Ran 3.2 miles this morning. I headed south, looped around Union Square Park a few times, then ran along the perimeter of iron-fenced Gramercy Park before heading back north. It took about forty minutes, so about 13.3 minute miles.
I disparaged running through the streets of Manhattan until I tried it. I thought of the hard, uneven pavement, the exhaust fumes, the second hand smoke, and the remote yet real possibility of getting hit by a car or an angry New Yorker. The risks are real. But this breezy summer morning, runner’s high trumped my urban anxieties. The cushion in my shoes softened the blow of running on pavement. Unfazed, I ran past trucks, subway grills, and smelly garbage piled on street curbs. At crosswalks, I looked both ways. I did, however, quicken my step past the homeless sleeping in Union Square Park.
Today is recovery day after yesterday’s 8-mile run through Central Park. First four miles I ran side by side with my partner Charlie through the Park’s main arteries, East and West Drives. The second half, I wandered around the Lake near Boathouse, then through the narrow paths in and out of the Rambles. Logging 8 miles on Nike Plus app took two hours (what would it have been on a different app?), which averages to a snail’s pace of 15 minute miles, 4mph. I took a few walk and stretch breaks. The last mile I maintained a steady pace of 10.5 minute mile.
I just quickly googled “jog vs. run pace.” Naturally there are conflicting opinions on the topic, ranging from:
- 6mph and greater is running, slower is jogging
- jogging is running, speed doesn’t change the motion
- there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule
I’ll take 2 and 3, thank you.
After work I joined Meetup group Urban Feet for a Tuesday night run in Central Park. One of my good friends J is a long time member of the group and ran with me. I’m grateful that she slowed down her pace to run side by side with me. We caught up on the latest within mile one, until my chest felt like bursting and I could no longer run and speak at the same time. By mile two I started slipping behind and plodded along, huffing and puffing. As the distance between J and I grew, I kept my gaze on her and her ponytail flapping in the wind and her white shirt. J became my focal point and pace setter. I sped up around the bends to not lose sight of her, as if we were bound by some invisible tether. A few times she graciously slowed down so I could catch up with her. We walked a few times. We eventually ran/jogged/walked 4.65 miles in one hour, which is about 13 minute miles, an improvement from the last “run” at fifteen minute miles.
Running in Central Park is one of those things in life that makes me go, why haven’t I tried this earlier? Running along (mostly behind) the well-toned and driven New Yorkers, rounding the bends around still ponds and through green groves, feeling the cool breeze on my face – they all make it a rewarding exercise on a summer night.
Saturday morning I woke up around 8am, not early enough to make the 8:30am Central Park Run with Urban Feet, a NYC-based running Meetup group. I met one of the organizers through a mutual friend two weeks ago. Of all the remarkable things to do in Manhattan, running in Central Park was one of the things I had yet to do. So many of my running friends — all much more experienced and faster runners than me – run in Central Park. I wanted to join the club.
By the time I got to donning my running shoes, it was already 8:15am, and I live about thirty to forty minutes away from Central Park. I decided not to worry about missing Urban Feet at the 72nd Street entrance. I got to Central Park at 9:00am, where I joined a throng of runners and joggers and park-goers. I entered from Strawberry Fields and trailed behind racers in the 10K run for cystic fibrosis along the perimeter of Sheep’s Meadow and Heckscher’s Playground, then past the Mall, Boat House, and Metropolitan Museum. I eventually reached the Reservoir and ran on a narrow dirt path with an expanse of calm water to my left and grove of trees lending a cool shade to my right. A big blue sky, a cool morning breeze, and birds chirping. I’m looking forward to returning to the Reservoir for another run.
By the time I reached the northeastern tip of the reservoir, near the East 96th Street entrance to the Park, my hunger and thirst outgrew my willpower. I exited the park in search of coffee and breakfast.
While at the Park, I ran about four miles in an hour, at a snail’s pace of about fifteen minute mile. I took it easy. After refueling with coffee and omelet at Yura’s Bakery on Madison, I walked another two miles to the subway station on 59th Street and Lexington Avenue. It was a beautiful day to be out and about in the city.
I realize I’m starting to bend the rules of a rather linear, only-running training schedule. My ankles, shins, and knees are still not fully accustomed to running off the treadmill. I’ve been icing my legs since the run on and off all day. This coming week, I’ll adjust the training schedule to incorporate more cross-training and non-running, so that my legs can heal without falling off the exercise regimen.
Every so often gender feels funny to me. Like a concept foreign and external. The other night when I shared this with C, he assured me, that’s because it is external. As external as the concept of race, but that’s for another post.
I resist the inclination to internalize things that are external to me. Put another way, I’d rather be the subject of who I am rather than an object. A doer rather than someone to whom something is done. A woman, however, is often described as an object of desire. This would explain my mother noticing my heels before asking about my accomplishments. The idea of woman as object runs deep in media, culture, how women see ourselves. So every so often when I see gender norms as external realities, and I struggle to inject subjectivity into my sense of self, it’s as if cognitive dissonance takes solid form with a jarring buzz in my head.
With that buzz in my head, and while nursing heat-induced dizziness all weekend long, I read Mavis Gallant’s Hunger Diaries in the New Yorker, finished Alison Bechdel’s Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, watched Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour, and attended a concert by JD Samson in her new, cheekily named band MEN. A writer, a cartoonist, an actress, and punk rocker: four women creating four very different narratives.
I learned about Mavis Gallant only today, even though she published more than a hundred stories in the New Yorker, and the New Yorker is the only publication I read almost cover to cover every week. I like her pared style and keen descriptions, and I look forward to reading more from her extensive oeuvre. The writing in “Hunger Diaries” is as stark as her experience living hand to mouth in a poverty-stricken part of Madrid as a determined but despairing writer. In an entry she marks that her drive to write a novel precludes the possibility of love. A male friend “advises” that she, though deficient in satisfying a man’s desires, will become more interesting to a man as a published writer. I should note, this conversation happened in 1951.
Conversations with Frederick. Told him I thought I might still be capable of loving someone but I felt no one would ever love me again…I have been so driven inside myself that I don’t think anyone could see where I am, or care. Frederic then “advises” me about men — warns me! He says I am not interesting enough for the kind of mind I seem to want. He says, “When you have a novel out you will be much more interesting, because you will be someone else. Now, there are many women like you, just as pretty, just as nice. You give all, you do all you can, you can fill a man’s life, but many women are like that. It is not enough.”
A quick glance through her Wikipedia page shows that as a writer, as subject of her own life and doing, she proved herself to be more than enough.