Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ohh, The Places I Haven't Seen

Sometimes, you (I) just need a wakeup call. Such as ... one of the fundamental reasons for running:

To explore places that you haven't seen.

In looking back at my running log over the past few months, I've noticed a distinct lack of new places. A lot of Brooklyn Bridge/Prospect Park/treadmill adventures. Not a lot else. Close to, though not quite, a running exploration rut.

So this past weekend was a refreshing splash in the face of doing things that weren't par for the course. Forgive me for this occasional personal interjection into the blog, since it raises an important lesson for me (and perhaps for you as well).

Saturday: Pepper Martin 5-Mile Race in Staten Island.

Let me say: What a friggin' fantastic local race (results are here). This is the perfect example of a community-supported road race (dozens of which take place in Greater New York every year that don't involve loops of Central Park).

This isn't meant to be a diss at New York Road Runners. The amount of races and support they offer, whether it's in Central Park or somewhere in the boroughs, is wonderful. But there are a ton of differences. And we/you/I need to appreciate what else is out there.

Some highlights:

-- The pre-race setup. No having to get into corrals. Or be in line for the race 15 minutes (or more) before the start. This was a fun local race. Yes, a pain to get to - I had a ride, though you could take the Staten Island Ferry and a bus - but well worth the effort.

-- The course. I knew there would be hills (it goes up Forest Avenue to a park, loops around it, then heads down). Knowledge and actually running them are two vastly different things. I'm sure I could find hills like this in Brooklyn - though it reminded me more of the Harlem Hills in Central Park (or those coming off the water near the George Washington Bridge). I didn't have a chance to even drive the course beforehand. Sur ... prise! There's a reason why my mile splits for miles 2 and 4 differed by a solid minute, even as I hit my goal race time.

-- The volunteers. Except for part of the course in the park, where no water stops were allowed, there were water stops, it seemed, every half mile. Small cups, half of which went on my head, half of which I tried to ingest on the fly. Thank you to all, including the kid with the Red Sox cap I inadvertantly almost tomahawked as I tried to get the cup from him.

-- The post-race setup. Bagels, watermelon and grilled hot dogs (I managed to eat two, including one before 10 a.m. I'm not Joey Chestnut). Mmm. Mmm.

-- The awards ceremony. Endless, because there the age-grade categories were in five-year splits, and they gave out tons of trophies. Awesome.

This race had more than 500 people finish. I shudder to think what would happen if it topped 1,000, given the resources and the wonderful volunteers. (No race chips. Shocking). But the uniqueness completely tops a lot of the cookie-cutter stuff we're all getting accustomed to. It's worth thinking about before we resume the grind to get the 9 New York Marathon qualifying races.

Sunday: 7 1/4 miles, including a trip to Ft. Greene Park.

Today was supposed to be a recovery run. In fact, if my balky knee was complaining, I was pretty sure I'd be spending it inside in a low-key workout in the gym. Thankfully my running friends convinced me otherwise.

Part 1 of the run was spent in Prospect Park, very specifically doing a loop that included the trail part of the loop (no, you can't run the entire park by stepping off the curve, and you most definitely have to watch out for the horses, but worth doing).

Part 2 involved a run down Vanderbilt, ultimately reaching Fort Greene Park. And then, after a loop there, heading down Fulton to get back into Brooklyn Heights.

What was notable here was the second part of the loop. I've been so ingrained into heading to Prospect Park taking a very traditional route (Court to Union, or Clinton to Carroll/President), I've neglected other routes. I walk down Fulton all the time, especially on trips to Macy's (please bring back the fireworks to Brooklyn). I didn't quite think about extending that into a run that heads elsewhere, and hitting a park that, with a nice variation of hills and trails, is a worthy addition to the running route list.

I'm posting a map, that, while most likely not the exact route I ran, is a good example from the park ...

1 comment:

ChickenUnderwear said...

There was a subtle and very nice thing that happened at the Pepper Martin Race. If you look at the application you would see that the age awards were based on ones age on July 5; kinda strange for a race on July 4. But the man who finished 1st for the 80-99 age group turned 80 on July 5. He was also wearing a tee shirt from the first Pepper Martin Race, 31 years ago.

That was nice. The NYRRC does not do that.