Loving Fall Running In New York City

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       Fall foliage @ The Mall, Central Park

If ever there was a time it’s now, if ever a place it’s here, and if ever a reason it’s Fall. Maybe I’m biased as I live here, but there is something essentially beautiful about this city amidst the bloom of Autumn; It’s in the smell of the air – the musky yet sharp scent of the foliage, the kalidescope of colors dotting the trees and sweeping the ground, the gentle brush of the wind the almost-there kisses of sunshine and of course the abrupt arrival of early sundown and the subsequent coolness. I liken early Fall in New York City (NYC) to one of the most stimulating assault on your senses you will ever experience. The setting is ideallic and brings out the runner in just about all of us.

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           TCS NYC Marathon, Finish Line

The true NYC Fall experience calls us to embrace Fall fashion and trends, its colors, its shopping – fall fashion meets running wear, its fitness, exercise and the marathon fever that permeates the air leading up to the NYC marathon in early November. There is an expectation in the atmosphere that fills the parks and spills out into the streets; running is everywhere.

15126805808_a582f5e3f6_mRunners welcome, should be our tag line because truly the city embraces runners like it does tourists. It is what New York does. And so it’s easy to fall in love with running here; you have a community of runners that is easy to become a part of and the access to many different courses and routes from bridges to parks and trails and beyond. Be a part of the city running community, the outer boroughs, or, head to the outskirts and get closer to the mountains and more hilly terrain; there it gets even more scenic and if you’re a nature-lover like myself, you’re sold. NYC boasts views, sunsets and snapshots and photos to run for.

808c919cef9194c11828e1701181e186Just a small disclaimer, don’t be surprised to see yourself starring in a famous shot. Central Park is just about the most popular park and boasts many fabulous photo and movie spots. But better than that, it is a beautiful green oasis in the midst of the concrete jungle of New York City, and, my running home. It embodies the beauty of Fall for six miles all the way around and among its many hills, trails fields, playgrounds and various other scenic spots.

Central Park

       Bridge over the Lake in Central Park

It’s easy to see why running is easy here in marathon city. We have all the trappings to make a great runner out of you. Your only responsibility is to bring your enthusiasm and willingness to give it a go. Despite what the corporate people may say, of which many are runners, it is us..runners who run this city. I promise.

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Good Vibes in Marathon City

bhmatson.com

bhmatson.com

I’ve been out of commission for a few days post-Chicago, giving myself time to heal and so ran just two days last week and one this week so far. I confess to have running plans this weekend on a small-scale. The thing is it’s pretty hard to rest in this city at anytime, far less around this time with marathon madness in the air.

Here in New York City, runners take this tapering business pretty seriously and what you will find is not so much less runners out on the streets, just that they’re not running as hard and lengthy; but look around, they’re everywhere. Ideally, this is the best thing for visiting runners and those who find themselves on the fringe of the running community; one can’t help but be caught up in the excitement that is the New York City Marathon.

I had such a great time in Chicago followed by a successful fundraising effort for Team UNICEF U.S.A that I’m in a really good place now in my head and had it not been for this ankle injury, which is still a concern, I would be in seventh heaven. Right now, I have to be ok with just the  first level; it’s still an awesome place to be. It’s not everyday one chooses to run a marathon for an awesome cause like I am, it is my first and I’m awfully proud of me and thankful for all the support that made this possible. My supporters seriously rock! Which leaves me feeling incredibly hopeful, that, and all the good vibes in this super city. As a runner, I know how important it is to prepare oneself for a race both physically and mentally as both are instrumental in getting to the finish line. As it is the work has been done, leaving only my ankle to coöperate.
My ankle-tester of a run yesterday took me through the city streets into and around Central Park’s lower loop a couple times. Often, I like to sightsee while I run and it was such a beautiful fall evening that didn’t dissapoint from the perfect weather and colorful trees and falling leaves and motivation by the handfuls to other runners with possibly hopes like mine or some of their own. Days like that make you thankful to be alive, running in NYC. I was able to mimic the last quarter mile of the marathon and cross the imaginary finish line area, which is being prepared. Now if that didn’t put me in a marathon frame of mind then forget it, but seeing how I was already there, it provided the proverbial icing on the cake. With marathon week coming up, I expect things will only get better and, eternal optimist that I am,  that includes my ankle.

