Posts Tagged ‘new calvary cemetery’

I love running my city so much that most times I don’t mind navigating pedestrians on the sidewalks, autos on the roads, and traffic lights at the intersections. But other times I just want a little peace and quiet, to run without having to dodge an obstacle, switch up my pace for safety, or even have to listen to the background hum and honk of New York City. Those are the times I go where I know I won’t be bothered by a single living soul: the cemetery.

Such was the case Saturday morning. My mind was tumbling in anticipation of my packed weekend itinerary, and in reaction of the workweek I’d just survived. I needed pastoral beauty and innocuous sedation. Of course, the danger of running in a setting that doesn’t demand my attention is that my thoughts will take over; these days, I’m not so eager to be left alone with my thoughts. But I was desperate to be by myself, and not just unaccompanied–I wanted to be outside in the sunshine somewhere no one would see me. What better place than the cemetery, where, if there is another living person, she wants to be alone with her grief just as much as I want to be alone with mine.

The only creature with whom I crossed paths was a skinny, suspicious squirrel. My thoughts stilled themselves and I was left with the purity of exertion: breathing, beating, stepping. I let the sun warm my skin, and the breeze cool it. I cared not that my miles were tipping the scales with plump 10+ minutes. Sunnyside is a blended community: gentrified and newly immigrated, singles and families, and living and dead. I was happy to be living, but happier that I didn’t have to think about it. 4.67 miles run in 48:48. Average pace 10:27; fastest mile 10:12; slowest mile 10:29.

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The Only Living Soul

Saturday’s zeal left me a mile over the scheduled run, so I decided to give the bod a break and trim Sunday’s assigned 6-miler to a 5. I was feeling a little blue, despite the forced-smile brightness of the sun, so I figured I’d best run through the cemetery. Chances were good I’d be left alone there. 

The New Calvary Cemetery is about a mile south of my place. I usually run through the smaller, northern bit but on Sunday I jogged across the BQE service road and decided to explore the larger grounds. Running through the cemetery means a lot of loop-di-loops, which is fine by me. I’ll never get lost, and there are nearly endless route variations. I was moving too quickly to browse the headstones well enough to pick up detail, so I let my senses go for the broad strokes as my legs, lungs and heart did their running thing. 

The cemetery generated none of its own noise; there were no burials going on, and no one came to pay their respects during the 35 minutes I ran the grounds. The ambient noise was limited to the rubber whoosh of the elevated traffic on the BQE and LIE, which hem in the cemetery to the north and south. I ran without my iPod, so I could hear the regular slap of my feet and the even pant of my breath. The land sloped down from the service road to the back of the property, so whenever I ran south down one of the transverses I was treated to a panoramic view of the cemetery. Headstones stretched out in every direction, strange protrusions in gray and white marble, and the lawns were more carpet-like than any golf course. The sky was an uncertain blue, and the most striking element of this vista was the LIE, which rushed by above it all, elevated on brick trestles and stitched in place by the cables strung between telephone poles. I honeycombed that cemetery, tracing each road, casting my scant company like breadcrumbs for the poor souls interred beneath the frozen ground.

I never quite warmed up; I could have worn double tights, and a hat. Nevertheless. Do you think the dead minded that my body was going full throttle through their final resting place? Heart pounding, lungs heaving, blood coursing hot, skin flushed and my soul, my soul bursting with the joy of the run, of the proof of life.

5.04 miles in 49:48; average pace 9:51; fastest mile 9:31; slowest mile 10:22.

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