The Pleasure Component

I had one of those “character building” runs today.

It all began with my inability to fall asleep last night, even though I was so exhausted that I declared “lights out” at 9 PM. At 11:30, I shut off my 6 AM alarm and reset for 7 AM. This turned my planned 9.5 mile run in to a 6.5 mile run, but I am okay with that since I have a race on Sunday and want to ease up a bit in advance. Once I set out, I felt like I was fighting myself through the run. I kept feeling pebbles in my shoes and didn’t want to stop to remove them. Then I began to feel overdressed. When I saw a runner approach me during the ascent of Harlem Hill, I pushed harder, to show her, but mostly myself, that I was faster and stronger.

By the midpoint of my run, I realized that I was missing out on the pleasure component. This was supposed to be a relaxed long run, and I was anything but relaxed. I decided to pay less attention to my pace, stop looking down at the road and start appreciating my surroundings.

I saw the majestic Bow Bridge on my left and the beautiful lake that surrounds it. I heard the crunch of leaves under my feet. I watched in awe of the taxis rounding the curve by Columbus Circle, thinking this is truly a New York sight to see. I followed the graceful runner in the bright blue pullover until he sped too far ahead of me. Then he was just a bright blue dot, shrinking away.

I looked at the patches of grass, more green than springtime – a likely after-effect of our city’s recent storms. I watched the sunlight beam through bare branches on tall trees surrounded by their fallen leaves. I admired the rust tone of leaves still hanging fiercely on to smaller trees in the East 60s.

I ran past the Mall, with its seemingly endless rows of American elm trees. Now bare, you can see the elegant curves of their branches that make them look like the woods of a fairy tale. The 72nd Street corridor seemed to sneak up on me moments later, and I knew that I had only one mile left to my run.

I raced past the Boathouse, up Cat Hill and beyond the Met. As I approached Engineer’s Gate, I began to feel pain in my knees and thought that was odd because I usually don’t feel my knees at all until mile 9. When I had completed my run, I walked home from Central Park and stretched.

I run “naked,” without a watch or music, so I can only gauge my pace based on what time I leave my apartment and what time I return.

I checked the clock before taking a shower. No wonder my knees were achy; I must have been flying.

Run Strong.

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