I just got this email from my girl Teresa. Anyone who's tried to run the tip or does the east side paths, has gotten into this. Every time it happens I'm totally like WTF? Good stuff. Thanks T.
The race t-shirt I received at the Kenny Dolan 5k this summer reads "Running is a mental sport…and were all crazy!" I have known this since I started distance training. I knew it when I got lost on an 18 miler in Bumpass VA, and had to hitchhike back to my friend's house, only to thank my driver, turn around and finish the run. I knew it after the NYC marathon when all I could do was smile while everything from my neck down felt like a melting popsicle. But if crazy is a mountain, I hit the summit yesterday.
As a runner, I do my best to stay as committed to my "personal life" as I do to my "running life". I strive to create a harmonious balance between the two and to not let running trump everything else. Yesterday was no exception. I knew I was going to have to work, pick up a race packet at 57th street Niketown and run 8 miles before I met up with my roommates, Dano and Toni, to finish packing and cleaning our apartment before the move. I figured the best way to do it was change into my running clothes after work and run uptown along the east side paths to Niketown, collect the packet and take the subway back to my apartment to meet up with the girls by 7:30 PM.
For the runners who are reading this, you will agree that sometimes runs can be perfect. Yesterday, the first 6.75 miles of mine, was. The sky was so sharp that I had fabulous views of all my favorite NY bridges, the crowds were at a minimum and I felt fast and strong as I moved at a swift 7:45 minutes per mile pace. I laughed as I passed a sign that said "5 MILES PER HOUR" on the run/bike path that occasionally allows cars on it and thought "But how will I ever qualify for the Boston Marathon if I am only running at a 12:00 minutes per mile pace?"
The path of the East River Park narrowed as I blasted up the east side. Since I am not that familiar with those paths, I watched people in front of me for direction. But it wasn't before long I had passed all of them and realized I was sailing this ship alone. In hindsight, I should have taken that as a red flag. I mean, is there anywhere in NY that there are NO other people? But the music playing on my I pod was ON and so was I. There was NO WAY I was going to let a narrow sidewalk break up my stride.
Well, the "narrow sidewalk" soon turned into a "non existent sidewalk" and the next thing I knew I was running on the FDR Highway! But I COULDN'T stop! I was only 1.25 miles away from finishing "the PERFECT run"! I figured I could ignore the air stream coming off of the cars driving at 55MPH until the rush hour traffic slowed and it would be safe to cross the north bound traffic. .08 Miles later, I saw a break in the traffic and bolted at the divider. As I mentally patted myself on the back for my nice sprint, I heard the sound that NO ONE wants to hear on the FDR. Sirens.
I thought to myself "Oh man, someone is getting pulled over, that stinks." I couldn’t get caught up in it though, because I still needed to figure out how I was going to cross the southbound traffic while keeping pace and without being road kill. But the sirens were so loud that I could tell without looking that the poor sucker who was getting pulled over was right behind me. The sirens suddenly stopped and the officer yelled "MAM, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"
As I turned to face the officer, I noticed that he had stopped ALL THREE LANES OF TRAFFIC! The angry faces on the drivers, and this officer's tone of voice told me NOT to answer "I am training for the Chicago marathon and this was the only time and way I could get my miles in for the day". So, I morphed out of "Runner T" and into "Good citizen T". I apologized, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, put my head down and put my wrists out so he could cuff me. But instead of slapping the silver bracelets on me, the officer hollered at me "GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW!"
I sat sweaty, yet frozen in the humbling backseat of the cop car while the officer called in the "Female crossing the FDR". I could hear the anger in his voice. Clearly, this officer was not amused by my dedication to training. I knew all I could do at this point was hope. I hoped he wouldn’t arrest me, I hoped the precinct was more than 1.25 miles away, so I could make up the distance that I had lost, I hoped that this wouldn’t go on my permanent record, I hoped that I could get home on time to help with the apartment and I hoped that I would learn from this. I think the officer could see the fear in my eyes because once we got off of the FDR and into the city he let me go. But before he did he asked me "Do you know where you are going?" I thanked him and told him that I did.
As I ran the rest of the 1.25 miles of "the perfect run" through the crowded city, I thought about what the officer asked me before he let me go and my response. Yes, as a runner I always have plans carved out of "where I am going" and "how many miles I need to get there". And while sometimes it is easy for me to forget to appreciate the rest of life outside of "the plan", I value the officer reminding me of how important flexibility is. If there is one thing I learned yesterday, it's this: Do not ever underestimate the power and beauty of flexibility; you never know when it is going to stop traffic.