Running for Your Life: Days Before the Race

Nova Scotia here we come!

It’s hard to imagine but race day is just about upon us. K and I. On Thursday morning (July 24) we’re heading out, from Red Hook and Park Slope to Nova Scotia. And on Sunday, the Nova Scotia Marathon along the southern coast!

Neither of us has been to the province, home to the Bluenose and Sidney Crosby For me, it is particularly gratifying to be on home soil running my eighth marathon. Back in the distant early and mid-'80s, I ran the National Capital Marathon in Ottawa and a border one – Windsor-Detroit. But this is my first one in the Maritimes.

While I’d like to think I will again qualify for Boston (which, at my age requires a minimum best time of 3:40), my goal isn’t so precise. Rather, only that I enjoy each and every moment with my daughter, and on the course, stay within myself, feel the succor of those miles and hours of training, the days of stretching and weight training, the benefit of the bread (thanks C and K!) and pasta and cakes and cookies I’ve been chowing down in these final days before the gun goes off in tiny Barrington, Nova Scotia, the Lobster Capital of Canada.

If you think of it, send a prayer or a thought balloon for K and me this weekend. It’s going to be a blast !

Next: Running for Your Life: Light in August

Running for Your Life: Treadmill Time

There was a time not so long ago when I avoided the treadmill like a cold-fingered dentist. What was up with that? Running like a hamster in a cage when I could be outside. Especially on brilliant June days like the ones we’ve been blessed with this year.

Now – and it’s funny that word, isn’t it? Now carries with it such weight. Imputed is the idea of change, before and after. We like to think of our early self as being available to us. But no. It’s an illusion. We have only impressions of what we believed, or were feeling; some of us, of course, are pretty damn certain they would recognize, maybe even embrace, that early self if by some trick or fantasy they were to encounter her, on the subway, say, or in line at the bank.

Me, I’m wary of the trusting and prideful.  Truth is, I’ve only got a fleeting sense of the now. And I consider myself a thoughtful person.

After all that – Now, following decades of running, I’m not the guy who started, just out the door, in shoes with worn soles, an ill-fitting cap, ratty T. Now, I’m in runner shorts, a tank top in summer months, a cap that soaks up sweat at the brim, compression calf socks to ward off shin splints, patella stabilizing Velcro pads below my knees, lightweight runner socks, newish Brooks neutral-strike running shoes, which inside contain custom-made orthotics for recurrent left foot pain during extra-long runs, each item of gear like sacral garments that I put on slowly, like a priest does as he begins the day, putting on the layers, moving through the rhythms that hold the meaning that comes from a devotion to time-tested repetition.

It’s why sometimes it’s not the outdoors I need but the treadmill. It never used to be the case, but now it is. I’ll need to put in, say, six miles, and even if it’s beautiful and not stinking hot and humid out as it has been this last week or so (July 10 through 16), I head to the treadmill, ramp it up to, say, an 8:40-per-mile pace, about twenty seconds per mile faster than I intend to run a week Sunday (July 27) at the Nova Scotia Marathon, and run. I don’t listen to music, let the strings of earbuds dangle at my side. I run with that fleeting sense of now, the past, and yes, the future.

Next: Running for Your Life: Days Before the Race!

Running for Your Life: Over the Hump

When it comes to marathons, you never know, but with fewer than six weeks to go before the big day (Sunday, July 27, Barrington County, Nova Scotia), so far, so good.

What I’ve come to know about running in marathons (completing five) since I began this relatively crazy pursuit is that it predictions are of little merit.

Suffice to say that for this race I’m pretty much on schedule. Long runs? I did run for going onto three hours three weeks ago in Barcelona, a city of beaches where I loped along the Mediterranean to a development known for its giant solar panel, along a boardwalk with a slew of nightspots and pier prix-fixe seafood restaurants out toward a patio-stone esplanade (pretty much empty of runners except for the occasional clutch of American ex-patriots who I swear exult “USA! USA! USA!” as they fist-pump along in red, white and blue bandanas) and on to the spinnaker-shaped W Hotel, then back to Olympic Park Village, named for the wondrously strange failed Catalan utopia of Icaria, to Ciutadella Park where the minstrels and jugglers and gymnastic partners and piƱata-punishing children delights as the tourist with a touch of class wend their way for hours in the waning sun.

