Brooklyn Runner

“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 Ice Bath
August 31, 2008, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Hurting, Marathoning, training | Tags: ,

I have to give it up for my friend, who is training for his first marathon. After hearing about how sore he felt after a long run of 15 or so miles, I asked him whether he had discovered the ice bath yet, and the next week he tried it and became a believer.

Ah yes, the ice bath! I know, it sounds a bit scary at first, but there is truly nothing like it when you are training for a marathon — especially in end-of-summer heat — and getting in those 15-, 18- and 20-mile runs. How the muscles ache, the knees can complain, and just about anything that is a joint can creak and become irritated from all that running.

The ice bath is the perfect antidote to all that. It was first recommended to me when I trained for my first marathon. And while the idea of getting into a tub of ice cold water with a bag of ice in there is daunting in any other circumstance, when you are doing those long training runs you will discover how wonderful it is. The coolness just calms everything down, helps soothe the muscles and reduce the inflammation from all the motion on those joints. There’s nothing like it – but I would say just about the only time when it’s fitting is after the truly long runs. Because let’s face it, those long training runs can be utterly grueling.

I’m not against just filling the tub halfway with cold water, and just dumping in a bag of ice. You don’t have to submerge your entire body in there, in my opinion. Just get the legs and all the joints covered. Sit there for 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe with a hot cup of tea. Relax.

And make your recovery so much nicer.

City Streets
August 3, 2008, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Seasons, The City, training

On my evening run today I passed a pretty bad accident at a major intersection. Bad enough that the corner was cordoned off by yellow police tape and the street closed for two blocks on either side. As I passed the wreck you couldn’t help but slow down (gawk?) — the entire driver’s side of the car was sheared off. I hate imaging these accidents, how they happened, what must have happened to the people inside, and I never know quite what to do with the info once it’s sunken in and sobered you for a spell.

At any rate, I’ve missed running. I’ve started getting myself back into shape, just focusing on regular runs as a form of conditioning. It’s amazing how the body can fall out of conditioning, and incredibly satisfying to see how the body responds to regular discipline. A few weeks ago I went on a longer run than I had done in a while, about 7 miles or so, and felt good because of the conditioning I’d been doing. Sore and just a tad fatigued, I commented to a friend: “It was good — I feel like a runner again!”

Maybe it’s the realization that the seasons will change. The sticky heat of summer will give way to the cool crispness of fall. Maybe it was that one season in Philly that forever fixed it in my mind, maybe it’s just that the weather is so perfect for long runs, but for me fall will always feel like the season for long distance running. And I want to be ready.

Philly Marathon, Revisited…
July 1, 2008, 9:57 am
Filed under: Marathoning, training

I’ve had a chance to review some feedback and conversations with people familiar with Philly and it seems it’s still up in the air whether my initial disdain for the addition of the half marathon should be reconsidered. I discovered that someone I know from work has run Philly every year for quite some time (a true marathon veteran!) and also a veteran New Yorker. When I asked her about the half, she didn’t blink. In her assessment it didn’t register at all. “Don’t even think about it,” she told me. “You’re focused on what you’re there to do, that’s all.”

Other things to consider: Marine Corps filled up pretty quickly, NYC isn’t going to happen for me this year for me, and I would hate for the fall to go by without doing the marathon! I took another look at the finisher stats for Philly over the last couple years. ( is great for easily checking these things out). Turns out the marathon field is substantially larger than the half-marathon field, which is the opposite of what I initially thought. And as a commenter pointed out, by the time you get to the Rocky Balboa finish at the bottom of the art museum steps, you are crossing the line pretty much with only full marathoners.

I guess the bottom line is, it’s been too long since I’ve done some real training and submitted myself to the discipline of marathon training, and I’m starting to feel the itch again…

Brooklyn Half
May 5, 2008, 9:55 am
Filed under: Racing, training

I should have trained more for this race! But it was still fun to be there and make it across the finish line. A cool headwind, mostly flat course, and nice finish in the park made it a fun race to do. Search results on NYRRC site here.

