If you’re feeling bad, you’re creating a future that’s off track with your desires. As you go about your day, the law of attraction is working in every second. Everything we think and feel is creating our future. If you’re worried or in fear, then you’re bringing more of that into your life throughout the day.”  – Rhonda Byrne (The Secret)
Basically, the universe hears our thoughts and will attract to us what we think.  The key: Be Positive.  I’ve always been a generally positive person so a lot of what The Secret discusses naturally resonated with me.

In preparation of this race and throughout the actual run, I thought a lot about what The Secret teaches about how to think positive. Thinking in negative terms will not be heard by the universe.  For example, as a runner if you think – “I won’t fall on the snow. I won’t get hurt.” – the universe doesn’t hear the negatives, only the positives.  Your thoughts will be interpreted as “I fall on the snow. I get hurt.” and thus attracting those events to you.

The night before the race there was a lot of chatter on the NYRR Facebook page about whether the race will be cancelled. Would anyone run in the snow? And plenty of negative talk about hating to run in the snow.  I put up my mental shield, closed my eyes and went to bed visualizing myself running through the snow, around the loops of Central Park, gliding up and down the rolling hills and finally crossing the finish line. I even visualized sipping slushy water and Gatorade at fluid stations.  I ran the race before I even crossed the start line so I knew I could do it.

Early in the dark of morning, my husband, who is also a passionate runner and signed up for this race, was concerned about traveling into the city and whether we could run in a snowstorm without getting hurt or freezing cold.  I told him I was confident we could do it. We just need to dress warmly (we had all the right gear), take it very slowly and carefully. Make the event fun, not a nuisance. Don’t focus on achieving a specific time. Just finish.  As it turns out, the organizers had the same idea and decided to turn the race into a Fun Run with no scores or official times.

When we opened the door to our house and walked to the car the dark chill was invigorating.  I just kept repeating to myself, “I will finish this run.”  The ride into the city was slippery and slow.  When we came out of the Battery Tunnel and drove up the Westside Highway there wasn’t a runner, let alone a dog-walker, in sight.  My mind wanted to drift into negative-land but I concentrated on countering with positive thoughts.

As we drove along Central Park West, getting near 63rd street, I finally saw one runner with a bib prancing over the snow into the park.  I felt a little relief.  Then as we drove a block more I saw a handful more runners jogging across the snow-covered street.  And soon there were at least 20 runners heading into the park for the race.  I felt motivated and excited to join them as soon as possible. The party was on!

We parked the car and lightly trotted into the park to the baggage check-in area.  There were about 2 inches of snow on the ground and the storm was just getting started.  In case you were wondering, NO the paths were not plowed.  The streets had barely been touched. Who was going to take time to plow and salt the walking paths of Central Park before an 8am race?

I quickly get a crash course on how to run on snow.  Woah, was it slippery and slow!  But I was doing it and so were lots of others around me. No one fell or wiped out or crashed.  Everyone was bouncing gently across the packed-down snow that kept on sprinkling on our running gear.  Turns out that there were many runners who showed up (i don’t know actual count but at least a thousand based on the snaking trail of racers).   It was an awesome feeling to be in that charged environment.

Off we start to lots of cheers and shouts of encouragement. We work our way around the bottom loop of Central Park and then up the east side.  We had to run 2 counterclockwise loops.  It was a lot of work just to take a step that could project your body forward.  My entire posture had to be re-adjusted. At first my ankles were a bit wobbly.  I had to watch for ice patches and keep to the fresh powdery snow with good traction.

My eyes had to adjust to all the whiteness to avoid feeling nauseous.  My hat and jacket were getting covered in a nice coating of snow that I had to shake off every so often.  My eye-lashes were frozen icicles that I had to keep wiping.  My breathing was also impacted because the snowflakes kept being sucked up my nose or into my mouth causing me to choke and get a chill at the same time.  Some might find these obstacles a complete turn-off to running; I loved every single moment of being confronted with new challenges.

Running thru a snowstorm

For the first several miles I kept expecting my feet would get wet and chilled.  It never happened.  Throughout the entire race I was always comfortable and warm. My face was chilled but it felt wonderful.  My hands were warm.  My body felt strong and light. Most important, my feet were warm and dry!  God bless the inventor of the Brooks Pure Cadence sneakers and my WigWam Ironman Socks (yes, socks are equally important as sneakers to a runner.).  I was very curious to see how my sneakers held up in snow or rain.  They remained perfect the entire run.

