First Run of Autumn (13.5 miles, and some other days))

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  The sharp bite to the pre-dawn air jolts you awake first thing in the morning, and in the evening the shorter days mean long shadows and the prolonged golden glow of sunset.  There are tart, crisp apples at the farmer’s market, and suddenly warm soups and hot tea, avoided during the summer heat, are comforting once again.  I love the clothes as well, the layers and the accessories: sweaters and suit-jackets, leather and wool jackets, and of course scarves, gloves, and a variety of hats.

I am generally partial to periods of transition: summer and winter are very much clearly defined endpoints, while spring and fall are merely known in their passing, containing both the possibilities of the future and the lingering regrets of the past.  I’ve rhapsodized about my love of Spring on this blog, but I am even more enamored with Autumn.  As one of Romantic leanings who has always preferred the tragic to the comedic, October and November have a melancholy immediacy about them, with the slow fade of green into a palette of oranges and burt umber and the swirl of dried leaves through the park.  The season is stately, refined, which is why I have always preferred the austere term “Autumn” to the rather prosaic “Fall.”


And of course, I love Autumn because it’s the best time for running.  The sweat-drenched tank-tops of summer are gone, but the layers and balaclavas of winter are still a few weeks off — it is as if the world wants you to run, is practically begging you to get outside and move.  Through the last few weeks of September, the temperatures had started to drop, but it remained so humid that running to work was still a somewhat sweaty business.  But the first pitch thrown out by C.C. Sabathia here in Yankee stadium a week ago seems to have brought autumn with it; the day after the start of the playoffs was clear and crisp, and every day sense has been classic fall.


So Sunday was the perfect chance to get in a long run with Nat in the jogging stroller, the first in quite some time.  All summer, my long runs never got over 10 miles, and two weekends ago I ran 14 miles, but that was at the NYC Barefoot Run.  I’ve missed pushing Nat for long distances, trying to lean over to hear what he’s trying to say while still keeping up my pace, pointing out airplanes and that the moon is up during the day and tall, tall buildings.  We started by jusr running the three avenues to the Y for Nat’s weekly swim “class.”  Afterwards, we headed out for a long loop; we were supposed to meet M and Angelica for a friend’s picnic in Prospect Park, so we had a little over two hours to head out and get back.

I headed up towards the Williamsburg Bridge along Kent, and just past Flushing I took off my shoes and socks and ran for around 3 miles barefoot.  As with the two other times I’ve actually run barefoot here in Brooklyn, I was once again amazed that a) there isn’t nearly as much broken glass as you imagine, and b) no one really notices, and the few that do don’t really care.  The only people who stare at other people’s footwear are minimalist runners: the rest of the population doesn’t really care.

We ran up and over the Williamsburg Bridge, which was around where Nat fell asleep.  Dropping down into Manhattan at Houston, we headed south towards the Manhattan Bridge.  The Manhattan Bridge took us from Chinatown to Ft. Green, Brooklyn, and then we made our way towards Prospect Park.  Nat woke up just as we met up with our friend John at the corner of Flatbush and Sterling.  We’d been running about 10 miles at this point, so I bought Nat some fruit snacks and myself a banana and Gatorade, then we headed off with John for a loop of the park.

John headed back to his place after one lap, but Nat and I did one more quarter loop to end at the Picnic House, where Nat was eagerly looking forward to seeing his best friend, Oscar, at the picnic.  It was sunny, with washed out blue skies, but a crisp breeze rustled the dry leaves and buffeted a handful of kites: a perfect autumn day.


And this week, when I’ve headed off to work in the morning, every day has been an idyllic fall dawn: pale blue with the bright glare of the early sun clearing the brownstones to the East, the brisk air striking me awake as I head south towards Crown Heights and Flatbush.  This week I ran Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, giving my legs a rest after 28 miles in 4 days by biking on Thursday.  The morning gets my blood moving, my mind awake, the chilly air scrubbing the sleep from my brain; after work, my run home erases the frustrations of 7th and 8th period, settling the chaos and myriad to-do-lists and readies me to return home.  How can the same activity invigorate and relax, start and begin the day?  How can the same 3 mile stretch be already familiar and yet new each day?


This Sunday is the Bed-Stuy 10K, my first real race since the Father’s Day 5K I did last March, and my first autumn race since the Marathon last year.  I’m looking forward to it, since I’ve really enjoyed the easy, relaxed runs I’ve been doing the last few months, but am also looking forward to having a reason to push myself hard for a short distance — I’m also interested in seeing how I do in a race after a year of regular, but not intense, running.

Today is also October 7th, so its exactly 3 months until I turn 33.  I’ve decided that my birthday would be a perfect time to run my first ultra-marathon: besides being a fabulous way to celebrate getting another year older, a 50K is just about 33 miles, which seems nicely fitting.  I’ll have more to say about it later — right now I am nodding off over the computer, listening the the last inning of St. Louis and Philadelphia, my calves pleasantly sore from a week of commuting by foot.  In the mean time, there should be weeks of perfect running weather ahead . . .


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.
This entry was posted in Barefoot Running, Goals, Long Runs, Running with Nat, Runs, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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