The first part of today’s run started out slow and routine: 3.34 miles to the Gym Park so Nat could burn off some of the crazy, bouncing-off-the-wall energy he can’t quite get out around the new baby. Since I ran 10 miles on Sunday and 7.25 yesterday, I didn’t try to go to fast, and in fact it took most of the run for my legs to warm up.
After Gym Park, Nat and I were going to meet up with M for Angelica’s first wellness check-up at our doctor’s. Initially, I was just going to run back home and we were going to head out together, but the problem then would be that Nat would nap for the half-hour run home, then wake up and not nap again for the rest of the day. And if Nat doesn’t get at least an hour nap during the day, he goes insane. Yesterday he only napped for 45 minutes, and by bath-time was simultaneously bouncing off the walls refusing to go to bed and crying and demanding bed-time. Nothing in the universe is quite as illogical as a nap-deprived toddler.
The best way to make sure Nat would get a good nap would be to keep running with him, so instead of heading home I decided we’d run to the doctor’s office, which is on West 70th street in Manhattan. After getting our regular post-Gym cookie at Cookie Road, we followed the bike lane up Franklin, then cut East to McGuinness Boulevard. At this point, we were following the route for the Marathon over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens, then over the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan. Since the only time I’ve run from Green Point to Manhattan is during the marathon, I followed the same roads the best I could remember, and after quite a bit of detouring around construction, found my way onto the Queensborough Bridge.
The bridge is a long, steady climb up over the East River, though you get a great view of the bizarrely pre-fab collectivist neighborhoods and abandoned TB wards on Roosevelt Island, as the bridge crosses directly over it. Then you plunge sharply down to the 1st Avenue and you are in Manhattan. I’ve run the reverse direction — Manhattan to Queens — once, but the only time I’ve run into Manhattan over the Queensborough is while running the marathon, and coming off the bridge onto first avenue gave me goose-bumps just remembering it. There are so many reasons the NYC Marathon is amazing, from the opening mile over the Veranzano Bridge to the small-town feel on the edges of Brooklyn to the last, adrenaline fueled stretch down 59th street. But one of the highlights is coming off the Queensborough Bridge onto 1st avenue: you run for a mile over the bridge with no spectators, then make this tight turn down the off-ramp and suddenly you are surrounded by a cheering throng of people, the avenue sidewalk packed five people deep as far as the eye can see, all screaming and waving signs and noisemakers and you suddenly feel that you are in the middle of something huge and the adrenaline carries you for miles.
Anyway, the memory gave me a bit of a boost, though of course there were no screaming crowds to greet me and Nat as we tried to navigate the crowded sidewalks of East 60th street to make our way to the park. And here is when the plan changed. I realized that if I went straight to 70th street, we’d be there in 15 minutes or so. It would be a six mile run, and Nat would most likely wake up when I stopped somewhere to wait for the doctor’s appointment, and then he would only have napped for an hour. So I decided to keep running. I headed North through Central Park, initially thinking I’d cut through to the West Side at 92nd, then I changed it to the 105th street transverse, and then I just decided I’d run a loop of the entire park.
By the time I was at 110th street, I’d run 10 miles for the day, and the long, steep climb up Harlem Hill has never felt quite as endless as it did with all those miles behind me and a baby-stroller to push. But I’ve run the circuit of Central Park in countless races and countless runs, though it has been at least a year or more since I’ve run many of those stretches, and they felt comfortable, familiar, like bumping into an old friend. At the hill, however, my knees and ankle started to feel the strain for having put in so many miles in the last few days, and the last few miles I did at a 10 minute pace or slower. Still, it felt great, and I also got my half-marathon envy out of the way, at least nominally, as I put in almost thirteen and a half total miles today. I slowed to a stop just above Strawberry Fields, then walked down 72nd to get a post-run Smoothie. And sure enough, five minutes later, Nat was awake — but he’d had an hour and 45 minute nap, so my plan was a success.
I’m definitely taking tomorrow off, but for the month I’ve logged 115 miles, the most I’ve run since October, which was the big push leading up to the marathon. In fact, my millage this month is my 6th highest total ever, which makes me pretty happy, considering the five that are higher were all training for marathons. Now for a late night shower — I’ve been trying to fit a shower into this child-crowded life for days now, but after today’s run it is truly needed.