The Other Side of Running the TCS NYC Marathon: Volunteering and Cheering

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Last Sunday was Marathon Sunday here in New York City. Over 50,800 runners braved the most windy and chilly day we’ve had in the longest time for the coveted title and medal for having run the largest and, some would argue, best marathon in the world: the New York City Marathon. As far back as last year, I had decided I wasn’t running this year; I felt I wanted to explore and expand my boundaries and focus my running outside of the city. I’ll be honest, on Sunday I was torn. Witnessing runners of all persuasions with varying abilities and over 50,000 reasons for running brought out my competitive spirit and I couldn’t help but wish that I had run. On the flip side, volunteering at the start quickly assuaged those running notions as I witnessed the anxiety and chilly determination of runners as they hunkered down in near-freezing temperatures to await the start from as early as 6am.

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

We did the best we could, chatting them up and seeking to encourage them as we too bore the brunt of the wind. Finally, it was time to usher runners on their way, as the canon boomed in the distance declaring the sending off of the first, second, then third and finally fourth wave of runners at 10:55am over the Verrazano bridge in Staten Island to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York.” Consider those runners as they progressed throughout the five boroughs, oftentimes to the company of a head wind especially upon crossing the five land-mark bridges of the race. Tenacity is the one word that comes to mind, it describes the mindset and spirit that pervaded runners as they struggled against the odds, having to adjust their strategy and even goals. Through their journey they were not alone; accompanied each mile by cheering spectators: an estimated 1 million in total, and hard-working volunteers encouraging and providing sustenance, many persevered despite the prevailing conditions and made their way through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and finally to Central Park and the finish line.

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There was never a doubt that after finishing my shift I was going to be a part of the most amazing cheer crowd the world over. 26.2 miles of spectators lined the streets of New York City, themselves braving the weather to make this race the phenomenal experience it is. It wouldn’t be the same without them and so more than anything, I wanted to be a part of that. I chose to stand close to the finish in Central Park and for four hours, cheered my encouragement and support, along with thousands of others, for runners I had never met but felt such an affinity with. Running, jogging, hopping, walking, crawling they came: an incessant wave from all over the world: young, old and everywhere in between they kept on coming; smiling, crying, in-pain, determined and victorious, to the utter delight of the crowds they came. From as early as 12pm runners were already in Central Park, Wilson Kipsang leading the pack as he cruised to the finish line in a time of 2:10:55 and picked up his first New York Marathon title, $100,000 and an additional $500,000 for going on to win the World Marathon Majors title with his win here in New York. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Kietany won first place in the women’s category with a time of 2:23:10. We clapped, hooted, whistled, rang bells, screamed and cheered for hours for thousands as they made their way home to the finish line, more than 3/4 of which were first time NYC marathon finishers and/ or first time marathoners at that.

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

I finally gave in to the chill and my voicelessness around 6:30pm while runners just kept on coming, no end in sight. In spite of the cold, I walked away with an incredibly inspiring feeling and felt much love, kudos and the deepest admiration for all runners this year. It does a girl’s running heart good to see so much love, support and dedication for her sport of choice. Thank you New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon and the city of New York including all spectators, volunteers and runners for putting on a phenomenal event. See you next year. I will be running!

Fall In Love with Running this Fall

imageI am the eternal optimist. Let me tell you right off that I haven’t always been this way; times past, I have been quite the critique and complainer, what some people call.. high-maintenance, but a couple of years ago I made an important discovery.. my Aha moment if you will. I figured life is full of disappointments and dread but juxtaposed to this is its wonderful surprises and beautiful things.. depends on who’s looking and from where; remember my “perspective is everything” mantra? You see, battling disappointments can be a consuming past-time, who has time for that, so I decided to lean on the side of beautiful things as I really don’t have time for much else. Fast forward today and finding out yesterday that I missed the cut off 1:02 under qualifying mark for Boston 2015 by 22 seconds.

