Editor's Note: This is my fabulous Guest Blogger, The Newbie, who is training for her first half-marathon.
Here in the NYC DOE (Department of Ed.) we are smack in the middle of our wonderful mid-winter break. This break originated during the Depression: to save on heating costs they shut the schools down for one week during the coldest part of the winter. It worked out so well with the budgets that they've kept it (thankfully for us teachers!).
I love breaks probably just as much, or slightly more, than the average person. Teaching means you are always "on"; you don't get to mentally check-out in the middle of a lesson and heaven forbid you sit down---the kids suddenly run amuck thinking you're not paying attention. On an average day I am walking at least 3-5 miles....and then I come home and run.
Usually I'm heading home as the sun is setting (BTW: totally my #1 dislike about winter) so my only choices for running are the treadmill or the track. Now if it's snowing, I automatically head to the gym because there is no such thing as plowing the track (unfortunately). But on these glorious days of vacation, my options are suddenly thrown wide open due to the expanse of my free day-time! Running outdoors, I'm pretty sure all can agree, is better than anything indoors...hands down!! The wind in your face, the variety of things to look at while running (sometimes those long runs really do call for a little entertainment) and SUN!! Being active outdoors is a glorious thing.
NYC is a great city for its culture, food and sheer diversity. It's also a great place to be an athlete---especially a runner. Even though it is an island, it's got a lot of surface streets packed densely into it's little space, meaning runners have so many options---no matter what neighborhood you live in. There are so many online tools nowadays to find runs or to map and share your runs: MapMyRun.com or RunYourCity.com. It can make any distance an adventure.
Besides the magic of running in some of NYC's most distinctive neighborhoods (think: near Chinatown and all its bustling open front markets or in Harlem by the famous outdoor pick-up basketball games) you've got the beautiful scenery of being surrounded by water. I live on the west side of Harlem, not far from Riverside which is the large road (expanded in recent years for runners and bikers) that runs all along the west side of NYC along the Hudson River. In the spring and summer months it is gorgeous to see the trees flush with flowers and verdantly green. In the fall and winter months you see the leaves fall and the icy waters crash on the shoreline. It is a magnificent sight to have the Hudson scenery next to you while you run, especially if you get to have the sunset as you're on your way back home.
Another great location for running is Central Park, with its myriad of loops there is a distance for everyone and you are guaranteed not only a beautiful setting for your run but some interesting people watching. Last week I did my first 8-mile run and decided to head to the Park. Now I can say that I completed it but I did get a little confused with all the loops in there...you can't see the street numbers from inside the park so you have to use your intuitive sense as to when you should turn...otherwise you'll end up on the really long 6-mile loop like I did. :)
Even in the dead of winter the Park is full of bikers and runners, it's definitely motivating because suddenly you aren't the crazy girl on the block who wears spandex outdoors with snow and slush on the ground---you're just one of many enjoying the fact that running can take you places and you don't need anything to get you going except the sheer joy of the path.
Much love and happy running,