Teacher In Service Day — An Excuse for a Long Run

Monday was a “Teacher In-Service” day — one of those handful of times each year where the kids don’t report to school but the teachers do, to do whatever mysterious things we do when our students aren’t around.  Its a universal phenomenon that students are fascinated (and confused) by the very idea that their teachers have lives — or even just exist! — when they are not around, and “Teacher In-Service” days are always particularly intriguing.  The teachers are at school, but they aren’t teaching!  Mister, what do you guys do all day — talk about us? (Yes.)

Though for the record, for any non-teachers who are harboring any decades old queries, what we do is usually mind-numbingly boring.  Monday’s professional day wasn’t too bad, however, but I’m not here to actually talk about my seminars or Consortium Schools or anything teaching related.  For me, the highlight of the day consisted of the fact that we were attending a conference at 67th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan.  Not that I was at all interested in the neighborhood or the particular school site, but that meant I got to get in some actual running distance for my commute — 7.5 miles each way, to be precise, so 15 miles during a weekday.  Not bad, and the most I’ve done in one day since our Housing Debacle began back in December.


I’ve run from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side before, but it had been close to a year; I think the last time was when I ran to LGJ last Spring, when 67th street was merely the half-way point in a longer run.  I knew the basic route — north from Bed-Stuy to a bridge that would take me to Queens, then make my way over the Queensborough Bridge to 59th and 1st on the UES — but I hadn’t ever made the run from this part of Bed-Stuy.

In order to get there for our 8:30 start time, I headed out at 7:15, into a rather brisk and windy morning.  Of course, “brisk” is ridiculously warm for this time of year, and although I started off in my running jacket, after about 2 miles I stopped and traded it for my vest and sleeves instead.  The crossing-guard at the intersection proceeded to tell me I was either brave or crazy to be in shorts and a vest in thirty-degree weather; I said it was a great incentive to keep running.  I like to be cool when I run, as being warm makes me sluggish and slow.  I need the bite of the cold air to keep a spring in my step.  Leaving just after 7 is one of the most beautiful times of day right now, as the first, golden light of the morning sun is just breaking over the buildings, and all the brick-work of Brooklyn is bathed in a warm orange glow.

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Out the door I went north up Patchen, until it dead-ended into Broadway,  then took Bushwick north through East Williamsburg until it, too, ended in Kingsland.  Kingsland continued north, through the eastern industrial fringe of Greenpoint, until I made it to the Jon Jay bridge that lead to Queens.  This is the point I always get a bit confused, as none of the roads lead directly towards the Queensborough, and you have to navigate over the sunken train depot for the LIRR, underpasses for two highway interchanges, the elevated train tracks, and of course the regular roads of New York City.  Eventually I made it to the on-ramp for the pedestrian path and headed over the East River (and snapped one of my favorite running pictures in a while, where you can see the massive shadow of the bridge stretched out over the roof-tops of Queens).

I was just about perfect on time, so I pushed myself hard over the bridge and down into the canyons of Manhattan.  I was worried I was going to be stretching my principal’s indulgence of my eccentric commuting by showing up at an off-side PD sweaty from a 7 mile run, so I wanted to at least be on time, if not early.  I also had by running pack, so I had a pair of kaki slacks and our school polo to change into.  I navigated the last few crowded blocks of 1st Avenue, then right at the corner of 67th found a bench in front of a coffee shop.  I slipped my kakis on over my shorts, and pulled the old high-school girl trick of putting on my polo over my running shirt, then sliding the shirt off under it.  You have to love New York for letting you change from running clothes to work clothes on the sidewalk without anyone even looking twice.  I turned the corner, and was at work, slightly damp but professional.  And then proceeded to professionally eat two bagels in about 2 minutes at the breakfast spread, but hey, that’s why we run, right?


Then there was an entire morning of panels, then an afternoon as a staff looking at data, blah blah work and that stuff.  Afterwards there was a happy hour at a bar down the block.  I had a beer, then went the bathroom and changed back into my running gear.  I have to admit I get a huge kick from the reaction that gets, as coworkers stare at me in disbelief.  “Dude, you are running home from here?”  Since I have surrounded myself on-line with a community of runners who routine do marathons and ultras, its nice to be reminded that, in the real world, running seven and a half miles to work and then seven and a half miles home does, in fact, constitute something out of the ordinary.

The run home was mostly just the same route in reverse, thought I went straight south from Long Island City and went over the Pulaski Bridge to get from Queens to Brooklyn.  The light was reversed as well, the long shadows cast by the waning sun as it slipped towards the east, then gone just as I made it home.  For a few blocks along Patchen, I ran along side a man who was biking with his daughter on the handle-bars of his bike; we were going at exactly the same speed, and we made an odd pair though the twilight of Brooklyn.  Then I was home, the bright lights of our living room lit and inviting against the growing dusk.


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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