After the initial dread and tears which lasted a few minutes, I cannot allow for days as others who’ve described their past experiences, I smiled. Because I’m proud of me. Proud that I qualified within my first year of trying and that I came so close. While I’m in solidarity with the 1,946 other qualifiers who didn’t get in, I have so much hope for next year. Now to be honest, it is no easy feat to qualify: the sacrifice, commitment and hard work, that went into doing so is a testament to running excellence and is reason enough to be proud of your achievement. For some though, it might be impossible to do so again.. It is for those that my heart goes out; that you will never know the reward of your effort. May it be enough that you qualified. For others like myself, we know that runners never quit. It is the indelible spirit that unifies us, that we will train harder, run faster, do better and we will RUN BOSTON.

So tears aside, the race goes on and there are some great races all over the country to choose from if you’re going ahead with trying for Boston 2016 right away. Just so you know, the qualifying window opened last week, so all qualifying races that you run from here on until next year can count. I’m playing around with ideas such as Philly, New Jersey, Marine Corps DC or Anthem Richmond Marathon; all in beautiful Fall and with good courses to do a fast time. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to make sure it’s a qualifier.

The best things about running in the Fall season is nature and its transforming beauty. I heart its colorful changes, musicality and cool sunshine. And I get to do it from beautiful New York, oftentimes, in lovely Central Park. Therefore, it was only fitting that I ushered in the season with a 12 mile exhilarating run there two days ago. I felt so buoyant, so hopeful, so filled with wonder then and even now. I hold on to that, not allowing the disappointment of yesterday to steal my joy in today and in the promise of some beautiful Fall runs.

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Summer’s Running Away

 

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Consider that Winter seems like it was just a few months ago..when we were talking crazy-cold-how-do-I-get-my-run-on weather and now we’re running through August, no stop signs in sight. To use my, of late, favorite expression – “What the hell!” Whatever happened to slow down, take time to smell the roses and all that cute stuff? Maybe, I’m just complaining cause I’m preempting what follows summer (to which I will not give a name so as to delay it as long as possible) but really the wisest course to follow would be to abstain from such thinking and do as much running damage as possible, which brings me to the matter at hand.. Summer runs rock!

I don’t know when was the last time we’ve had or even if we’ve ever had such amazing running weather in the summer in New York City! I mean this is the time to run and if you happen to be lucky and you’re in NY, then this is the place to run, and you totally lucked in cause we also have the company to get you out and about in this summer city. Some may complain of the crazy-weather-days where the highest we’ve seen so far is just about 89 and that we have lows in the 50s but this right here is runner’s paradise. It just doesn’t get better than this. And so you want to take advantage of it cause..well..hell, you never know.

Here are some ways to get running in the city that never sleeps for the visitor and New Yorker alike:

Run Central Park. You’ll never find a place more likely to make you into a runner. Running enthusiasts, visitors, sightseers, any and everyone active can be found here..Central Park is New York in action and home to everyone.

Run City Streets. Every summer for about one month, the city opens up some of the busiest  and most popular streets so that runners, joggers, cyclists, walkers, skateboarders and rollerbladers can do their thing. Yep..that’s right. No cars. The road is yours. Where else in the world can you stop traffic at your fancy?

Run with company. The Running Company is just one of the running stores that hosts free runs for running enthusiasts throughout the city. Nike, Paragon Sports, Lululemon and North Brooklyn Runners are some others to name a few. With just a click, join them and you’re in. These groups usually pace out into sub groups so everyone fits in never mind your level. It’s on to keep you fit and fab.

