This weekend promised to be a tough challenge, featuring a 9 mile run – the farthest distance I have ever undertaken and something I would never have believed possible a few months ago. Thankfully, the weather cooperated to a certain extent and by the time I set off from my building at 7:45 this morning there was no snow on the ground and just a light fall from the sky.
Wrapped up in my tights, long sleeve undershirt, wooly hat, and windcheater, I made my way to the West side of the park and the starting point for my 9 mile run. The plan was to complete a full circuit, returning to the start point on the West side. From there, my path would take me down the West side for a second time but differing slightly in that it cut across Terrace Drive and returned up the East side to finish by the Guggenheim. The course was extremely undulating, with at least a half dozen long uphill drags to test out my stamina and strength throughout the run.
The first few miles went by quickly and easily, and I was in line with my typical run pace by the time I hit three miles. Taking advantage of the relatively easy East side from 86 St., I upped my speed and made back some time that would help me on the tougher Harlem Hills section to come. By the time I completed the full loop, I was well on pace for my target time and still felt as though I had plenty of gas in the tank. The second trip down the West side was a little tougher because of the two long inclines, but the downhill stretch around the 70’s helped to move my time back within the target range.
As I turned onto Terrace Drive and passed the (mental) 8-mile marker, I knew I had it in me to finish within my target. Despite the tough uphill finish around the boathouse and past the Museum of Modern Art, I still had enough energy to sprint the last stretch and sneak across the line in just under 80 minutes.
On the jog home I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud of what I had accomplished. When I think back to those early days a year ago, just starting out and barely able to complete a full mile without a walking break, today’s achievement felt like something special. To do it inside my 9 minute mile pace just made that bit sweeter.