Winter, Weekends, and Why Running!

@ The Unisphere, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

I took to Central Park last Saturday for a cold, fast, 12-mile run. As it happened, I wasn’t the only one with the mettle or crazy – you decide – to get out there cold weather notwithstanding. In fact, maybe because this is New York City, there’s really no let up of the number of New Yorkers and tourists alike out and about. And, well, it is the holiday season, so there’s enough reason as to why there would be so many people littering the chilly park from as early as 9am. The truth is I had no desire to go out there but, and I’m beginning to believe it now, runners – those serious about the sport – are defined by the days, races, and times that present the most challenge and oftentimes suck big time. We understand that it is those times that will develop strength, tenacity, and the spirit to fight, dig deep, and finish the race when that time comes. And so, despite the inviting pull of those sheets and with thoughts of the chill driving me to just finish already, I bundled up and headed to a slight detour before the run.

My gym hosted an in-house competition at their other location, which was a stone’s throw away from Central Park, my running route, and I needed to be there as it was my first official exposure to this type of competition. I wanted to spectate, support my fellow crossfitters and scout around to figure out how it all worked. No baptism by fire for me, not if I can help it. Turned the competition was awesome and loads of fun. After two and a half hours there, longer than I intended, I couldn’t not go and kick that chill right in the butt. And so a quick two loops of the park starting at Columbus Circle’s entrance and heading up the east side of the park, up Cat Hill, and all the way past the 102nd Street transverse, and looping over Harlem Hill to the West Side of the park and back, past the overlooking Strawberry Fields and 72nd Street Transverse, and making a full circle back at Columbus Circle east entrance. One more time and I was done, and off to run a couple errands and spend the rest of the day holed up watching football. Well, Alabama and Georgia was playing is my excuse since I’m no football fan.

Surprise, surprise, today followed a similar pattern with me heading out in freezing temps to grab a 13 miler in my lovely neighborhood of Queens. I met up with some buddies of mine at the Queensboro bridge in Queens – just 1.3 miles away from the city – and we headed on a running tour-of-sorts of this underrated borough of New York. First few miles was pretty cold but at least the sun was out so we eventually warmed up some, as long as you kept moving. Running through different areas of Queens turned out to be pretty interesting as we zig- zagged across Astoria and headed to Flushing Meadows Park, across from Citi-Field and in the vicinity of the home of the US Open. We grabbed a pic, lost a team member (she bailed), and we headed across the park to Lake … taking in the natural beauty around us and headed out in search of Queens Boulevard and Forest Hills. We ran by the Forest Hills Stadium..oohed and ahhed..and finished off at the LIRR station off Austin Street. After than chilly run, food was on our minds and with plenty pickings we found a local dive and dove right in. Way to wrap up a cold morning if you ask me.

Two weekends before I had done an 11 mile out and back run closer to home, and a windy 10 miler the weekend prior. While we await the official start of winter, many would argue that it’s already here with blistering winds and freezing temperatures. In fact, we’ve already had our first snow fall. Sadly, the Fall season was gone before we could dive into running and all we’re left with is the audacity to get out there no matter the weather.

These days it matters not the time of day as we see record temps erasing all that we think we know or should be experiencing. And so my runs over the past few weeks have been totally out of my comfort zone. They have been cold, hard, long, and crazy enough, rewarding. However, they’re always so much better when I’m able to have others join me. I look ahead with trepidation as winter advances, but also with hope, knowing that come Springtime, I will be stronger and better for it.

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