This year has been the year I learned how to withdraw. My nature is: when I want something, I hammer away until I get it. But this year, for reasons of health, happiness and situation, I have had to step away from projects, from people, and from races. (Put the hammer down, TK. Now step away from the hammer. Perhaps it’s best if you even avert your eyes from the hammer. Here, have some red wine.) Saturday’s Fifth Avenue Mile is the fifth race this year I’ve signed up for and then had to scratch from my calendar due to my not-quite-right body. Not-Quite-Right; or maybe, Just-Wrong-Enough. In any event, my right hamstring was so tight and achy after Thursday’s strength exercises at PT that I didn’t dare run the Fifth Avenue Mile. All that race asks of us is to run as fast as our heart, lungs and legs will allow; I knew I would be asking for [hamstring] trouble merely by toeing the line, since I’d never be able to resist running at max effort.
I went anyway, though, to cheer a few friends and then gape at the elites. EN ran a PR, blazingly breaking 6 minutes (5:44–see what track workouts can do for you?), and MDC (my relay teammate) streaked towards the finish, also under 6 minutes (5:37). MDC, more than anyone else I know, runs with visible joy. I recognized the glint in his eye, and was glad for him (though also suddenly impatient for the moment I could ecstatically dash towards a finish line—any finish line– myself).
I now had a two hour wait for the first elite race, so I stowed my bag and headed out for my long run–10.5 miles through Central Park. The morning was crisp and cool, the sky an improbable blue. Everyone was out; I was grateful to slip anonymously among them. With my iPod dialed to the M’s, I headed off. I ran one upper loop and one lower loop; tacking on the spit tail that leads to the fountain at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. All told, I ran 10.69 miles. At a certain point the overture from “The Marriage of Figaro” hit my ears, and I was immediately elated. There’s something about this song that makes me feel strong, graceful, and fast. I picked up speed, yet I breathed easier. I had the chills, I felt like running in es-curves, to glide and swoop. I was overcome with an urge to shut my eyes, to block out every perception apart from the music and the pulse of my body; I turned up the volume instead, now completely shot through with Mozart’s piece. All too soon the instrumental was over, and it was as if I’d been shook awake from a glorious dream.
Immediately following “The Marriage of Figaro” was “Mastermind” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. A different kind of tune to be sure, but the uptempo kept me running hard and fast for another 3 minutes or so, as did the next song, “Maybe It’s Just Me.” (I love Butch’s first two lines of lyrics, “Maybe it’s just me/But you seem finally happy.”) Ah, there is always such brilliant serendipity in the alphabetization of the My Top Rated playlist.
The last couple of miles hurt a bit, my right leg’s muscles were tight all the way from my hamstring up to my lower back. But, it wasn’t an injury sort of pain, it was just a tight, sore ache that I knew would be relieved with stretching and a good rubdown at PT on Monday. I was happy with being able to run the distance without backing down. My slowest mile was the first, in 9:20, and my fastest was the seventh, in 8:47. I ran the entire distance in 1:36:33, for an average pace of 9:02’s. I swear I wasn’t trying—I would have been happy with 9:30’s!
Afterwards, I stretched to little effect; my right leg still felt like poured concrete. Then it was time for nine (combined) minutes of glory—the women’s and men’s professional races. I stood at the finish line this year, so I didn’t get any of the cool pre-race photos of the elites warming up like I did last year. I was so excited as the announcer introduced the women. Shannon, Lisa, Sara H, Erin, Christen! Ooh, it was a grudgefest between Rowbury and Dobriskey; was Shannon going to vanquish Lisa this year? And oh yes, yes she would—with 0.6 seconds to spare. Times overall were much faster last year (because it was an Olympic year?), although I am happy to see third-place finisher Sara Hall improved her time (4:23.9 against 4:32.6).
The men’s race had me jazzed with its stacked field. I was rooting for Lagat of course, but you know I am a big fan of Nate Brannen, and think Tegenkamp, Manzano and Solinsky always keep things interesting. I really believed Lagat could win it, now that he had the experience road running, and knew the course. But no, he finished fourth, with a Brit taking first place (compensating for Dobriskey’s loss?), a Kenyan in second, and Leo Manzano taking third. I was psyched for Leo. Nate, who was third last year, came in 14th (still breaking 4 minutes, but just barely).
Songs I ran to: “Made Me Hard” by The Whitlams, “The Maestro” by The Beastie Boys, “Magic Carpet Ride” by Bedlam, “Magic Number” by De La Soul, “Make Believe” by Matthew Sweet, “Make Me Smile” by Chicago, “Make Out Alright” by Divinyls, “Make the World Safe” by The Whitlams, “Making Out” by No Doubt, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now (live)” by Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now” by Ben Harper, “Mama’s Trippin'” by Ben Harper, “Mama Help Me” by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians, “Man” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Man’s Final Frontier” by Arrested Development, “Maneater” by Hall & Oates, “Manic Monday” by The Bangles, “Mannequin Shop” by Paul Westerberg, “The Marriage of Figaro Overture” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Mastermind” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, “Maybe It’s Just Me” by Butch Walker, “Me Myself and I” by De La Soul, “The Me that Was Your Son” by Poi Dog Pondering, “Me Van a Matar” by Julieta Venegas, “The Meaning of Soul” by Oasis, “Medley” by Gipsy Kings, “Merry Go Round” by The Replacements, “Message in a Bottle” by The Police, “Michael” by Franz Ferdinand, “Mighty Mighty” by Charlie Hunter, “Minneapolis” by that dog, “Miss Thang” by Monica and “Misty Mountain Top” by Led Zeppelin