Run official. Do what I did; join a running club or organization that provides days, times and run workouts. Whether it is to train, to get you to your goal or to assume competitive level, such organizations exists with your purpose in mind. These clubs have an annual membership fee upon registration and acceptance; Central Park Track Club, Brooklyn Road Runners, Jack Rabbit and Dashing Whippets are among a host of others that provide the “athlete” runner with the impetus for racing.

Run with Meetup NYC. Throughout the city there are meetup groups happening for runners of all persuasions. For those who don’t know, Meetup.com exists with the sole purpose of bringing like-minded people together so that they can be passionate about whatever they care about. So of course running. And of course in NYC. Get online, join a group, reserve a spot for a suggested meetup run and voliá. You get to run all over this beautiful, crazy city for free.

Run with NYRR (New York Road Runners). Here is the mastermind behind the New York City Marathon, which is run by thousands from all over the world each year. NYRR is a running community that hosts races throughout the year in the five boroughs of New York. Most races can help with your eligibility for the ” big” race but ideally all runners are invited to belong to a community of runners that run and share the New York we know and love. Races are priced for members at a lower rate while non-members can run for a fee, though not all the races. Why not be a New York Road Runner?

Run for fun, for charity, for personal satisfaction. Whatever you decide, you have to take it to the next level. There are so many fun and charity races all over the five boroughs and beyond you couldn’t hide..but why would you want to? Summer in New York, especially this summer, is a time to make a difference in your and someone else’s life. You just wouldn’t be able to wrap it up come September and call it a great summer if you didn’t. There are color runs, mud runs, obstacle races, 5ks for Cancer research, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Kidney research and so much more. Whichever you decide, in any and all of them you can make a donation and make a difference. You’re running anyway right?

Do you doubt that we, runners, have it made? To not only live in the greatest city in the world, but to run the show. New York is not only about The Arts and Broadway and Wall Street and the Stock Market and Fashion and Times Square and Sightseeing and Tall Buildings. New York is about Running. Runners RUN this Empire State.

I Run Because…

running happy

running happy

I had a fun and celebratory run in the park yesterday to commemorate National Running Day and ended up smack dab in the middle of  Chase Bank’s corporate challenge run, 15000 strong.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only runner with running on her mind; seeing so many other like-minded folks was pretty super and helped assuage my irritation of blocked paths, slow pace and  too much company. The weather was a tolerably humid 74 degrees; overcast with a slight breeze, which meant you wanted to be as close to naked as possible while going heavy on hydration.

While out there cheering the runners on, my mind got to thinking about why I run..why I constantly put my knees and ankles through the often brutal pounding of running..I’m well aware I’m not getting any younger and so there are gonna be a lot more aches and pains as time goes along.  As I reflected on this and my various runs, I sensed a commitment to the sport that has carried me through the years; a commitment to running first because I can..it’s my happy place, and secondly, for all those who can’t.  Sure there are many other underlying reasons such as: the medals, great physical form, traveling, meeting fantastic runners, the physical challenge and so on, but mainly it’s because I feel I’ve been given a gift and it’s up to me what I do with it.  The challenge lies in not getting so caught up in myself and my ability, that I lose sight of being able to use this platform to help others.

With that in mind, I’ve recently recommitted to cause-running as oppose to mainly races for my personal enjoyment and will be joining like-minded runners this summer to give all those who can’t a fighting chance. I’ve always found that when you identify a purpose for what you do.. whatever that is.. it begins to matter differently and adds meaning and value to the challenges you meet and the sacrifices that you will ultimately have to make.  So I’m challenging you to determine a reason for your running, print it on your mind, place it on your heart and share it with your friends, after all there are thousands of reasons to run.  It shouldn’t be difficult to find one and own it; let it become your running badge that defines your purpose for indulging in this craze that has exploded over the years.  You are not just another face out there, you have an important story to tell that will bless someone, never mind that you’ve chosen  an unorthodox method for telling it.

So what is it: health, friendships, a good cause, to de-stress, freedom, community, to stay fit, to explore, it’s cheap therapy, for fun, fitness etc… It can be funny, personal, inspiring, challenging, motivating, it’s yours to tell.

