Brooklyn Runner

Urban runs

These days when I go for a run I experience sensory overload from the beauty of the urban environment surrounding my home. I feel lucky to have backdrops like these during just an ordinary run…


Part of my route takes me past the beautiful and decaying Admiral’s Row at the edge of the Navy Yard.


An uplifting message in the industrial waterfront of Dumbo.


A New Year
January 6, 2009, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, Seasons, The City | Tags:

Happy New Year! It’s not too late to say that, right?

I love this time of year. The city has been quiet — almost desolate — between the big winter holidays and after the first of the year everyone starts trickling back, slowly but surely. There seems to be a bit more optimism and hope this time of year too, New Years resolutions and all.

Sure, one could trot out all the dreary statistics about how most people abandon their resolutions by mid February, or one could be cynical and say “What’s the point” of making resolutions that you know you aren’t going to keep? But I think making resolutions and aiming for something is entirely the point. Even if you don’t keep them. Even if you try and don’t hit them. At least you hoped for something; at least you dreamed a little.

The tragedy is not in failing to reach the goals, the true tragedy is never having made the goals at all (that’s not mine, I’ve heard it from someone but can’t quite place it just now). So what if making resolutions is cliched, or makes you a big cheese ball. In my book it’s a good practice — at least it gets you thinking.

At the very least it’s an exercise in thinking about what is important to you, what matters, and in what direction you’d like to see things go. One step at at time.

“I can only do 11-minute miles…”
December 4, 2008, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, training | Tags: ,

I must confess this comment from a Runner’s World online column, which came through my inbox yesterday, pulled at my heartstrings a little bit. The writer says she “feels like a loser” for not being able to crack 11-minute miles after drumming up the courage to go out and run her first race, a 5K.

How sad! No one should feel like a loser or be discouraged from running because they turn in a performance that can be improved upon, or they’re not as fast as someone else, or they haven’t done their best yet. The beauty of running is that it is possible to be competitive with yourself, and at the same time not have to worry about anyone else. Running is all about improving yourself and finding your own rhythm and stride, doing the best that you know you can do. What makes it a success for you as a runner will be different from what success will look like for someone else.

The coach here gives some good advice about slowly building mileage and intensity of workout. She says the hardest step in becoming a runner is taking the first step — having the courage to show up on race day. I agree taking the first step is hard, and important. But I don’t think the first step is the hardest part. The more difficult challenge is to continue taking those steps, to keep at it, to persevere and be consistent. Isn’t it the same with so many things in life that we’d like to do? Sticking with something, keeping at it even when times get discouraging or hard, that’s the true challenge.

They say “a writer writes” — that if you want to be a writer, well, be writing. The same is true for runners. If you’re a runner, you run. You run when you’re in shape and when you’re not in shape. You run when it’s cold and when it’s hot. You run when you’re tired or not tired, when you have free time, and when life is busy. Sometimes you take breaks, and some breaks are longer than others. But the point is, keep running!

Whether you can do 11, 8, or 5-minute miles.

The runner who died on Atlantic Avenue…
August 5, 2008, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, The City

The runner who was killed while out on a Sunday afternoon run two days ago was a 27-year-old guy named Jesse. He lived in an apartment over Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene. He played in the Nike Recess Federation (NRF), a competitive NYC basketball league that holds its playoffs at Madison Square Garden. He was an Ivy league grad from D.C. and was heading for L.A., an aspiring filmmaker. All according to relatives and friends, who have posted here, and other reports.

It is unbelievably sad and tragic for the community who lost someone who was so obviously and dearly loved. I live in the same neighborhood and run down the same street on my way to and from Prospect Park pretty much every week. Any one of us who runs in this city could have been in his shoes on any given day. It could just as easily be my family, dumbstruck and grieving, my friends talking about all the things I was passionate about, had enjoyed, and all the things I had aspired to do.

Witnesses at the scene say he was on the sidewalk waiting for his turn to cross the busy thoroughfare, a scenario any one of us has been in any number of times. It sends chills up my spine to think of how fragile life on this earth is, how we could leave it at any time.

I didn’t know Jesse personally, but as my path crossed so close to the place where he died, doing the same thing he was doing, I feel obligated to update this space with info and am glad to have people share a little bit of this person’s story. There are plans for another memorial here in Brooklyn, and a service with family in DC. If I receive any new info I will update it here out of respect for those who might be interested.

April 8, 2008, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, Seasons

It is that wonderful time of the year when you never know what the weather is going to be like, even when you watch the forecast. The weather predicters have been wrong on more than one occasion this year — but there is something nice about a surprisingly beautiful day when you were expecting cold and rain.

Saturday was one of those days. Managed to get in a good run over the bridge and up the East River in the golden rays of the afternoon, and what a treat it was. It’s still cold out this week, and windy (oh my, I could do without that wind!) but it feels more bearable somehow. Like a cold that nips you but doesn’t quite have the chill of January or the bite of February, when you know there are two solid months of winter yet ahead. The April cold is like snow that falls on budding tulips. The ground is softening. The daffodils are blooming. The breeze is starting to smell like perfume. And there are colors appearing everywhere.

My only wish is that it would be a full fledged spring. Mild but not hot. Cool but not frosty. Let’s have something more temperate between the dead of winter and heat of summer. Every year, these months go by too fast, but recently it seems the mildness that we know to be spring has been virtually erased.

By global warming?

