Yesterday, I planned for a morning 4-miler on the treadmill. I’m not much of a morning runner, at least on weekdays. Lying in bed, I worked on reasons not to do it. But I had PT at 6:30 so a post-work run was out of the question. I had to cross the threshold of convincing myself that if I’m a runner I had better get my butt up. Inspired in part by other bloggers who tell of the efforts they put in, I got up, had some cereal and, while it was still dark, headed to the basement and dutifully put in the 4 miles. Boy does the treadmill hurt.

Today was the next challenge. Running outside. It was not too cold, but I found a pretty decent wind once I was outside. This was not quite a schlog but I never got comfortable, inhaling every other stride. (I often am like that, but when I’m relaxed and not going too fast it’s two full cycles (right-left-right-left).) But this was something that had to be done to get something into my legs. So I held together for 6 miles, at a pretty decent pace.

Blogger Pigtails Flying had a post that included references to racing in Central Park. I, of course, felt compelled to comment. Her point was that because she has trained so often in the Park, it loses its charm as a place to race. I feel the opposite.

I moved out of the City nearly 20 years ago, but for a good 12 years I ran in the Park nearly every day. I don’t know the extent to which the terrain on which one practices affects one’s running traits, but Central Park has no flat spots. The closest you come is the stretch along the east side from about 85th to 94th, and even that is slightly downhill heading north. So you’re either going up or you’re going down. The benefit of this is that you’re not getting locked into a particular stride, unlike a pancake-flat course. I think that the ups enhance strength; if you do a full lap you have two decent hills whichever way you go. And I don’t know which direction I prefer.

Still Hunt; I wave to her every time I pass

Still Hunt; I wave to her every time I pass

This comes to mind in part because of the differences between the Manhattan Half, 2+ laps of the Park, and next month’s Bronx Half. I’ve done each once. Last year I did the Bronx, and it has a long stretch that is pretty flat, as the course ambles along the Grand Concourse between I think miles 7 and 11. Last year had a brutal southerly wind, so that it was something of a struggle along the Concourse (and even worse on the finishing stretch when it was as tough a closing wind as I’ve ever faced). To run it, you have to feel comfortable and get into a groove. I recall just hoping I wouldn’t fall apart on the Concourse last year as I was passing groups of guys ahead, and I made it.

Running in a groove can be tricky. In my first marathon, NY 1983, I went out easy and proceeded not to be passed until mile 19 (I caught Grete at mile 18, but she repassed me at 24, beating me by 2:13). I was just running comfortably, but I started to tire, and as hit the Bronx I came upon a group of runners and figured I’d stay with them. That’s when things started to fall apart for me. I don’t know if I wouldn’t have done better had I just done my own thing, but I was afraid to find out. So I struggled home. And was frequently passed. When I ran NY in 2006, I again ran my own pace. I don’t know whether it’s better to get into a comfort level (although that time it was too fast) or hook up with others going at a target pace.

There is a danger of running in the Park too much. I remember telling myself that once I got to my home field — the Park — I’d be fine. Instead I got there (in those days you entered at 103rd Street, up a hill) and was so tired that I felt betrayed. It seemed to hurt more because I had expected it to be my savior. (Plus it was raining and I was really tired.) I did stop on Central Park South, but managed to get doing again and finish.

Speaking of tiring, LetsRun posted the finish of the Osaka Marathon from 2008, on the anniversary of the race. The woman you see, Kayoko Fukushi, is one of Japan’s top runners (she was 11th in the Beijing 10,000) and during this race she led by over 1:30. She went through the 30K at 1:40. But it was her first marathon, and she was not prepared. This led to an interesting discussion on LetsRun. I remember posting at the time that it showed the perils of not respecting the marathon.

Brett Larner has more on it on this Japanese Running blog.