Zen and the Insanity of Running

Yesterday I ran further than I can recall in recent memory. The last time I ran more than 20 miles was six years ago to the day when I finished the Motorola Marathon in Austin, Texas.

So I laced up my shoes and headed toward Central Park. I initially intended to run to a nearby borough – The Bronx or Queens, perhaps, but as I traversed the trees of the North Woods, I decided to detour south, cutting through to Columbus Circle.

” The Brooklyn Bridge,” I thought. “I’ll run across the Brooklyn Bridge.”

The cereal and granola bars in my stomach were getting tossed around with each step and I needed something to level the balance of food. A hot dog fit the bill perfectly. I dug two dollars out of my kangaroo pouch in my running tights in exchange for some red and yellow tube steak.

With zip in my step I started down Broadway again following the green path between traffic and the sidewalk. It was here that I noticed a bicyclist who was keeping pace with me quite well. We matched each other through Times Square but I lost him shortly after Herald Square. Oh well, I thought brushing him off.

I continued past the Flat Iron building, through Chinatown and finally reached a bridge. But to my dismay it was The Manhattan Bridge.

“Maybe I’ll just cross this one instead,” I thought. “No…I’m not quitting now.”

Finally I approached the Brooklyn Bridge as I weaved between photographers and tourists the massive cables ran overhead. The wooden planks that carry you across the East River provide a nice change from the hard concrete and asphalt of the city.

I am not familiar with most of Brooklyn so I knew that I would have to zen it. It’s a combination of a good sense of direction and wandering about aimlessly. I use this quite often.

I remember running down Flushing Avenue until I arrived at Metropolitan Avenue when I realized I was lost. A sign pointing east toward Long Island was a pretty good indication. I had intended to zen toward the northwest part of the island, when in fact I was running northeast. The good news about getting lost is that your ability to zen only improves.

It was at this point that I realized I should probably turn back toward home. I paralleled the roadway through the neighborhoods until I came to the Williamsburg Bridge. As I climbed the artificial hill of the bridge, my cotton socks began to rub against the inside arch of my right foot.

Ignoring it I pressed on, finally reaching the hump in the middle of the East River. As I passed over the crest I saw the bicyclist from earlier. We instantly recognized one another after a quick double-take.

“How was the run?” he asked.
“Awesome,” I said. “How was the ride?”

And with that I returned to Manhattan, cutting north through Alphabet City until 14th Street. At this point I was overcome by the blisters on my feet. I could run no more. I hopped on the subway and headed home.

While some would argue that I’m crazy or ridiculous, I would counter saying that it is normal for people to run. For me the ability to go as far as my legs can carry me is therapeutic and healing.

Consider this: When I was leaving for my run, my roommate Rick was returning from a 4-hour trip around the entire outline of Manhattan – all 32 miles. Cumulatively, we ran 52 miles. If that doesn’t appease the gods of running, nothing will.

See the entire route here.

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