As we passed mile 3 my husband and I looked at each other in wonder… ah, only mile 3?  We had worked extremely hard to push along the course.  Every step was a subtle slide back so that it sort of felt like running on a treadmill if you didn’t concentrate on projecting your body forward.  So many times I could have let negative thoughts sweep over me.  Like when we passed mile 5 and the snow was a good 4″inches and covering most of the mile marker sign.

Central Park covered in snow is a magical vision.  I lost my bearings often because there was nothing but a milky whiteness surrounding me, covering all the buildings and paths.  The park was also very quiet and still except for the gentle movements of the runners.

There are many reasons I wanted to do this half-marathon but mainly it was because I wanted to prove to myself I could do something I’ve never done before as long as I set my mind to it.  Amazing challenges have come my way throughout my life and I have conquered them, worked through them, feeling stronger and better for it. But the challenge of running a marathon I have yet to accomplish.  This half marathon was one goal I set to keep me on track towards achieving a marathon.

One fear that had been nagging at me for months was the weather on the day of the NYC Marathon.  What if it rains? What if it’s freezing cold? What if it snows? All of which are possible in early Nov for NYC.  How can I prepare?

The Manhattan Half Marathon was my test. Now I know that the weather will only help me to finish the marathon, not hinder me.  I do not have a real-time goal… 4:30 hours would be very nice though.  It’s going to be my first one so I will just focus on finishing.

Weather will not stand in my way and I’m learning how to keep my mind from getting in my way.  If you put your mind to it, you can do it.  All these phrases can sound cliche` if you never actually tried putting them to good use.  But I did use them to push me across the finish line of this race. The power of positive thinking is where true strength can be found!

We finished the race in 2:30 minutes which is a few minutes slower than our average half marathon finish time.  Our average pace hovered around the 11 min per mile range.  With double the energy it required to take each step this race was as much a strength training experience as it was cardio.

As I approached the last mile I felt sad to see it all come to an end.  Once again, I wanted more and felt strong enough to keep going if I had to.  Give me a blizzard and I was ready to run straight through it! I think that’s a great way to end a race when your longterm goal is to run a marathon.

At the Finish Line of the Manhattan Half Marathon 2012

 

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My First 10k Race: Where is that finish line?

This past weekend I ran my first 10k, the NYRR Joe Kleinerman Classic 10k in Central Park.  It started on the upper east side near 101st street and looped all the way to the edge of the northside of the park, down the west side, across the bottom of the park near 59th street and then back up on the east side to the finish line around 101st street. 

Once again I had to face the challenge of those Central Park hills.  I find I actually prefer not to know much about the course and just tackle it as it comes.  Perhaps this is an approach I prefer just for Central Park because of the varying degrees of rolling hills.  So just when you think you’ve accomplished the 2 big hills, suddenly you’re on mile 5 and there comes Cat Hill, kicking your butt even though it’s not supposed to be much of anything compared to what you ran at mile 1 and 2.  Or maybe this is a naive novice approach?  Isn’t ignorance sometimes bliss?

Running is such a mind-game of personal puzzle pieces.  Not everyone’s piece fits in the same way to get a picture of the finish line.  Some pieces require water at mile 2, other’s need a sip of Gatorade at every fluid station while still other’s won’t drink till the finish.  Some prefer to start out in the front of the pack, other’s prefer to lay far back and enjoy the feeling of passing other runners as you build up speed each mile marker.   

I planned to run the first 3 miles kinda easy and then push hard for the last 3.  I sort of kept to that plan.  I had a friend join me for the run and I don’t train with her so her presence still impacted my strategy whether I realized it or not because now the puzzle pieces I was fitting together to make my perfect picture of crossing the finish line unintentionally became a duo effort.  Sometimes that was a really good thing when it meant more motivation and sometimes it just became an added level of decision-making to an already tricky jig-saw puzzle

By mile 5 we were really pushing up Cat Hill hard and then as we started down the hill I looked at my friend and said for about the fifth time – “Put it in cruise control to the finish!” – because when you go down a hill it should be just a free-flowing sensation with minimal effort or energy so that you can clear your mind and cleanse out your muscles and heavy-breathing from the challenge of going up the hill. 