Those seventeen miles went by relatively easily; it’s flat in that part of Barcelona, like the Nova Scotian coastline I’m be running along in six weeks, similar again to my next long run and walk, a minimum of eighteen, out along the Hudson River Park in Manhattan planned for Thursday (June 19); I’m training differently this time, with intermittent one-minute walk breaks because at fifty-eight it seems advisable, especially given the title of this blog – Running for Your Life – and I’d like to not repeat my experience in Steamtown last October, which wasn’t a fun time. At the sixteen-mile mark I started to break down and the next ten miles, well … Not pretty. Am hoping this easier training regimen will make it better for me. But as I said, you never know. You just gotta get out there, get the miles in ….

Next: Running for Your Life: Treadmill Time 

Running for Your Life: Road Warriors

Runners are weird. Deeply. If we miss, say, two days in a row we’re not fit for human company. Or dogs, for that matter. Cats, sure. Cats don’t give a shit. They’ll hang with ax murderers.

So imagine how I felt Saturday when on a loping run in party-choked Prospect Park my right foot landed awkwardly on a root and twisted under my full weight so that for a millisecond all that force came down on the outside bone/muscle of my ankle. I winced with terrible pain that shot up my leg and – kept on running. For another three miles.

Not a good idea, right? Still, after about forty years of running you learn a thing or two. Or hope you do. Hope that your body keeps healing like it has pretty much from the beginning.

Like a quality car that gets road time and good maintenance, a well-conditioned and fed body can take a beating and keep on shining. As a driver we know how far we can push that car, in my case a late-model Volvo. It will be taking K and me to Canada next month for the sea views of the running events during the Nova Scotia Marathon in Barrington County.

Runners, crazy runners, know what we can get away with. In my case, my ankle ballooned with a sprain. My wife was alarmed with the sick look of it. It was wrapped with ice when I called the Belmont Stakes winner (Tonalist – I don’t bet, but in the prance to the starting gate I do have a knack of calling long-shot winners). The next day I wrapped the ankle with gauze tape and danced the night away at the wedding of beloved young friends, iced it again on Monday before work and on Tuesday (June 10), I ran and felt no pain. The base of the foot is black and blue but the swelling is down – and I loped for thirty minutes and felt great while making these track notes.

To run a marathon is to adopt this mentality.The road warrior mindset. No one can train for a marathon without pain. It happens. And unless we break bones in essential limbs, we keep going. That’s the nature of this beast of a task: covering 26.2 miles in the most efficient, and least body-breaking way.

Next: Running for Your Life: Over the Hump 

Running for Your Life: Track Work!

Thought of the day, from thirty-five minute cruiser training run:

Today’s most accomplished hand-eye coordinated experts can speed-walk and text on a busy urban street without causing serious harm to themselves or to other similarly occupied passersby !

The blog title above might suggest advice on how best to gain strength and speed by incorporating track-style training in a marathon regime.

Not this blog. For me, track work refers to the writing and drawing I do while commuting by train to my office job five days a week. (That workday starts at 12:30 p.m. when the NYC subway is blissfully peopled so I don’t have to share a seat on a bench ninety percent of the time.) I pull my journal from my bag and write. Sometimes blog entries like this one, sometimes dialogue from stories or novels that I’m working on, poems and pen sketches I do of my fellow train riders. Watch this space for examples of my track work, which I’d like to post here during the weeks leading up to K and my dream marathon in Nova Scotia this July.

Track work because as I work I hear the sound of the steel wheels on the track. It’s funny but as the days pass – not as I get older because I reject the inherent limit of that construction – I find that I work to fill moments with something that nourishes. In my running, that’s a natural predisposition to eat carbs, gorge on fruit and enjoy the delicious homemade juices that M has taken to make for us, or following closely the training regimen that has me walking and running in these early days. I’ve written a lot in this space about listening to your body. Now, at fifty-eight, I feel I’m actually doing it.

Track work is the mental side of that equation. Writing and sketching in my journal settles me for the workday ahead. I am ready to change gears and do my challenging, creative work at the New York Post. As always I’m energized by my running, my writing and my reading (currently the “City of Ambition” by Mason Williams  about the dual New Deal accomplishments of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; massively relevant to today’s stasis in matters of public philosophy) and now, for the better part of a year, by my Track Work! as well. (Images to come!)

My advice? Honor that special place where you go to plug in, re-energize. For me, it’s always been primarily connected to words, and lately, the lines that I put down in my journal.

Next: Running for Your Life: The First Fourteen Days