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12 Miles of Cherry Blossoms

imageA day ago I did a 12 mile easy run in beautiful Central Park. Now Central Park is my running home and has been for about 3 years so it’s no big deal that I run there or at least it shouldn’t be, except that it is so gloriously pretty at this time of year that I think it a runner’s dream.  Sure enough I’ve taken it for granted that I run here all the time and oftentimes feel the need to get out and explore new territory. This is common to any runner who runs a particular route regularly; monotony sets in and will only be cured by venturing out to discover new routes.

imageIt just so happens though, that I cannot recall ever having seen the park so alive; blossoming Magnolias and Cherry Blossoms lines the various trails and main route while the ponds and reservoir shimmer with the glint of sunshine skimming the water surface. Fluttering leaves and blossoms falling like snow are ably assisted by a gusty breeze that propels you along the paths in the company of chirps and tweets which are music to the ears amid a cacophony of other sounds that permeate the air.  The various sporting fields, playground and picnic areas are teeming with families, pets, dancers, exercise groups, and everywhere you turn, runners, walkers, cyclists and those on roller blades.

imageI am enchanted by this picturesque and artistic scene playing out in full color before me. Completely under its spell, I don’t feel the pressures of the world around me. Even the fast pace of the city slows down here or maybe it’s being expelled in a more fun way but it seems miles away from the hustle and bustle that is Times Square..when in fact Times Square is only blocks away. It’s as surreal as it is real. I barely notice that it’s getting later or that my run is just about up, I’ve been so wrapped up in taking it all in.. this right here is life, I tell myself, this is what it’s all about. These moments that one is able to steal away; it is here you find inspiration and rejuvenation, here that you make connections, enjoy God’s beautiful work of art, find inner peace and strength, even love is possible here. Everything is.

I found these beautiful pics on the web. I love it!
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Spring in Central Parkimage

What’s to love about Running in New York

 

Central Park

Since I’ve neither visited nor run in other countries of the world, aside from a couple of countries in the Caribbean, I’m stepping out on limb here by saying that New York is one of the best cities for running in the world. While this could be a very bias perspective, it is by no means arbitrarily said as others who have run here agree, that this city provides runners of all persuasions with the inspiration, motivation and momentum to, in the words of Nike, ‘just do it.’ Whether you’re a veteran or newbie, aspiring or uncertain, New York makes the decision to run an easy one. And just for added measure, It has also made many top lists including Forbes and The Active Times, as one of the best cities in the world to run.

Some of the best running routes in New York include running in New York City, which is quite surprising given it’s metropolis nature. This busy, teeming concrete jungle is home to the world-famous Central Park; an oasis in the center of the city that boasts some of the most scenic, relaxing and inspiring running trails you could wish for. It’s hardly surprising to find it home to runners from all over the city and even those from as far as Long Island, New York. Other favorites include: Running along the west side highway, the Brooklyn bridge, the Queensborough bridge, the Williamsburg bridge, the George Washington Bridge, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Flushing-Meadows Park in Queens, Inwood Hill Park in Upper Manhattan, Forest Park in Queens, Coney Island in Brooklyn, Astoria Park in Queens and just about everywhere else in the city. For that matter, the city is so runner friendly, it’s not uncommon to see people running on Fifth Avenue and other popular areas among throngs of pedestrians and traffic.

Step outside the city and it’s running paradise heading to the Palisades, and various other trails and mountains in New York State. These are typically my favorite kinds of exploratory runs. It’s nature’s best way of saying welcome to New York. Trails abound for hiking and running in Harriman, Bear Mountain and the Catskills. Closer to home but still outside of the city, Van Cortland Park is a favorite as it’s just bordering the city and goes all the way from the Bronx to Westchester county in northern New York.

While these are many of the places I’ve run, there are still lots of uncovered and undiscovered territories, which makes New York one of the best cities for me and is among the top reasons why I love it here.

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