Yesterday I determined that I would run outside for the first time this season. I suited up with my new Nike Women's Elite Running Cushioned socks, my awesome running pants, my Favorite running top, and a long sleeve zip up sweatshirt with zip pockets for the essentials (keys, metro card, id.) I grabbed sun glasses and my arm band for my iphone, and headed out the door.
The half hour trip to Prospect Park was spent with me trying to look nonchalant while I tried to ignore the fact that I stood out like a sore thumb in a train full of people various styles of Jeans and T-shirts. I know it wasn't true but it felt like everyone I passed gave me that "what the hell?!" look.
I used the 10 minute walk up to the park from the train station as my warm up, power walking and getting limber. I was so nervous about the run that I almost turned around and went home about six times during that walk.
When I finally got to the park, I was warm enough to take off the sweatshirt and tie it around my waist. There was a gentle wind blowing and the sun was shining. A few people zoomed by on bikes, and there were flowering trees everywhere.
I started my run on a tick mark that had been spray painted onto the pavement at some time long ago that read 3m. I had (mistakenly but we'll get to that later) read somewhere that the loop was a little over three miles, so I figured it would be a good marker to stop at too. I had also heard that there was a beast of a hill somewhere in the loop, but had no idea where it was, so I started out with an easy pace.
It was hard to keep myself to that nice slow pace over the next 1/2 mile, which was mostly downhill, with a few flat stretches. I had no idea how far I'd run or how far I'd yet to go, but around 20 minutes in I was still feeling relatively fresh.
Then, rounding the backside of the lake, I encountered something I had never dealt with before, a strong headwind. It hit me so suddenly and with such force that it almost stopped me in my tracks. I had read in Runner's World that you shouldn't fight the headwind, just slow down and conserve your energy for when it's not an issue. So I dug in, slowed down a bit, and fought on.
By the time I had finished rounding the lake, the intermittent strong gusts of wind blasting me in my face had sapped a lot of my strength, but I was still doing alright. I still had no idea how far I'd gone. I'd past some fresher spray paint marks denoting a 2 mile mark at some point, but I had no idea where they'd started measuring that 2 miles.
This was when I started bargaining with myself.
I still felt relative good for having been running for what felt like hours, so I convinced myself I didn't have that far to go. 1/2 mile, tops. I could do that, easy.
And then I found the hill.
It didn't look too bad from the bottom. Steep, sure. Tall, you betcha. But it didn't look like it was that far until the path started leveling off. I could *do* this. I dug deep and started up the hill. I tried not to think about how far it was up the hill, or how tired my legs were, or how my lungs were burning (although all of those thoughts kept bouncing around in my head). I tried to just concentrate on keeping my feet moving.
I started to near the curve that I thought was the top of the hill. It was then that I realized my mistake. The path became less steep as it rounded the curve, yes, but as soon as it passed the curve it was right back up to it's kick-your-ass self. My spirit dropped and my legs slowed to a walk. There was no way this far into my run that I could make it up that hill. I resigned myself to walking the rest of the way up.
I felt slightly defeated when I reached the top of the hill, but then, seeing that my "finish line" was no where in sight, decided to start running again. Because I could. Turned out I had a good 1/4 mile left in me before I tapped my foot down on that 3m mark and slowed back down to a walk.
After a brief cool down walk, I stretched against a tree, then lay down in the grass and just let the sun soak into me. It took a lot of convincing to get me back up to head home. When I got home I went to enter my run into Map My Run and was surprised to find the distance for the loop was 3.34 miles. All of a sudden I didn't feel so bad for walking up half of that hill. That is the furthest I have ever ran, outside or in.
I am feeling a bit more confident about the Lilac 5k I'm planning to run in May. I figure, if I train to conquer the Prospect Park loop, 3.15 miles shouldn't be a problem!