If you are a numbers obsessed runner, as I am, than the half-marathon I ran this past Sunday was a total and complete failure. If you are a runner who loves to run for the thrill off running, as I am, than Sunday’s half was one of the most amazing races ever.
When I heard about the race, advertised as “the only trail marathon in NYC”, I was enticed. Having done some trail running out in California, I was tempted by the challenge of running on an unpaved course. Trail running involves jumping over exposed tree roots and avoiding rocks, and generally getting out into nature to run. Throw in the fact that the race was at Van Cortlandt Park, one of the great running locations, and the fact that it was free and I was in. Did I mention that the race was Valentine’s Day race?
Admittedly, as an Orthodox Jew, and a Rabbi to boot, Valentine’s Day is not a day I observe, but I figured I was just going for the run. Besides, as I discovered, the heart shaped candy and lollypops weren’t kosher anyway. Sure it was hokey that every bib had the number 2 on it, but in order to show my individuality, I showed up for the race alone. Of course, that might have been because my friend who was supposed to join me, cancelled.
I suppose I should have been nervous at the beginning when I saw the ice covered course, but the race organizer announced that the course would get easier after a mile and a half, so I put my fear aside.
Mile 1- We are “running” on a sheet of ice. Going up a hill, I fall for the first of three times.
Up ahead, I spot a guy running with pink feather wings on his back. I suppose he is supposed to be Cupid. If he shoots my tuches with an arrow, I will punch his lights out.
Mile 2- I discover that when the organizer said it would get easier, he meant the ice would change to 4-6 inches of snow. I am running so slowly, I am practically walking. Still, I am practically out of breath.
Mile 3- If you ignore the snow (which would be at your peril) this is a gorgeous course. I can hardly believe I am in the Bronx. There are lakes in the Bronx? Trees?
There is a photographer waiting on the course. To slow down the runners, he has hung a giant gong in the middle of the course. Had he seen me, he would have realized that was wholly unnecessary.
Mile 4- What is this strange material I am running on? Oh yeah, asphalt. It lasts for less than 1/10th of a mile, but it is much appreciated.
I start to see pink feathers along the course. What has happened to Cupid?
Mile 5- The large brown spots in the snow are definitely not dirt. What could have done that? A large dog? A horse? A T-Rex? I hope that’s not what got to Cupid. I walk for a bit as I realize that this would be THE worse place ever to fall.
Mile 6- Almost half way there.
I get to the midpoint in 1:18. That’s a great time for a half marathon, but I’ve only run half of a half.
I see the people who are only running 10K standing on the side drinking water, and eating bananas and heart candy. I think I hate them, a most un-valentiney thought. I keep on going.
Second Half- Same as the first, just a little bit faster and a record for slowness burst.
Truth is, it is easier the second time around. Runners have smoothed out the snow a bit. I stop and hit the gong. I pass a few runners. I only fall once.
Being numbers obsessed, I realize that I will have to pick it up if I am to avoid my worst time ever, which I recall as 2:28 in my first race. As I get to towards the end of the course, I realize it will be close. I am running as hard as I can through mud and puddles. I finish in 2:28. (Later on, I will discover that I finished my first race in 2:27). There is no official time clock. In fact, the only clock at the finish has hands. We record our times in a notebook based on our watches.
This was not the race I had planned on, but it was an awesome challenge and a load of fun. I’d like to run the challenging course again, minus the snow. There’s another race on St. Patty’s Day. Do you think the green bagels will be kosher?