Atmosphere is key……


Wednesday, July 21st….For all of the New Yorkers reading this (and I’m guessing that total is approximatly….well…one thus far), the odds are that you know the basics about Central Park.  As a result, you will probably be able to picture my daily marathon training stomping ground.  But for those of you playing the home game, I’ll take a few minutes to describe the atmosphere of the park, because that’s where I’ll be spending so much of my training time over the course of the coming months before getting in to Wednesday’s workout with my team.

Central Park is basically looked at as the heart of Manhattan.  It rests smack in the center of the island, designed in a rectangle with points located on 59th street and 5th Avenue (the SE Corner of the park), Colunbus Circle (the SW Corner of the park), 110th Street and 5th Avenue (the NE Corner of the park), and 110th Street and Central Park West (the NW Corner of the park).   Legnthwise, the park is approximately 2 1/2 miles from South to North, and approximately 7/10 of a mile from east to west.  There are five small bodies of water within the park: “The Pond” (located in the southeast corner), “The Lake” (located in the 70’s, smack in the center of the park), “Turtle Pond” (just south the Great Lawn), “The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir” (from the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s, smack in the middle of the park), and “Harlem Meer” (located in the northeast corner).   Within the park, there is one major “roadway” that runs in a long oval along the outer edges – this is called the “outer loop”, and it covers approximately 6 miles.   This “outer loop” is used by the New York Road Runners (“NYRR”) for almost all of their annual races. 

Winding in and out of the park is also a dirt path referred to as “The Bridal Path”  It begins in the southwest corner of the park near 62nd street and Columbus Circle, and winds its way north, hugging the westernmost boarder of the park for approximately 1 mile.  Then it turns eastward, into the park, and heads toward The Reservior.  There begins a loop of approximately 2 miles.  Many avid runners enjoy running The Bridal Path because the firm dirth path is easier on a runner’s joints than consistently running on asphalt or concrete.  Since a marathoner trains 4-5 days a week for five months on average, he/she should take every precaution NOT to get injured before race day – so running on dirt is a reeeeeeally good idea.  At first I couldn’t stand running on The Bridal Path….but now I am completely hooked.   This Bridal Path is where the team that I run with – The New York Road Runners Team for Kids – consistently practices each Monday and Wednesday evening from April – November.

Before I move on and briefly speak about today’s workout, I want to add one more thing about Central Park: quite simply it is my favorite place in the city to spend time.  Whenever I need to decompress (which is quite often because I’m usually wound up tighter than a cheap watch), I throw on my running shoes, grab my ipod, and head to the park.  There’s something about this plot of land that relaxes me – recharges my batteries.  Within the park, a person’s privacy is part of the public trust.

I’m picking this blog up approximately 7-8 weeks into our training schedule.  The New York Road  Runners Team for Kids (“TFK”) has developed a training program that asks its team members to show up at 6pm each Monday and Wednesday evening to develop a base of milageage that will help us prepare for longer runs, performed as a team in various locations within the city each Saturday morning.  At this stage of the training program, the team is logging 5-6 miles each Monday evening at a steady pace (my pace is roughly 10 minutes per mile…….but don’t quote me on that, because I tell my time by judging the sun’s location in the sky – who needs a Garmin?).  On Wednesdays, the team performs speedwork…..and that, quite honestly, is ROUGH.  Especially for a guy like me, who runs as if a baby grand is on his back.

Today’s workout was two loops around The Reservior, working in 2 or 3 minute “pickups” – which is a period of increased effort above your normal jogging pace (usually 75% of your overall speed).  Now two minute sprints such as this doesn’t sound too hard…..but for a turtle like me, it’s HELL.  Especially since you only get 60 seconds to catch your breath before you start another 2-3 pickup.  YUCK. 

While I’m pushing myself, I feel like death warmed over.  However, as I’m coming down the last hill, heading toward my backpack, my waterbottle, and air conditioning, I feel a sense of small accomplishment.  I wanted to shut it down today – felt like taking a few of the pickups off because quite frankly I was tired, they were hard, and I was getting cranky.  But i didn’t quit – and that sole fact let’s me know that I will be ready for November 7th.

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1 thought on “Atmosphere is key……”

  1. Speed work comes a few forms, from what I’ve learned thus far. There’s an old runner’s saying that “hills are speedwork in disguise”. So when a runner trains on hills, the added work it takes to keep him/herself going makes the runner faster on a flat surface.
    Speedwork can aso take the form of “pickups” – where the runner speeds up for 2-3-4 minutes, pushing him/herself pretty hard, and then backing off into a slow jog (in my case a VEEEEEEERY slow jog) for a minute or so, before launching back in to another 2-3-4 “pickup”. Now I’m no coach – I’m only sharing my experiences that I’ve had with my team – but thus far I’m actually not cranky about the results!

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