Running routes in Brooklyn
January 2, 2008, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Running Routes, training | Tags:

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I was eager to learn the local running routes and their precise distances. As a creature of habit, I like to run the same routes over and over again, getting to know each turn, incline, and mile marker so I can measure my progress or guage expectation and pace. As I’ve discovered, Brooklyn is a great place to run. So, to start out the New Year I’ve decided to share my list garnered from a season of experimenting, training and mapping — and lots and lots of miles.

— There is, most obviously, Prospect Park with its outer loop (and top or bottom loops for shorter distances). And Map My Run has been a godsend in calculating distances to and from the park or wherever else you’re headed.

For short to medium runs, I like the 3.34-mile outer loop at Prospect Park (tacked on to the distance from home for me it’s a solid six-mile run). It’s scenic and spacious and mostly flat, but watch out for a big long hill on the eastern top side of the loop, by the zoo heading up toward Grand Army Plaza (if you start at Grand Army and go counterclockwise it fall at the very end of the loop). On shorter days I’ll do the top loop, which is 2.2 miles. Start at Grand Army, go counterclockwise and hang a left turn just before the big staircase. Prospect Park’s website has running info, and Prospect Park Track Club has a map with mileage.

— Another great run is the Brooklyn Bridge. Nothing like being on foot over that beautiful icon with its expansive views. But it’s the farthest thing from a secret, so be prepared for crowds at just about any time of day or night, every day of the week. The only times I’ve found the bridge to be bearable in terms of congestion is at 6 a.m., weekends or weekdays. Also, it can get windy up there and it’s an upward climb in both directions, but don’t forget to look up and take in the view — it’s breathtaking.

There are two ways to access the footpath: Enter the ramp entrance at the intersection of Cadman Plaza East and Tillary Street (which I favor), or take the staircase up from Cadman Plaza East near Prospect Street. The bridge span itself is just over one mile (1.13 miles), but I think it depends on where you enter and when you start to measure.

To mix it up a bit, on the way back I like to make my way over to Brooklyn Heights and throw in the promenade. You have to swerve around leisurely walkers on nice days, but the view is one of my favorites in the whole city; it’s a place any Brooklynite must become familiar with.

— For long runs, especially helpful during marathon training, I take the bridge over to the Manhattan side and take the staircase down to street level, where you’ll be on Police Plaza/ Park Row. Turn right and double back under the bridge span, heading east along Avenue of the Finest/ Robert Wagner Pl. to access the East River running path. You’ll know you’re approaching the path when you can see the water ahead as you hit (and cross over) South Street underneath the FDR Drive. From there you can turn left to head north up the path, which is a continuous running path up to 34th Street. Including the bridge, that’s about five miles in one direction. There are plenty of water fountains along this route, and a decent public rest room just past the Williamsburg Bridge.

— For a longer alternative (think marathon season 20-mile training run), turn right to head south instead. Hug the coast of Manhattan’s southern tip, passing the Governor’s Island ferry station, Staten Island Ferry terminal, and through Battery Park (tourist alert: beware of the crowds lining up for the boat tours, Castle Clinton National Memorial, and the guy on stilts painted green and dressed up as the Statue of Liberty). Stop at the park’s water fountains and bathroom (on the northeastern edge of the park) before picking up the Manhattan West Side path at Battery Place.

The route takes some detours past all the construction at the World Trade Center site, but the detours are pretty well marked and intuitive. From here it’s a straight shot all the way up the West Side. I’ve gone as far as 71st Street (the 10 mile point, and turnaround for a 20-mile run for me), and it’s exactly the kind of run you want to be doing for a 20 — uninterrupted, flat, and designated for runners. Plenty of water fountains in the lower half, some Gatorade machines, and a public rest room at the Chelsea Piers building. The new lower Riverside Park, courtesy of Donald Trump, was looking pretty nice but the water fountains up there were not functioning at the end of the summer. (Also, we could use a rest room up there, Mr. Trump!)

Whew! That’s about all my running route secrets from Brooklyn. . . .

I know I’ve left out a bunch of good routes that go along Ocean Parkway, the Greenwood cemetary, or down to Coney Island. I’ve yet to explore these, but plan to this spring/summer. Please feel free to pass along yours, friends, and I’ll post them up here as well!

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.