Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer Streets Make Me Feel Fine

As you'll know from my recent Brooklyn Bridge love-fest, I'm all for the Manhattan bound long run these days. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Summer Streets. I'm not just talking about the sunny NYC sidewalks here, but the totally brilliant initiative brought to the people of New York City by the touchy, feely, let's get greeny NYC Dept Of Transportation.

For 3 consecutive Saturdays in August, a route connecting Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park is closed to traffic, allowing runners, cyclists and walkers to take over the street and run, bike or stroll their way through New York City. The route, starting at my beloved bridge, takes in Lafayette Street, 4th Avenue and then a long stretch of Park Avenue, before it hangs a left off Park Avenue to end at the 72nd street entrance to Central Park.
With an 8 mile long run on my schedule for last weekend, it seemed the stars had aligned to provide me with both a route and a reason so I made a plan to run from my home, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, up to Central Park, taking the Summer Streets route through the Manhattan stretch. Mindful of the amount of time my running can keep me away from my family, I arranged with my husband to meet him and the kids at Central Park. That way we could have breakfast in the park, play with the kids and a have a walk back down the Summer Streets route. Perfect!

I set off around 7.45am, as I wanted to beat both the crowds and the heat, although in reality, neither of them turned out to be a problem. With LCD Soundsystem as my soundtrack, I arrived at Brooklyn Bridge within around half an hour (my training plan called for a 10.30 pace the whole way). That's where I hit the first wave of runners, who clearly had the same idea as me, although they were running en masse in the opposite direction. The bridge was literally full to capacity with group runners, and I had a few near misses with cyclists when I was forced into the cycling lane by the sheer volume of people.

Once I hit Manhattan soil, I made a sharp right and quickly spotted the start of the Summer Streets route.
I happily abandoned the pavement and began my journey along the middle of the road. Within a couple of minutes, I arrived at the first 'rest stop' at Foley Street. Whilst I had no intention of needing or taking a rest stop, I had to take the opportunity of getting picture of these guys for you. Cool, eh?
Just as I turned back onto the road to continue running, I saw a familiar face running towards me. It was my new running friend, Majo, who I met through Twitter and have been running with for the last couple of weeks. She was on a group run with Prospect Park Track Club (who I'm itching to join), so once we had got over the surprise of bumping into each other, I continued with Majo and her team mates, following the rest of her club further north up Lafayette St.
Majo is fantastic to run with. We pace really well together, and the conversation flows beautifully, so the miles just seemed to fly by.

We continued north, and by now my pace was pretty much set to automatic, which just feels really wonderful - it's that point in a run when you feel you could just keep going forever. We passed Soho, Union Square and its buzzing farmer's market, then onward up Park Avenue. Crossing 34th St I caught a glimpse of Macy's to my left, a shop I'm no stranger to, although I usually get there by subway! We pressed on, all the time aware of how beautifully quiet and peaceful our run was, the only sounds I heard were those of feet hitting pavement, or bikes wooshing past, of talking and breathing and laughing. I can't recall hearing the sound of traffic at all, although I'm sure I must have.

The next big landmark was the approach to Grand Central Station, usually a traffic hotspot, but today empty but for us lucky few.
The route took us around the perimeter of the building, bringing us downward through a tunnel to emerge again on Park Ave.
At this point, I said goodbye to Majo, who, having started her run at a different spot to me, had clocked her 8 miles. I carried on running with her team mates, until they also took their leave in search of a pit stop.

Left to my own devices and with around half a mile to go, I stopped to make a little video, to give you all an idea of just how quiet Park Avenue was that day:

I completed my 8th mile before the end of the course, but feeling good decided to run on to the end as there was only a half mile or so to go until the finish. And here I am, job done!
Then there was just the small matter of finding Paul and the kids, who it turned out were only a block or two away. Poppie was so excited by the whole thing that she even had a little run along 72nd street with me, along the last part of the course. Definitely the highlight of the day for me - I felt like my heart would burst with pride.

