Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reasons I Love Running

I can’t sleep. I can’t even develop the elements of sleep. And being that I didn’t sleep last night I have no idea why this is so difficult. I’m exhausted, and it’s not even like there’s anything good on in the Olympics. I've watched rowing and international boxing for the last three hours.

So I’ve decided to make a post about 10 things I love about running. Not the top 10 – just 10. I have a feeling this will grow, and the three of you can feel free to give your 5, or 10, or 1000. Whatever.

I like the fact that running is completely calculateable, (if that’s a word, if not I’d like to substitute measurable, able to be measured, quantifiable or something that means it’s something you can add up on a weekly basis and compare against yourself and others.) If you go to the gym five days a week you don’t say that you did 172 concentration curls last week. You don’t total up the amount you bench pressed by weight. You don’t count how many seconds you spent in the bent over dog at yoga class, or brag about how many times you were up and down the court in a basketball game. But you ask most runners how many miles he did last week and they’ll give you the number to the tenth of a mile. We take pride in that number. It’s like a badge of honor and an equalizer. It doesn’t matter that I’m doing 6:20 pace – if I’m only doing a 20 mile week and you’re doing 60 you win. It’s a great thing about the sport.

I love passing people. In the Park, on the WSH, on the track, in races, walking to work in the morning – whenever, wherever, there’s something completely primal about locking in on someone ahead of you like you’re a f-14 Raptor ready to drop them in the drink, kicking on the burners, climbing up their back all slick and quite-like, then dusting them with a finishing flurry as they kind of tail off and bail out. It’s like the Road Runner passing the Coyote while he’s riding an Acme rocket booster and roller skates. Coyote puts up a sign that says “Ooops”, promptly falls off a cliff, and you’re making honking sounds and darting out your tongue. Oddly something smells like burnt toast? There’s nothing wrong with relishing the feeling. It’s natural. I mean I’m not a sadist or anything, I just like to beat people.

I love new shoes. Well new gear of any type for that matter. As I was writing I did a quick count and I have 56 pairs of shoes. I wear maybe 3, so the rest is just to feed the addiction. Like a junkie to the rock I’m always looking for just one more hit. The Katanas in the Montreal color-way, the Lunatrainers in black with the silver swoosh, the Zoom Forever XCs (despite the fact I haven’t run an XC race since my freshman year in college.) Just let me smell them, touch them, absorb the sweet crisp aroma of new shoeness. Ahhhhhh. Right there. Love it. Bliss. Very good thing I’m working for my pusher because I’d hate to have to pull a Basketball Diaries move for a pair of Zoom Elites.

I love running in the snow. LOVE IT. L-O-V-E I-T. It’s probably one of my favorite things on earth (along with cleaning my ears and sleeping while the sun is up.) Last winter I went out with the Run Club on a night it was really coming down. There was probably two inches down when we got out there and the Park was empty other than the 50 people who had come to Niketown that night. It was really blowing, and I remember on the east side of the lower loops it was tough to breath without getting snowflakes rammed down your throat, but at the same time it was so quiet, calm, and peaceful. The snow kept getting laid down so every time it looked like my footprints were the first to get laid down, and everywhere you looked framed up into perfect Ansel Adams shot. It was probably the best run I’ve ever had, (I had good company as well D), and it was a real reminder of some of the great things running has to offer that you sometimes forget in the City.

I love running in the rain. (This is becoming a list of different types of precipitation I like to run in. After hail and amphibians I’ll move onto my favorite natural disasters and biblical plagues.) But I actually like rain for a completely different reason than snow. Growing up in Florida it’s 42 million degrees at all times – except maybe the summer when it actually gets hot. So you’re pretty much restricted to running at night, death by heatstroke, or running in the morning. I don’t do mornings, so almost all my running was done late – with the exception of when it would rain. Before the first drop hit the ground I was out the door with my Mom chasing me with a wooden spoon and calling me names, (not really but I’m Italian so that’s always how I picture Mama). For whatever reason you’re always a little faster in the rain. It possibly has to do with evolution; when man was made of sugar rain was our natural enemy? I don’t know; I’m not a confectioner. But there’s this feeling like you have to out run the drops. It’s a loosing battle, but many of my best runs have been the ones that have taken my shoes off the market for a few days.

I love the runs where you make a mistake, get lost, run too far one way or the other before realizing it, and you end up going WAY further than you wanted to. There you are at the top of the full loop of the Park and you’re dead. Nothing left. No money, no Metro Card, no way to get home other than running there. It hurts. You don’t want to be doing it, and half of you is so pissed that you left your ATM card sitting on the counter. But at the same time there are few feelings of accomplishment better than when you finally make it home. You’ve beat your own stupidity – or did you? Hmmm. Maybe a better question is did your inner runner actually beat you? I know right, mind blowing.

I love running quotes. They’re really the best, most motivational, most inspirational, poignant of all sports quotes. Maybe down the road, the next time I can’t sleep, I’ll make a list of my favorites.

I love running in New York City. I live in Times Square so I’m less than 8 running minutes from just about everything important in the Universe. And while most people avoid the hustle and bustle when they run, I’m drawn to it like Britney Spears to poor decisions and bad parenting. I like the streets, I like the landmarks, I like looking up and seeing Times Square, the Rock, Saint Patrick’s, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central, the United Nations, Flatiron, Union Square, Astor Cube, past Chinatown and Five Points, through the Canyon of Heroes, past the Bull, circle around the Staten Island Ferry Terminal so I can go under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge, cut back across and pass MSG and Penn Station, before heading home. Name one other place on earth where a 9 mile run has that much awesome mixed in? And? And? I thought so sucka.

Extension of that…I love running through Midtown. Earlier this year I pitched a concept for a program where Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown was compared to the type of art that best captures the cultures and feel of the neighborhood. That was compared to the type of running that takes place there. I’ll spare the details for another post but I compared Midtown to Mondrian who is best known for his use of straight lines arranged in grid like patterns with solid colors. The boxy, plain, emotionless, blank., grids perfectly mirror Midtown’s orderly, system of red lights, one ways, and clean concise thinking. It’s systematic, and predictable. 8th always runs north, 45th always runs west, and with few anomalies that’s what Midtown is all about. You go on green, stop on red, go faster on yellow. That is of course, unless of course you’re a runner. Short of being attacked by Cloverfield I don’t stop for anything. Red, yellow, lavender, walk or not, I’ve granted myself a permanent little guy walking, and I’ll be damned if cars and cabs are going to mess with that. I’ve created a foolproof method of getting through intersections with the basic belief that if I get through I win, and if they hit me I sue and I win. It’s pretty much the basis of all my runs.

I love the sprint to the finish. You’re already dead. You’ve been dead for 6 miles. You’ve spent the last 35 minutes trying to decide if you even want to finish or if you want to take a cab to the finish and get your bag before you have t o face your friends. People are passing you like you’re handing out $200 bills. There’s not an ounce our gas in the…wait, is that the finish? All of a sudden you’re Tyson-F-ing-Gay dropping a sick sprint to the finish. Where does it come from? How does it happen? Why couldn’t that have been spread across the last 6 miles where you wanted to yack? No one knows, no one gets it, but there’s something about that burst that makes you forget about even the worst race because all you can remember is, “I had a lot left in the tank.”

Wow…that was a lot. So what. Ple1 – making it rain.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I totally agree with a lot of what you said, but especially the sprint to the finish.

Also - do you have 56 pairs of running shoes, or 56 pairs of shoes in general? I think I prob have at least that many shoes in general, but I only have six pairs of sneakers.