Sunday, March 06, 2005

Running Uptown With The Biz.

This morning I somehow managed to launch myself out of a very comfortable bed to get uptown to run in the Coogan's Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks 5K, my first New York Road Runners race of the year, and despite the fact that it was 36F with a 9am start, I really enjoyed it.

I don't think I've run a total of 6 miles since my last road race, the NYRR Wall Street 5K at the end of September, where I took a tumble about a half mile from the finish, and goofed up my shoulder so bad that it still wakes me up when I roll over awkwardly on it while sleeping...and that includes the aptly named Westfield Hangover 5K that I ran on New Years Day in that freakishly warm weather. I decided that I absolutely had to run this one in order to get myself started running again, and I wouldn't beat myself up if my time sucked.

My buddy Chuck, who inspired me to run my first race last year, suggested this race because of it's relative "funness" compared to most road races. It started at the New Balance Track & Field Center on 168th Street and ran north on Fort Washington Ave into Tryon Park, then back down to the Armory. If you are familiar with Washington Heights, you'll know that that's one of the hilliest stretches in otherwise flat Manhattan. Since the Armory also houses the U.S. Track & Field Hall Of Fame, I spent a few minutes before the race wandering around the Hall getting inspired by the exhibits, the coolest of which was the actual baton Jesse Owens' USA team used in a relay in the 1936 Olympics.

I found Chuck outside by the starting line, and once the staring horn went off, I set off on my chugging way. Chuck booked off into "actual runner" mode while I paced myself to minimize the embarrassment of having to pull up lame (or tired, or all asthma'd up). The fun part kicked in about a quarter mile in when a Salsa band serenaded the runners passing. Further up on the run we ran past bagpipers, banjo players, Irish folksingers, solo guitar players, cheerleaders, and the Mother Cabrini High all-girl Marching Band.

There was even one runner who was just ahead of me, who pulled over to the side, somehow produced a trumpet, and played for the rest of the runners. He was still playing when I made my return trip back to the finish line.

The beauty of NYRR races is the sheer diversity of the runners. A lot of runners wear their national colors, and the recent trend of wearing the shirt of your favorite soccer team is fun to watch (for some reason, AC Milan was the most seen top today). About a mile into the course I passed a small group of people on the sidewalk around a baby in a stroller with a sign that said "My 2 Daddies Are Running This Race!". As I was stretching before the race inside the Armory, the coolest Japanese dude took some space next to me...he was dressed from head to toe in the flyest vintage adidas and Nike gear, including a pair of what were probably late 70's Nike Cortez wheels. This guy was awesome and his clothes probably had an eBay value of $1500.00. And don't get me started on these 50-year-old women who are built like Biz Markie that despite their girth and lack of running form manage to cross the finish ahead of me every time.

Needless to say, my finish time was terrible (yet still a bit better than that New Year's Day run), but there's something about just finishing a road race that feels amazing. It's so cool to know that I'm not the slug I thought I was gonna turn into when I got older, and it's such a treat to be able to run through the streets and parks in the greatest city on earth. If you live in or near NYC and haven't attempted one of these races, you are missing out on one of New York's greatest gifts.

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