The last Summer Streets is this Saturday between 7am and 1pm. It's a totally unique and peaceful way to see the city, and I'd absolutely recommend it to runners and non-runners alike. So, whether you have a long run planned, or just fancy a family outing with the kids (I saw tons of families with their children in strollers, or on bikes or scooters) make the most of the Department Of Transport's generosity and go and enjoy yourself!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

So, over at Grenglish, the fabulous blog by the lovely Smudgerella, I've been tagged in a post called 10 Things You Might Not Know About Me. According to blogging by-laws this means that I now have to fess up to 10 things you might not know about me. I'm worried that if I don't I might get fined by the blogerati so, here goes....

1. I've break danced in a kebab shop.

Well, in the loosest sense of the words 'break danced'. I made sure that the lovely Smudge, proprietor of Grenglish, was on hand to hold my pashmina first. I didn't want it to get in the way of my crazy legs.

2. I can't stand anyone touching my ears

I do. Not. Like it. And will have an immediate sense of humour failure if anyone attempts it. It freaks the bejesus out of me.

3. I gave birth in my kitchen

Yes really! And on purpose! I've also delivered someone else's baby in their kitchen, and many others elsewhere. In my life before stay at home motherhood, I was a midwife.

4. I've got a very big mouth

Not only does it allow me to talk the hind legs off a donkey, but I can also fit my fist in it, which is the perfect party trick (unless you'd prefer me to break dance).

5. I love breakfast for dinner

It drives my husband crazy. If it's past 9 o'clock it's my culinary default as I can't be arsed to cook and don't like eating too late. He gets take out while I stuff my chops with porridge.

There's some porridge under there, honest.

6. My marriage certificate is in Italian

It's all down to that Smudgerella again. I can confirm that she is indeed the wedding fairy as she was with me the night I met my husband. We married 5 years later in a beautiful town in Tuscany. The Italian marriage certificate is kind of cool too, but a bugger when you're trying to get a visa.

7. I used to be a singer - kind of.

I've sung live on TV (Pebble Mill on the BBC - it was excruciatingly embarrassing), done lots of gigs and even a proper session for the band Electronic (Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr), singing backing vocals on their single 'Late at Night'. I realised a long time ago that I'd never make anything of it though, so have left all that behind as a happy memory.

7. I can't pronounce the word 'theatre' properly and get confused between goose bumps and chicken bumps.

Which one is it? It's chicken bumps isn't it? No? Shit.

9. I can't act to save my life.

Somehow, however, I got a part in a music video when I was 21. See if you can spot me (clue: BIG blonde hair) and have a chuckle at my expense, especially at the last bit when I try to act 'surprised'. My face barely moves.

10. I cry at anything

I cry at the drop of a hat sometimes. A really sad film can have me crying again days later, just from thinking about it. I've even cried at the closing credits of a film I hadn't actually watched (Escape to Victory). It's that pathetic. I cry when I run sometimes too, but I think if you've read my blog before, you might know that already (and I don't think I'm the only runner to do that either).

So, there you go. You now know my deepest and darkest.

Any surprises? Or do you know me better than I think?

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Email Just Made My Day...

I've never been under any illusion regarding my talent as a runner or as a writer. I do both at my own pace and to the best of my ability, but that still leaves me planted very firmly in the 'average' camp. And that's OK with me, because both running and writing this blog bring me great pleasure. My expectations of both are simply that I continue to enjoy them and to do my best.

You can imagine, therefore, how I felt about receiving this email from my lovely friend Gill, midwife extraordinaire and supermum to four. Gill has followed my blog since its first inception and now it seems she has gone and found herself a Couch to 5K training plan...

"Well Mrs O, I'm officially a runner!!! Finished the 8 week program yesterday and I CAN DO IT!!!! I can't believe it. Thanks a million to you being an inspiration, I'm going to be fit n forty now, not fat n forty (in about 7 years time of course). The husband is doing well too, on week 7. He's actually more addicted than me!"

I am absolutely chuffed to bits for Gill and her husband Gareth, as I know how amazing it feels to make the journey from non-runner to runner, to change from an 'I can't!' to an 'I bloody well can!'.

I'm also utterly delighted to have provided a catalyst for Gill and Gareth's transformation into runners - who knew my average little blog would do some good along its average little way?

Now all I need are details, so I'm hoping that Gill and Gareth will respond to my invitation to write a guest blog post about their experience. Let's watch this space with fingers crossed...

Until then, Gill, Gareth - YOU ROCK!