1426The Central Park runners

The Central Park runners

Recently relocated to New York for work, Chris is making the most of catching the running bug to explore the city on foot

Friday 26 October 2012

In the month since I moved to New York, while I have yet to explore more than a couple of the many running paths I’ve been told the city has to offer, one thing has become very clear to me:

Central Park causes bi-polar running.

chris-gower-blogFor those who don’t know, there is a 6 mile path as wide as a single carriageway road that skirts the perimeter of Central Park. The path has a white line on the inner edge denoting a place for cyclists to ride. Despite this, here is where you will find 'The Runners'.

Not just some runners, but dozens of runners. In fact, there must be a few hundred running the path at any one time, particularly with NYC marathon coming up. At times you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a spontaneously arranged race.  

Therein lies the problem.

I always intend to run slowly. I’ll jog out of my front door, stopping at the 4 or 5 sets of traffic lights on the way and slowly weaving my way through the hoardes of commuters, neither hurried nor frustrated by the hold up.

By the time I’ve got to the park and dodged the horse drawn tourist carts to join the running lane, I’ve clocked 0.45 miles, and here is where the issue starts.

You see, I have established that I have an inherent and subconscious desire to overtake people.

chris-gower-blogI’ll overtake the first person, who may well be slow. I don’t think much of it. Moments later I’ll likely overtake a second, maybe it’s a couple, maybe a small group. Then I see a few more people up ahead. I won’t consciously speed up to catch them, but before I know it I’m on their heels. Check my shoulder and I’ve overtaken them too.

This goes on, and on. Next thing I know I’ll check my watch, I’ll be 1.5 miles in and I’ve been running at a pace close to my 5k PB pace. Then I get excited and naively think to myself ‘maybe I can get a PB’; so I speed up more. I really start pushing myself, and I know I don’t have long before this speed becomes too much for me. Worse still, Central Park has some fairly ridiculous hills, yet I increase my speed on the incline, increasing my arm swings, treating it like a workout within a workout.

Before I know it, I’m running at 90% capacity, just trying to get to 3.1 miles in less than 20 minutes. And I never do, because the first 0.45 miles I spent meandering to the Park have made sure it’s impossible.

By the time I hit 3.1 miles, a couple of minutes above my PB time, I drop to a fast walk, desperately sucking on the cold, dirty air, trying to recuperate as quickly as possible and cursing myself for my stupidity.

By this point, I’m still 4 miles from home, and really just want to sit down. So I’ll put the blinkers on and begin a slow jog around the rest of the park, aware that I have made a complete cock-up of my plan for a relaxed run around the park.

Then five or ten minutes will pass, I’ve recovered and am beginning to enjoy the run again. Until someone runs past me and we’re back at square one. Within a few minutes I’m running at the same unsustainable pace as before. A few minutes after that I’m questioning my sanity.

chris-gower-blogIf someone were to look at my split times around Central Park they would think I’d been utilizing an extreme variation of the walk-run technique, the ‘saunter-sprint’ method.

At first I thought that my subconscious was one of an over-excitable child, but I’ve spoken to others who have experienced the very same thing. It’s the race-day mentality that is inspired by the running track design. It’s the endless stream of runners.

It’s also probably great interval training.

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