I live in NYC, which means that I am fortunate (for many reasons, but among them…) to be able to train in Central Park. I love running at the Reservoir, the Bridle Path, and doing hardcore hill workouts in the Northern Loop. But more often than not, I find myself running the full six mile loop before work or as a component of my long runs.
I typically run the route counterclockwise, which is what most other runners in the park do. It is a completely magnificent run, with long challenging hills, quick rolling hills and just a few flat parts. One of the things that I love most about running in Central Park is that you can entirely forget that you are in the middle of one of the biggest, most dynamic cities in the world. The skyscrapers are there, beyond the trees, but if you want to pretend that you are running down a country road, you can successfully win that game with your mind.
Amazing, remarkable, romantic and so perfect as this run is, it’s nice to change things up every once in a while. With that in mind, every couple of months, I try to sign up for a race that runs the loop (or a portion of it) clockwise. This forces me to train by running my usual route in reverse.
For me, there are two primary benefits to running a usual course in reverse:
It’s easier/harder. Your body will adapt to the physical challenge of running the same course repeatedly, so running in the opposite direction will present new challenges for your body. For instance, if your usual route typically includes one long downhill and a short uphill, flipping it will result in a longer uphill and shorter downhill, and likewise, vice versa. Reversing my course made it easier in some ways. Running the northern portion of the loop in reverse promises two short but steep uphills and one long downhill; whereas I typically run one very long uphill preceded and followed by two downhills.
It gives you a new perspective. It never ceases to amaze me that the things I notice in one direction are entirely different from those that I notice in the other. Surely, some of the difference is simply reaching those landmarks at different points in your run, when your frame of mind, physical condition and focus may differ. But much of the difference in one’s ability to notice and appreciate various focal points also relates to the topography of the landscape. It may simply be easier to see something that’s always there when you are looking uphill rather than downhill.
While the former tricks your body in to believing that it is running a new route, the latter tricks the mind.
Sometimes that is all you need to keep yourself motivated when running the same route day after lucky day.