Goals and Aspirations

Even though I’m currently reducing my mileage and taking things easy in order to help my Achilles tendon recuperate, these brilliant spring days are inspiring me to make a list of some of the running goals I have dreamed up for myself over these dark winter months.  Most don’t have a time-frame as of yet, some are likely years off, and all of them are rather ambitious – I don’t think I could do more than 1 or 2 a year for the longer runs, and some not for a few years until I build up to them.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Complete a 50k race. At 31 miles, a 50k is the shortest standard ultra-marathon, so it would be my first foray into ultra territory.  Since the next standard length is a 50 mile race, a 50K is really a baby-step into ultra-running, as it is much closer to the 26.2 miles of a marathon, but I like to tell myself there is no such thing as an wimpy ultra-marathon.  As I see it, the advantage to a 50k is that I can built my long-distance confidence before tackling a 50-miler, and training for it would fit into the rest of my life without too much difficulty.  Training for 31 miles is not much different than training for 26, and you can simply make a few minor tweaks to a regular marathon training program.  Training for a 50-mile race, on the other-hand, is another beast entirely, one that involves things like back-to-back 20 mile runs on a Saturday and a Sunday.  Thinks I can consider when my kids are a bit older.  Running a 50k, however, is a goal I hope to accomplish next fall.  In fact, I’ve got my eyes on two possible races for 2011: the Canlake 50 in Canandaigua, New York, or the Mountain Madness Run in Ringwood Park, New Jersey.

2. Complete a 50 mile race. This is what counts as a “real” ultra-marathon.  I don’t think my lifestyle will allow for the intense training needed for a number of years.  I’d like to run one in the next five (maybe), though I’ve also said this one is a “before I turn 40” goal.

3. Run the entire length of the Brooklyn/Queens Greenway, in parts and in one run (30 miles). This Greenway is a series of mixed-use recreation lanes that wind from Coney Island in Brooklyn all the way to Little Neck Bay in Queens.  Depending on whether you do all the possible looping tours of the parks, it is between 30 and 40 miles long, and besides Coney Island includes Prospect Park, Highland Park, Forest Park, the Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, Kissena Park, as well as tree-lined, scenic boulevards through some of the most historic neighborhoods in both boroughs.  I’d like to do a series of runs that eventually includes the entire Greenway, though my more ambitious goal is to run it all in one day.

4. Run the entire length of The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (26 miles).  The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail starts at the Bronx-Yonkers border in Van Cortland Park, and follows the path of a now defunct aqueduct for 26 miles to Croton Gorge County Park.  I could either take a Metro-North train to the northern trail head, then run south back to the Bronx, or do it the other-way around.  The subway runs right to the edge of Van Cortland, so both ends of the trail are easily accessible by public transportation.

5. Run the entire perimeter of island of Manhattan (33 miles).  About 80% of the waterway is edged by mixed-use rec lanes of varying quality.  The northern end is the trickiest bit, as industrial and residential high-rises run right to the shore at a few places, but even there are sidewalks that get you quite close to the river.  After Inwood Park at the very northern tip, the Greenway runs unbroken along the Hudson all the way to Battery Park at South Ferry, and after a very short break connects again to the East River greenway.  Heading back north, there is the ugly but in Mid-Town east when you have to skirt the U.N. complex, but I’ve done that before, and then you get back to the Greenway that runs all the way back up to 203rd Street.

6. Run every bridge of Manhattan. There are 14 bridges with pedestrian access connecting the Island of Manhattan to New Jersey, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.  Over the years, I’ve run over 9 of them, and they are often my favorite park of a run, as the views of the waterfront and the various boroughs is always magnificent.  The easier of the two goals is to check off the remaining 5 remaining bridges, though the George Washington and the RFK (nee, Tri-Borough) will take some doing.  I’d also like to work out a path that covers all of the bridges in one, long run, starting in New Jersey and crossing the George Washington Bridge, then weaving back and forth over the East River, ending with the Brooklyn Bridge.  I estimate that would be about 28 miles or so.

7. Run over the George Washington Bridge, then up through the Palisades.  You can run from Washington-Heights, over the GW Bridge into New Jersey, and drop right onto the start of The Long Path, a trail that runs for more than 350 miles along the Hudson, almost all the way to Albany.  Obviously, the potential here is limitless.

8. Do more running in Staten Island. They don’t call it the forgotten borough for nothing.  I’ve been on Staten Island exactly 4 times: twice for the Staten Island Half-Marathon, and twice for the New York City Marathon.  It has some of the largest stretches of parkland around, however, and the trails out there are supposed to be great.  I would really like to get more trail running in, and this isn’t (that) far.

Whew.  I feel tired just thinking about all these runs, though the little, three-milers I’ve been doing lately have been leading me to fantasize about unrealistically long runs.  I’m not up to most of these goals right now, but that’s why they’re goals, right?  One of the reasons I run is to push my concepts of what is possible; when my ankle is better and spring is in the air, maybe it will be time to do some pushing . . .

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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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