March 27, 2008, 8:52 am
Filed under: Contemplating, Seasons

I’ve been hibernating this winter. Well, not really, I’ve been quite active in other aspects of life but running has taken a backseat to some other priorities. There are only so many hours in a week! It’s the things you value highest that get done (whether knowingly or unwittingly), so it’s not a matter of “I don’t have time” (I don’t believe in “I don’t have time” — you make time for the things that are important). But I’m OK admitting that running has not been as much of a priority this season as some other things I’d like to make progress on. And those efforts are paying off, however slowly.

That said, the promise of warmer weather – and upcoming races – has me pushing myself just a bit harder so as to not completely embarrass myself in my performance! It’s a bit more windy than I prefer, but it’s running shorts weather at last. Which makes me smile.

Global warming!
January 9, 2008, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, Seasons | Tags: ,

OK, I am all for an occasional mild day in January when you are comfortable running in the shorts and long sleeved shirt, but I’m sorry, this is just downright ludicrous! It’s January, people! “Cooling down” should refer to it dropping into the 20s, not the 50s! This is New York, not Boca Raton.

My last few runs had me in shorts, with no hat or gloves required. Which is nice, sure, once in a while, during the winter. But come on. As someone I work with astutely pointed out this afternoon, that’s why we love living in New York — because you have seasons here! In the winter it gets cold, and you get to wear your wool turtleneck sweaters and bundle up and brace yourself again the bitter cold. You have snow and ice and slush, and you leap over giant puddles of melting snow at intersections crossing the street. And in the summer you get to sweat and lounge around on the grass in the park in the sun.

Anyway. Those toe warmers I bought last year (the kind you break when you open them and stick in your shoes, and they stay hot for a couple of hours) have gone unused this year so far. Here’s hoping for “normal” weather sometime soon.

New Year’s Run
January 1, 2008, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, training

One of my favorite traditions that has developed over the years is going for an afternoon run on New Year’s Day.

It started I can’t remember when, back when a good hard run in the winter cold was the perfect — and sometimes only — antidote to a frustrating, stressful week at work. A run was a way to be alone, to be doing something good, to work out frustrations in a healthy way (that I wouldn’t regret later). I loved the idea that the first thing I would do in the new year would be something healthy, something uplifting and good, something that would make me stronger and help me grow. It was something that only I could do for myself, a get-up-and-go activity in its purest form.

I still love all those things about my New Year’s Day run — and of course it’s helpful that a run is always a good way to ease out of a hangover. I’m not much of a person for New Year’s resolutions, but one thing struck me today in thinking about the new year. There are a thousand moments over the course of running and training when you could easily stop, when effort becomes hard exertion, and it’s tougher than you expected, and it makes you want to call it quits for the day. What makes you a runner is that in that moment you choose to keep going anyway. You put your head down, breathe deep, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that your efforts will eventually pay off.

I’m glad to be reminded of that on New Year’s Day, as we think about goals and expectations in the coming year.

The bridge — even in winter
December 20, 2007, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, Seasons | Tags: , ,

It was twenty-something degrees, windy, a Saturday afternoon. I was hoping I’d find the Brooklyn Bridge walkway a little less crowded than it usually is, weather and all. Alas, seems nothing short of a hailstorm (or an ungodly hour, like 6 a.m. on the weekend) could keep the throngs away.

This is New York, after all.

The thing about living and running in one of the greatest cities in the world is learning to share it with tourists. I’m tempted to get annoyed by the crowds, just the sheer volume of people crossing through such a narrow space. But I’m reminded of why they’re here: To catch a glimpse of the sights I pass by every day — and sometimes take for granted.

Take the view as you’re going over the Manhattan Bridge on the Q train (which I take to work every day). There’s just nothing like it. Especially in the morning. Coming out of the tunnel, rising above the water, the industrial buildings of DUMBO to your left, the financial district to your right, the iconic webbed span of the bridge straight ahead. . . And at the right angle, on a clear day, you can see the Statue of Liberty too.

I just never get tired of it.

So it’s a small price to pay, having to be a little more nimble as you dodge camera-toting tourists, maybe saying “excuse me” to the group that insists on walking four-abreast across. You are out there to enjoy a good run, after all, in one of the most beautiful places in the city, and it’s hard to complain about that.

Merrill, financial services, and the marathon
December 6, 2007, 11:39 am
Filed under: Contemplating, Marathoning

The material for this post is a bit dated but interesting nonetheless. A few days after news broke about Merrill Lynch’s $8.4 billion write-down and the subsequent ouster of its CEO, the financial giant ran a full page ad in the New York Times. With a heading that read, “Why Merrill Lynch is still bullish on Merrill Lynch,” it included this telling line:

“We try to remember that investing is not a sprint, but a marathon, and that over the long term, patience is invariably rewarded.”

A month earlier, the Times ran a story about the sponsor of the New York marathon, ING, that drew the same correlation between investor prowess and long distance running:

“It is not surprising that a financial services company would find attractive qualities in sponsoring a marathon, especially in New York, a global economic capital, said Don Hinchey, a vice president of The Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports and entertainment marketing firm.

“Marathoners tend to be affluent. The average household income for participants in the New York City Marathon is $130,000. . .

“‘Couple that with the fact that marathon runners, by nature, think long term,’ Hinchey said. ‘They’re comfortable with delayed gratification. Isn’t that the essence of the appeal of an insurance product or financial planning?'”

(It’s worth noting, by the way, that “the initial three-year agreement as title sponsor cost close to $6 million, according to officials with the New York Road Runners, the race organizers. The arrangement with ING has since been renewed through 2010, and is believed to cost $2 million to $3 million a year.”)

Does this make runners a more financially savvy group? More likely to become wealthy in the long term, or at the very least maintain financial health?

I’d like to think so. But perhaps it’s enough to shoot for less tangible riches, and mental health.