Friday, 25 November 2011

Running in Central Park

I have just managed to tick off something from my list of things to do before you die. I will admit it is a relatively new addition as I can't imagine I would have been tempted a few years ago, but that didn't make fulfilling this dream any less exciting. This weekend I was in New York courtesy of my most fantastic husband, and in between racking up scary debts in Macys I managed to squeeze in a run in Central Park.

I will admit that the main driving force behind this ambition was seeing Charlotte in Sex and the City jogging around the reservoir, but the reality was so much better than I imagined. Although the park itself isn't that big - its only about 10K if you run all the way around it - it is the setting that makes it special.

The bucolic surroundings are pretty enough, but it is the ring of skyscrapers that tower above you that makes so thrilling. The double towers of the Ghostbusters Building, the pretty green roof of the Plaza peeping above the trees, these are things you don't see while pounding the streets of Finchley. The blaring of taxi horns and the screech of sirens provide the soundtrack to your run, but it was my fellow runners who were the most alien.

The first thing I noticed was how slow American runners appear to be. I suspect their must be some new fangled trend for slow running, as when I am in London I am forever overtaken by fellow runners who zoom past me putting my plodding pace to shame, but in NY I felt a bit like Usain Bolt. Barring one particularly crazy woman who was sprinting along in freezing temperatures in a tiny sports bra and only-just-there shorts everyone else appeared to be ambling along which meant I sped past even at at my slower than usual sightseeing tourist runner pace.

It was quite nice to be one of the fastest on the track for once, but the moment I got home and went for a run I was put back in my place as a grey haired veteran zipped past me so fast I only caught a glimpse of his old school baggy shorts and T-shirt as he disappeared into the distance.

Back to Central Park, as well as the slow runners I also found myself caught up in what I can only assume was a 5K for Jesus. There was the usual crowd of racers, some attempting to beat the throng and actually achieve a PB, most walking or slow jogging along with a look on their sweaty faces which said nothing so clearly as "I wish I stayed in bed this morning, instead of ruining my weekend by signing up for this run'. But what set many of them apart was that they were dressed up as nuns.

Along the way there were motivational posters with Christian messages of encouragement. I know that on particularly arduous runs I do appeal to the almighty, but I never considered that Jesus could actually help to up my pace. Another nod to the son of God was the fact that the post race snack was that favourite of all Jewish boys - a fresh bagel. I was tempted to pretend that I was actually running in the race and sneakily snaffle one, but was worried I might be smite down if I were to steal from a Christian race.

Still it was a colourful blob of American culture and made my route much less confusing as I could simply follow the crowd of nuns on the run, even if I did have to make a detour to find the path around the reservoir made famous by SATC. Sadly I intended to post a picture of this, but when I looked at my iPhone I discovered that I had my finger over the lens in all the shots.

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