I actually had a pretty good teaching day today, but I was still very ready to be done with this week. How ready, you ask? I wore my running shirt to teach in and had my running shorts on under my jeans, so the second the bell rang at 2:55 I could be on my way out the door. With my running back-pack full of student essays to grade over the weekend (hopefully comparing and contrasting Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” with Elias Kazan’s “On the Waterfront”), I jogged passed groups of kids congregating on the sidewalks around the school, gave the regular pounds and high-fives while telling them to have a good weekend and hearing the regular range of responses to my running, from “Mista, you crazy — its mad cold out!” to “You’re awesome, Mr. Van Dyke!” By 3:05 I was already a few blocks from the school, with three goals: first, to run to the New York Road Runners head-quarters to pick up our race numbers for this weekends Coogan’s 5K; second, to swing by the Jack Rabbit on 85th street to donate an old pair of running shoes (they send used but still wearable shoes to running programs in developing countries); and finally, to end up at Merrion Square for a well-deserved happy hour with some of my fellow teachers. The other teachers were planning to meet in the lobby of the school at 3:15 and take the train, and I said I meet up with them after I finished my run and my errands.
The afternoon was getting over-cast, so chilly but great for running — cold enough that I kept my jacket and gloves on, but warm enough that I stripped off my sweats after the first mile. The run was a route I’ve done a number of times: down Morris Avenue until the meets up with Third Avenue, then over the Third Avenue Bridge into East Harlem and down to the Upper East Side. I ran down Park, then cut over to Marcus Garvey Park, after which I joined 5th Avenue.
From 120th street to 89th street on 5th Avenue is part of the last leg of the New York City Marathon, and a wonderfully grueling challenge — over about eight-tenths of a mile you climb over a hundred feed in elevation, which is not enough for it to really be that noticeable unless you are running, in which case it quickly becomes apparent that you are, in fact, on a hill. I always love running up hills, because they constitute such a clearly delineated challenge: they are hard, but there comes a point when you have objectively over-come that challenge, and can mutter, “Screw you hill, I win,” under your breath as you force yourself over the crest to the other side. Its always a great pleasure to fall back into a regular, relaxed running stride after having pushed up a long slope with the short, focused steps it takes to keep moving up a hill.
It’s always easy to remember which street to turn on when going to the NYRR, as not only is that block of 89th street named Fred Lebow Way, after the founder of the NYC Marathon, but the Guggenheim is right on the corner. Inside the Road Runners, I went upstairs to pick up our numbers, then went back down stairs to pick up our t-shirts. Coogan’s has always been one of our favorite races: its one of the few 5K’s that the NYRR holds each year, so its fast and fun; the route is lined with a variety of bands playing everything from salsa to blues to indie-rock; and the first two times we ran it, we lived within walking distance of the starting line. This year, M and I are even more excited about it, because its one of the few NYRR races that is followed by kid’s events, and Nat is just old enough for the toddler run. Make sure to check back Sunday evening for an account of the 5K, but especially for pictures of Nat and dozens of toddlers milling about with race numbers pinned to their shirts. It should be insanely cute.
After stuffing our shirts and numbers into my bag, I jogged out to Madison Ave., then down to 85th and over to Lex, where I quickly stopped into Jack Rabbit to drop off my old pair of shoes. I also fell prey to their 50% of winter running gear sale, and picked up a pair of Saucony running gloves that I’d been eyeing ever since my Pear Izumi pair began sporting their third hole a few months ago. From there it was back out the door, down to Second Ave., and up to 95th street to meet my co-workers. I walked in the bar, scanned the room, and when I didn’t see anyone, I pulled out my cell-phone and called Martin.
Me: Are you part of the happy hour today?
Me: Where are you guys?
Martin: We’ll be there in literally two seconds, we’re just across the street.
Me: Oh, I see you now.
Martin: Wait, you beat us here?
I’m not sure whether this speaks to the efficacy of public transportation, or the universal inability for any group of co-workers to organize themselves to leave work on a Friday (there is a scientific law that states “the time needed for any group of people departing a place of work for a happy hour is directly proportionate to the number of people departing for said happy hour”), but it was fun none-the-less.
After about an hour of sitting and chatting and having a few beers, I ran the three-quarters of a mile to the express train at 86th street: M and I were tag-teaming happy-hours, so I had to meet her in Brooklyn to pick up Nat before she hung out with her friends. While I wouldn’t want to do any sort of distance buzzed, three pints of beer actually made the short run through the chilly evening air feel extra good, as everything had that ever so slight haze about the edges and moving quickly brought with it an extra sense of exhilaration. Hopefully next week will be a bit better when it comes to teaching, but as long as the running stays this good, I think everything will be fine.