We pass mile 6 and we have a point-3 to go.  That point NEVER came!  We started to hear the announcer and music but when I looked ahead I just kept seeing the snaking trail of the racers as though it was never end.  We are now passing speakers and a lot more runners that have finished and are eating their apples and bagels.  But still, we can’t see the finish line.  I can’t keep pushing at this fast pace of close to 9 min per mile.  My friend says “Where is it?! When is it gonna end?!” And then finally we see it just around the bend.

I finished the race feeling amazing and invigorated because I pushed myself harder than ever with an average pace of 9:54 but my per mile splits were a lot faster than I’ve ever done for a run of more than 5 miles.  I have never had a bad experience running a race.  Every one of them has been an incredible adventure and journey for me.  I always focus on the positives and little victories rather than anything negative. 

And yes, I absolutely did smile across the finish of my first 10k.

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I’m IN to Finish 2012 ING NYC Marathon!!

My 67yo father has been running for more than thirty years.  He has run 8 NYC marathons and countless other NYRR races.  His first marathon was in 1979 when I was 7 years old.  Living on Staten Island, the start of the marathon was always an extra big deal in my house.  My mom would wake us early, my younger brother, sister and even my grandparents, and drive my Dad to Fort Wadsworth near the Verazzano Bridge and then cross over to Brooklyn to stake our first of several cheering spots throughout the race; Brooklyn and then on to Manhattan, on the East side just off the 59th Street Bridge and again in Central Park for the last 5 miles.

My Dad said that what piqued his interest in running were Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter, two of the most elite and successful American runners of all-time.  The NYC Marathon began in 1970 and originally consisted of four loops around Central Park with just a few hundred runners.  In 1976, thanks to the pioneering vision of Fred Lebow, the race expanded to hit all five NYC boroughs and attracted approx 2000 runners, including Olympians Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers.

In this picture we had just dropped my Dad off at Fort Wadsworth.  The date was Oct 21, 1979.  Notice the limited crowd and the low number on his bib.  The running boom was just getting started!

It was absolutely thrilling to see him come running up to us, cold and sweaty, and hug and squeeze us at every spot!  Back then there was no such thing as gels and power drinks.  My mom would have a huge container of honey that she’d scoop into my Dad’s mouth like medicine for a baby and I would hold fresh-cut oranges in a ziplock baggie.  My fingers would freeze holding out extra oranges and then go numb from clapping so hard for all the runners.  As if that was an act of endurance?!

I also remember seeing all kinds of characters pass by.  There was the waiter who we saw at every marathon.  He wore a black jacket with tails and bow-tie and held a tray in one hand with a champagne bottle and glass.  There were those who ran backwards and the guy who ran while juggling.  To my young eyes, watching the runners sometimes felt like being at the circus.

I remember after my Dad finished his first NYC Marathon he received a spectacular poster of the Verazzano Bridge with all the runners crossing it. The shot was taken from above so you saw the full span of the bridge from Staten Island and thousands of runners charging across it.  I put this poster on the wall just to the side of my bed.  At night I would lie on my side and stare at the poster wondering where my Dad could be amongst the crowd.  My Dad told me how runners would start stripping off layers of clothes while crossing the bridge and just throw them on the pavement or off the side of the bridge.  I found this little fact about littering your clothes on world’s largest bridge to be fascinating and would daydream at the poster imaging shirts flying off the sides of the bridge.

That same year I decided  for Halloween I would dress-up as ‘Daddy’s Super-Jogger’.  My mom ironed the letters onto a sweatshirt (she lost the ‘Y’ so it actually read Dadd’s Super Jogger), gave me my Dad’s sweatband and wristbands, a water bottle (she didn’t have a real water bottle so she gave me my little sister’s baby bottle!), sneakers and off I went proudly jogging in the P.S.69 Halloween Parade.  Running doesn’t require much of any props so my costume kinda looked like I was going to gym class.  That’s me in the middle holding up my sister.

In 1981, when my Dad was 37yo, he finished the NY Marathon in his best time ever – 3:29:30.  He said that as soon as he hit Central Park he suddenly felt like ‘a firecracker was up his ass’ and he ran like the wind to the finish.  He got across the finish line faster than my family could keep up to greet him.  My Dad bought a picture of himself crossing the finish line which has lived in a frame on top of the piano all these years.

