I am so excited—I am traveling overseas and my plane leaves today! My bag is packed, and I am on the shuttle bus in the airport heading to my airline for check-in. Finally the bus drops me off, and I head down several sets of outdoor escalators to get to international check-in. It has been raining, and the sidewalks are wet. As I descend, I realize I left my bag with my gear, my wallet, and my laptop on this shuttle! I will have to sprint after the bus to maybe catch up and flag it down. I am wearing my running shoes and jeans. I see the bus up ahead turning towards the next terminal, so I start running but am immediately confronted with a hill as steep as a flight of steps. I churn up the hill, my legs are heavy and can barely pull my body forward. At this point I also realize check-in has probably closed for my flight, and that I left my passport on the dresser in my bedroom. I continue to try and ascend the hill–I still need my bag since I can’t even get home without it–but it’s as if the sidewalks are being stretched even as I try and close the gap, my legs simply won’t move as fast as I need them to, and the bus gets farther and farther away…
I always have these dreams, where I urgently must run but cannot get my body to comply, before a big race. Tuesday night, this is the dream I had. The airport is a new aspect–usually it’s just me, sluggish, in a race. Around 3:30 AM I woke up, my heart pounding, gripped with the awful feeling that something terrible was about to turn my life inside out.
I was reawakened at 5:15 by my Blackberry alarm for my last workout before Saturday’s race. I had planned on 3.5 miles (so, a Sunnyside loop and a half), but I was so zoned out that I missed the turn at 41st Street and ended up going 3.84 miles in an easy 36:18. I take both the pace and the fact that I could be in the middle of my fourth mile and not even realize it as good signs. My body just assumed it should keep motoring, and so it did without complaint.
Tuesday’s morning run was slower, but that was because I plowed through 5 over the bridge. The 4.92 miles took me 49:42, the omphalos mile of the New York City Marathon taking its usual toll on my splits.
I don’t mind running in the darkness; after all it’s never truly pitch dark here in Sunnyside, with streetlights, shop lights, and the ambient glow from Manhattan that cast their wan and sparkly illumination at my feet as I run over the 59th Street Bridge, or around and around my Sunnyside Loop.
But what I prefer is running west into darkness, with the knowledge that the world at my shoulders is only half-dormant, that it’s stretching, blinking and yawning a rosy glow. So that by the time I hit the crest of the bridge, already trotting east and towards home (shower, coffee, breakfast, dog) I can see the sun rising with such a demure, peachy blush that you would think her a virgin bride tiptoeing out to meet her groom on their wedding night, rather than the brazen, full-bodied and wizened woman she is.
It’s a perfect vantage point, my Queensboro Bridge, for the sunrise. It can be so beautiful that even the factories and warehouses of Long Island City look in possession of architectural merit when bathed in dawn’s soft light. But then I run down, off the bridge: the N train rattles overhead, busses, trucks and cars rumble to my left, and a snarled intersection ignores me as I try to pick my way through to get on with the last mile and a half of my workout. I wave at the traffic cop and get nothing back.
No matter, dawn shoved its way through what night had padlocked and the day–my day–has begun. Soon I will turn westward again back toward Manhattan for my commute to work, and the sky will still be bright, the darkness already banished halfway across the continent, a favor from the sun just for me.
Even though this week has been a compressed, strange sort of microtaper, I have actually fit in all the key elements. Rest (Thursday and Friday no running). Recovery (PT Monday and Wednesday). Mental Preparation (Nightmares).
After all these months of rehab, my fits and starts of training, my nearly daily recalibration of goals and plans, I can finally say: I am excited to race! I realize I won’t be setting any land-speed records for myself on the distance, but even without the prospect of a PR I am still jazzed for this event. It feels, on the one hand, strangely anticlimactic–I was supposed to run London and BQ this April, but now I’ll be pleasure cruising a half in Bal’more. But on the other hand, it is a magnificent culmination of perseverance, building strength, and love (for running, for Dan). I keep thinking back to January 2007, when I ran my first marathon. Not since then have I raced just for the feel-good sake of running, wishing only to finish without insult or injury. I want to remember every moment as it pans by me at 6.7 miles per hour.
On Monday I ran home from work (I need to do this more often; I like it eversomuch). Little G was being petulant, he would not grab a signal and when I resigned myself to running with just the stopwatch, he spastically flashed from display to display. There I had it: a watchless run. After several moments of agitation, I gave myself over to it and realized I could just mosey on home without having to race the clock. Tension actually eased from my shoulders! No need to murder myself on the hills; instead I stopped a few times to take pictures. No need to bolt up Skillman Avenue; instead I waved at the guys in the service station and enjoyed the sight of the 7 Local slipping between buildings like a flying eel. I may have even put my arms out and winged my way around a corner or two. Sounds like the perfect preparation for Saturday’s race to me.