Running clockwise

To cap off my first week of training for the Fairfield Half-Marathon I did what I intended to be a nice 5-mile run around Central Park: get some nice hill work, enjoy the beautiful spring day, etc. To spice it up a bit I plotted my run around the park clockwise, instead of counterclockwise like everyone else does. Here's what I learned:

1. Running against traffic is like swimming up stream. Suddenly, everyone is coming at you instead of running with you. Not that people were getting in my way, but psychologically it feels like you are running the wrong way--and that makes it very difficult to keep going forward.

2. As I was running I saw street signs that show that runners/walkers are supposed to go clockwise around the park and bicyclists are supposed to go counterclockwise. I don't think I had ever seen these signs before, probably because I had only seen them from behind. And this made me wonder: what crazy runner gets to the park at 5 in the morning and decides the direction of traffic for the rest of the day? Then this lead me to another question: is there ever not someone running in Central Park? I have seen people there at 10pm running as if it were the middle of the day. Or maybe it's one of those impossible questions, like: if a tree falls and no one is there does it make a sound?

3. One thing I noticed off the bat was that other runners looked at me. Now, if any New-York-ism is true it is that people do not make eye contact; actually, New Yorkers tend to not acknowledge anything around them, period. It's not so much a matter of being proud, it's really just a mechanism you develop in this city where everyone and everything is trying to get your attention. However, as I ran people just kept on looking at me--and I could tell because many of them weren't wearing sunglasses. It got to the point that in the first mile of my run I looked down at my shirt to see if there was something on it. I have to assume that it was because I was running face-to-face with 90% of the runners in the park, but it's still an awkward experience in a city where no one pays attention any stranger.

4. An amazing thing I realized was that the park looked entirely different running the wrong way around. I've run through the park dozens of times, but I really felt like I was in a different place. I'm used to seeing turns and hills and trees from one side, and now I was looking at everything "from behind" (so to speak). I even discovered a lake! As I was running north, up the west side of the park, I saw a lake on my left that I had never seen before--every other time I had past this point I was heading south, and with how this lake was laid out it was hidden if you where heading south.

5. The one running-related lesson I learned during this run was that I am starting from scratch again. It happens every time, but, as always, I thought this time would be different. I was in peak condition for Long Branch two weeks ago and now I feel I'm back to square one: I couldn't regulate my speed, I couldn't control my stride, my stomach was going haywire, I couldn't get into my music. I hate runs like this because they completely break me down and make me feel like I can't run at all. I guess this is what training is for: to get rid of the demons.

No comments: