It couldn’t have been a better day to run 22 miles. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, temperatures were in the high 50’s/low 60’s. I had rested the day before, and had even laid off the red wine at dinner, though I did carbo load (potato & broccoli dumplings followed by angel hair pasta & turkey meatballs). But nothing could beat the fact that I had none of my usual nervousness that I feel before these jumbo-sized training runs. Not a whisper. I was so relaxed, and casual about the forthcoming workout. That relaxed attitude comes from my experience training for marathons in the past, but I think it is also because I knew that I was ready to run London even before that 22-miler. Confidence begets relaxed.
All I knew when I set out was that I was going to start out my run by heading over the Roosevelt Island Bridge (at 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in Queens), running a loop of that island and then popping into Manhattan via the 59th Street Bridge. The rest of it I was going to figure out as I went along.
I loved running into and around Roosevelt Island. It’s a world apart, connected to the rest of the city by the thin filament of a cable car line on the west and by a stubby, ruby-red bridge on the east. Roosevelt Island is so rinky dink when compared to her big sister, Manhattan. Roosevelt Island is itty bitty, a real cutie patootie. I shared the rec path with a dozen or so different runners (we’re everywhere!), and appreciated always having the river to my right (I was running counterclockwise). I had views of Long Island City, then I had views of Midtown East. But honestly, the best views, the ones that made my heart do backflips of joy, were the ones of my bridge. The Queensboro Bridge goes right over Roosevelt Island, and as I ran around the joint I was granted intimate views of the bridge’s hulk and delicate span. I kept stopping to stare, entranced, especially when I could see her from the south. Adding to the appeal, there were blooming cherry trees, forsythia, evergreens and weeping willows planted in clumps and rows, in honest-to-goodness attempts to beautiful and soften all the massive architecture of the bridge piers, towers, and pilings, and cable car supports. Before I knew it, I was back and the ruby-red bridge and headed back into Queens. I skirted the projects and ended up trotting through street after street of car repair garages, oh those mechanics got a kick out of me blithely running by! Then it was up and over the 59th Street Bridge, I tossed an affectionate wave in the direction of Roosevelt Island, Hi Buddy! Eight miles, done!
Still unsure where I would run for the next 14 miles, I had the vague sense I didn’t feel like battling the city streets to head across town, so my next move was to move north up the East Side Rec Path. The weather had seduced everyone out of their apartments, and there were families, dogs, runners and walkers everywhere. The East Side Rec Path has no fewer than three dog runs, and I enjoy the distraction of all the happy pups playing, and excitedly pulling their owners to get to their doggie buddies. Then, when you get up into the 100’s, all the black guys sit out on the benches and folding chairs, lean their fishing poles against the rail, and trail their lines in the East River. I thought about jumping off the rec path when I got to 102nd Street, and then running across town like I did last week, but I just didn’t have it in me to deal with crossing all those avenues, start/stop, start/stop.
o, on the spur of the moment I decided to take the emerald-green footbridge into Randalls Island and explore that island a bit. I was giddy at the prospect. You must remember, dear readers: I am a planner. I write out turn sheets, I have my routes marked to the mile. The fact that I turned this 22-mile training run into an adventure is out of character, but it is precisely what made it so much fun. And I am not exaggerating–this 22-miler was one of the most fun training runs I have ever had!
So there I was, on Randalls Island, with no idea if there was a rec path or how to get to Icahn Stadium or any of it. I came over the bridge and saw a whole slew of athletic fields, all full of darting and dashing uniformed players. I saw a paved path branch off to the right, so I took it and continued on my free and easy toodle around New York City. By now it had already occurred to me how cool it was that this tour was conducted entirely on foot. I was grateful to my body for being strong, fit, and willing. Randalls Island seems to be a giant sports complex. On this beautiful day every field was being utilized, even a few of the out-of-the-way ones I came across when I got disoriented, by soccer players, softball and baseball players. There were runners–lots of couples’ running happening on Randalls Island–and bikers everywhere. I was excited when is spotted Icahn Stadium, home to the Reebok Grand Prix track meet.
But by far the best thing about running around Randalls Island was what I loved most about Roosevelt Island–the new, closer perspectives I gained on two other bridges I frequently run beneath, the Triboro and Hell Gate Bridges. I saw that each gets a lot of support from Randalls Island, with a lot of their columns resting on the island. I was delighted when I looked right, across the East River, and recognized Astoria Park and Shore Drive just opposite, my regular running grounds! Hi Buddy!
At a certain point in my ramble around Randalls Island, I saw a sign that said, “To Pedestrian and Bike Path across RKF Bridge.” Well we all know that RFK is just some bizarre euphemism for Triboro, and in the spirit of my free and easy, loosey goosey, Dora the Explorer 22-miler, I decided to run over the Triboro Bridge, too! I wasn’t going to go all the way back over into Queens because that would leave me too many miles to complete too close to home, but I’d go about a mile in and then come back, just to get a feel for it. When you start out, the path is covered in a wire mesh covering, so the views are obscured, but once you get up onto the bridge itself, the views are amazing! I could see nearly the entire Manhattan skyline, and there is no chain link wall above the railing here so the feeling is very expansive. I was so exhilarated at being up so high, with the sky wide open to me, that I had to let loose with a big shout. One day I will run the whole bridge, all the way into Queens, but yesterday I decided to turn back and retrace my steps over the Randalls Island Footbridge and back down the east side rec path.
After that it was pretty much business as usual, since all I had left was to run back home, and that was a route I knew very, very well. I was so happy, the sun never ceased to shine, I was pleased with my effort, and I knew I was ready for the London Marathon. My legs started to fatigue during Miles 21 and 22, but that is as it should be. I am a runner, and I know it because I ran 22 miles by myself, with no music, and had the time of my life.
22 miles run in 3:37:34. Average pace 9:53; fastest mile 9:26; slowest mile 10:41.