Everyday when I would practice piano I would gaze at the picture and think how casually normal my Dad looked, merely hopping, over the finish line.  But I never understood the magnitude of what he accomplished, from achieving a fantastic time to simply finishing the run of 26.2 miles!  Until now.

Back then I never felt a desire to run.  I never even dreamed of running the NYC Marathon. I just enjoyed being an observer, the daughter of someone who was a marathoner and a very driven runner.  My friends and neighbors all knew my Dad as a runner.  So many times someone would tell me, “I saw your Dad running near my house at 5:30am when I went out to grab the paper.  How does he do it?”  I would shrug and just say, “He does. He gets up and goes running.”

It wasn’t until I myself reached my 30’s, when I began very light running on the treadmill and outside (3-4 miles tops)  that I started watching the NY Marathon on TV and unravel a hidden desire to want to run this race myself.  My childhood memories of being surrounded, unconsciously, by the NY Marathon and the determination of a marathoner, came flooding back to me.  Yet I never mapped out a real goal.  Occasionally I would go for a short run with my Dad but I never considered properly training for races or making running a consistent part of my lifestyle.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mother and wife now and recognize the value of organizing time, staying healthy, and generally feeling balanced between work and life that running has become my center around everything else.

So here I am now at the start of 2012, turning 40yo in October, officially accepted into the NYC ING Marathon! I just wish I could find that poster I once had on my bedroom wall.  Only this time I’d put it on the wall in my girl’s bedroom.

Here are some more vintage pictures of my Dad running the NYC Marathon back when it wasn’t even 5 years old. Notice the light crowd of runners and the simple clothing.

 

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NYRR 9+1 DONE!

On Sunday (Nov 20) I volunteered as a Course Marshall in the 4m Race To Deliver in Central Park.  I loved wearing the bright orange Volunteer vest, Emergency Contact tag and having a sense of authority amongst all the racers and pedestrians.  I was positioned less than a quarter-mile to the Finish Line, just at the sharp turn the course takes into the Finish Line.  Didn’t have to do much other than cheer. Oh if only I had a bullhorn.  

My hands were killing me from relentlessly clapping but I felt awful if I stopped clapping.  Every runner deserves a clap.  I hate when I run a race and volunteers just stare at me.  Say something! Motivate me!

Next time I’m gonna stick my hand out and get high-fives.  I always liked volunteers that demanded a high-five as you were pushing through a course. 

I know how wonderful it feels to hear cheers, especially the ones that really strike a chord with your body and make you get a rush of adrenaline, perk-up with a smile and bring it on home.  So rather than just shout the standard “Come on runners!  Go runners! ” I switched my chants to a series of phrases that I would personally love to hear:

You guys look awesome!  You guys look great!  

Finish is just around the bend!  

Push it just a little more into the Finish! 

Deep breath and you’re home!

It wasn’t until the 10+ min a mile pacers started coming in that I really felt a rush of energy and excitement with cheering.  These folks needed the cheers.  You saw their faces light up when you said that the finish was just around the bend.  And that’s when I started shouting, “SMILE OVER THE FINISH!”  The effect that phrase had on runners was just amazing to watch.  One guy was barely at a jog and when I said “Hey, you did it! Smile over the finish!” he smiled, waved his hands like a champ and practically sprinted to the end.

I ran my first race in March 2011.  It was a 15k Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park.  Not really sure why I decided to become a NYRR member and do races. I just felt the need to give myself goals to better myself.  It was a bitter cold day, below 25 degrees, and pretty windy.  I didn’t care. I was so excited and captivated by the entire experience of running a race; from picking up my bib the day before at the 89th Street NYRR office, waiting around early in the morning with a DJ blasting music, lining up in the corrals, jumping around to warm-up, singing the national anthem, hearing the start gun, the slow herding to the start line then a skip, trot, jog and swoosh a run – that I smiled the entire time.  I smiled at pedestrians, volunteers, other runners. I could not wipe the smile off my face.  The only thing that was aching on me after I finished the race was my face from all the smiling. 

My cousin, who is a runner, told me very wise words for my first race. She said, “Don’t forget to smile across the finish line.”  That phrase says it all to me about the kind of attitude I have as a runner and how I plan to be when I cross the finish line of my first marathon in 2012!

I always ham it up for the cameras
Smiling across the finish after 13.1 miles in Central Park!

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