Sunday was the first time in recent memory that I was nervous before a long run. I think it was a combination of having last week’s pain still fresh in my mind, along with a somewhat sluggish easy run on Saturday morning that had me worried what Sunday’s 20 would bring. I slept badly and dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 to feed the kitten and make breakfast. I was thrilled to see solid cloud cover and hoped the temperature wouldn’t climb too much in the coming hours. Thankfully, the clouds hung around and the weather stayed cool and breezy all morning. I ended up having perfect conditions for what turned out to be a really lovely run.
Maybe it’s just the architect in me, but one thing I love about urban long runs is having the opportunity to experience whole swaths of the city in a continuous flow. I always enjoy seeing how neighborhoods merge into each other (or don’t), and how the urban scale changes and shifts. I planned my route for the 20-miler around New York’s two great parks–Prospect and Central, but I was also looking forward to all the parts in between.
The Caveboy had decided to join me for the park portions, and we started out with the usual run up Union to Prospect. We did only one lap this week, and it felt great to turn out into Grand Army Plaza knowing that I would not have to contend with the Mt. Prospect hill any more that day. From there the Caveboy hopped on the train and I turned down Flatbush Ave to Atlantic, then to Court and on to the Brooklyn Bridge.
The combination of the early hour and the clouds seemed to be keeping the tourists at bay, and I relished the chance to run the bridge without having to constantly dodge pedestrians, bicycles, and tourists taking selfies. Once over the bridge, I cut across Lower Manhattan to the Hudson River Greenway, taking in the view along the water. I should note that I had mistakenly plugged my Garmin into a non-charging port on my computer the night before, so my battery died somewhere around mile 13. I still had Map My Run going on my phone in my waist pack, but I had no real-time pace data for the second half the run. I had a bit of a headwind along the water and by that point in the run, I really had no idea if I was running 8:15 or 10:15 miles. Whatever it was, I was in a pretty comfortably rolling-along pace, so I just went with it and hoped I would end up in the ball park of the 9:32’s I was shooting for.
Pretty as it was, the 5 miles along the Greenway were probably the most monotonous of the whole run, and I was grateful that I had a friend to meet me at 65th Street, where we turned east and headed for Central Park. The Caveboy was waiting for us there and provided fresher legs for pacing. My route had us looping around the south end of the park, then up the east side, around to the west, and ending around 86th Street, near my friend’s apartment. I figured that if I could get through the Harlem Hills at mile 18 or so, it would be a good sign, training-wise. The Caveboy set out at what seemed like a pretty good clip, though again, I couldn’t tell how much my perception of pace was being colored by fatigue at that point. Overall, I felt really good, though–definitely better than last week’s 18 or my first 20-miler.
The time in the park went by much quicker than I expected, and before I knew it, the hills were upon us. I managed the first two climbs without too much trouble, and really only dragged on the final hill, which at least set up a nice downhill finish. My friend rallied me for a final kick at the end, after which I happily laid down on a bumpy, acorn-strewn patch of dirt under an oak tree and put my feet up.