As I drive home each day after work along the West Side of Manhattan, I watch with some measure of envy, runners running next to the Hudson River. Particularly on days when there is heavy traffic, I would much rather be out there with them. There is one part of the running scene that I don’t love though; the trendiness. As I watch the runners with their cool outfits, high tech watches and fuel belts filled with drinks with all sorts of artificially colored drinks, I find myself thinking yearningly of the origins of the New York running scene.
Back then, NYRR was a running club, with a president who only earned six figures if you put the decimal point up until four places. Runners ran in cotton (polyester was plaid, not moisture wicking), had only a few types of shoes to choose from, but most importantly, they ran out of passion, not because it was cool. That’s because it wasn’t cool. Running was mostly a fringe sport that attracted quiet ectomorphs.
The Van Cordlandt Running Club has been hosting trail races on or around the legal holidays. Yesterday was the latest. Despite the high heat and humidity, I knew I had to be there, having run their races before, and getting to run with my friend Yoni sealed the deal. The race had the feel of what races must have been like back in the day, with no fee, no free shirts, great people and a beautiful course. Each runner kept their own time (yes, I admit, mine was on a Garmin) and ran on a trail soaked in mud. The hosts did a great job providing us with plenty of drinks, as well as fruit (I shouldn’t expect otherwise when the guy in charge is a Fruitarian) and lots of encouragement.
It was not a day for pushing the pace and I regrettably allowed myself to walk a few of the challenging hills. Still, it was a challenging run, made easier by the shade of the trails. After a break at the half way point, we convinced ourselves to do a second loop so we would complete the Half Marathon we were shooting for. We crossed the finish line drenched, tired and smiling from ear to ear. No non-runner can imagine the incredible sweetness of watermelon after running in the heat. Sadly, I suspect that most runners can not appreciate the no-frills, all thrills type of race that we experienced. I think I will leave the Garmin home next time.