I'll take a free pair of shoes. Especially since no one is throwing me a free pair to review any time soon. And all I have to do is run? So I get a free pair of shoes for doing what I'm already doing on the weekends. Perfect!
Now, I've never done a group run. The closest I've ever come to a group run before was a few times I went out with my super-fast friend who charged ahead of me within the first few miles of our run. So this whole running as social interaction thing is new to me.
They told me over the phone to get there a little before 9am, but in my excitement to get out the door and in a twist of speediness by the NYC subway system, I show up at the shop at 8:30am. And it is 30 degrees outside. And Starbucks is closed, despite their hours sign saying that they open at 6am on Saturdays. I entertain myself by buying and devouring a granola bar at CVS and then walking around the block a few times. It is still 30 degrees.
At 8:50 I pass by again and find the gate up and people inside the shop. I head inside and tell them I'm there for the run. I sign in (run #1 toward free shoes!) and start stretching. Slowly, a group starts amassing. Most appear to be regulars and are on a first name basis. Once we reach a critical mass the shop manager tells us that there will be two groups: a 5-mile group and a 10-mile group. Well, 5-miles is a little short, but 10-miles is a little long. But since I'm new to the whole social running bit I figure I'll go with the shorter distance.
We head out with a light jog toward Central Park. Ah. I was expecting a little more creativity in choices of routes from a weekly running group, but then again, it is the safest location in the city since there is no car traffic. We separate into the two distances and head out in opposite directions. Our group is doing 5-miles at about a 9-9:30 min/mile pace. Ah. I thought these people would be a little faster.
Per usual I start out fast. (I really need to fix that.) I stay close to the pacers and never lose them through out the whole run. I start off next to one girl that I had started talking to, but quickly found out that I was much faster than her. The next two miles were quiet and slightly more grueling than I remember Central Park. Maybe we are going my regular pace of 8:45ish?
At one point we pass an officer galloping by on a horse--which is one of the most majestic things you'll ever see in NYC. It starts up a conversation about horses and horseback riding. I start talking to one of the girls in the group who used to ride horses competitively. We carry on talking for the rest of the run. I find out that she ran the Tybee Marathon--which I want to run only for the reason that I would be justified in eating at Paula Dean's restaurant in nearby Savannah--and actually placed there. That makes me feel good because I'm keeping step with her...until she tells me that this is her first run in months due to a pinched nerve, among other health problems. (And there goes the ego boost.)
We wrap up the run where we started and walk back over to the running store where bananas, OJ, water, and bagels await. We also get 20% off coupons (sweet!) for going on today's run. One of the runners also gives out sweet tamarind, which is an odd, if not exotic, choice to bring as recovery food.
All in all, it was a good run. At first I didn't realize it, but it pooped me out. I was exhausted for the rest of the day. It was a little odd having to run with a group of people, but I'm sure it will only help build good habits (i.e., pacing) and even if I don't I'll still get a free pair of shoes out of it.
And now a note on housekeeping...
I've changed my 2008 race line up a little bit. This fall, instead of doing the Marine Corps Marathon, I'm planning on the Breakers Marathon in Newport, RI. Why the change? It was more a strategic move than any particular appeal of Newport. I have the general assumption that I won't be living in New York City forever. So I'm trying to cover off on all the nearby states while I'm here. I realized that my original fall marathon choice, DC, is pretty easy to get to no matter where you are in the country, whereas most New England states are not. So I'm gonna knock out a few of the smaller states this year and get my New England groove* on. In 2009 I'll kick off with Texas to make up for the small state focus this year.* Not entirely sure what constitutes "New England groove," but I think it involves birkenstocks and a quaint bed and breakfast.