I am a walking cliche. Actually, no. I am a running cliche. Because on this day, the first of my 35th year, I decided to do something I’ve never done before: willingly go for a run.
I woke up intending to go to my Sunday morning kickboxing class. I got up, got dressed and laced up the sneakers I recently bought for the sole (d’oh!) purpose of roundhouse kicking. I got about 10-feet from the gym…and turned back around. I just didn’t want to start this day the same way I’ve started so many others before. I couldn’t deal with the cattiness of who was standing in whose spot in the studio and trying to front-kick higher than all of them. I was craving a change of pace. A literal one.
So I hopped back up to my apartment, traded my phone for my iPod, stuffed my license and ATM card into the wee pocked of my Lululemon pants, tightened my ponytail and was off to do what many people have done before me: run this town. Call it cliche. Or just call it part of the 10-year-late quarter-life crisis that I’m so clearly having this summer.
I pressed shuffle on my “pump up playlist” — the one I made years ago for a night of drinking and dancing, not a morning of sobriety and running. Shuffle usually doesn’t serve me well because my music library is so diverse. One minute I could be listening to Kings of Leon, next minute it’s Otis Redding followed by the Led Zepp. But this morning, as I set out west for the Hudson River Path, the songs that came on couldn’t have been more perfect.
First up? U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day.” And oh, it so is!
You’re on the road
But you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud
In the maze of her imagination
You’re lovin’ this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day
I could get into this, I thought to myself.
I was pumped to get started, but also a bit apprehensive. I’m a novice, after all. Like, do you run on the sidewalk or in the street? Do you wear your sunglasses or leave them behind?
It was too late for the sunglasses as I had already brought them and wasn’t going back upstairs. I also thought better than to let Bono psych me out too soon and did a combo jog-walk on the sidewalk to the river.
Then, just as I was about to cross the highway, Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” came on.
Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father
Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive
I was off! Running for my mother and father and sister and brother….
And my shins start hurting a bit. My right knee is also a bit wonky.
You can do this, Sara. Keep going.
I do, with the sun shining bright and the new Freedom Tower gleaming in the sky straight ahead.
Next song? Jay and Rihanna’s “Run This Town!”
Oh, this is just silly, I think to myself. Really?! THIS song?
But I go with it. How could I not?
I’m going to run this shit out of this town, I think. Shin splints or not!
That said, I couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes in and I’ll admit I was already thinking about how I’d get home. I couldn’t possibly run back, too?! But I didn’t bring a metro card OR my CityBike keycard…
I slow my pace so as not to over-Just Do It in my Nike’s. I’m walk-running, taking deep breaths along the way. Just as I’m starting to think my inhales and exhales are a bit irregular, I kid you not, Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” comes on.
Is there anyone out there ’cause it’s getting harder and harder to breathe
But I was determined to tough it out. All the pretty guys and girls also out running on this ridiculously beautiful day silently encouraged me to keep at it. There were a few smiles and nods along the way as if to say, “We’re of the same ilk. We run.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
So I kick up my heels and start to jog again. Before I know it, I find myself at Pier 25, then rounding the tip near Stuyvesant High School, then around the World Financial Center boat basin, then through the narrow wooded pathways I usually don’t go through cause I’m on a bike.
I’m going to make it to my Happy Place, I think. Holy shit!
Now, let me take a second to remind you again that I’ve never done this before. I don’t do running. In fact, when my sister called me an hour ago to wish me a Happy Birthday and asked about my morning, she responded in shock when I told her: “You what? Went for a run?! You run? I don’t even think I know how to run.”
I didn’t think I did either. I’m the yogi and the tap dancer and the cheerleader who used to wear her jeans under her sweatpants during gym class while attempting to complete a mile under 10 minutes.
I did actually consider taking up running in London because I was having such a hard time finding a place to get my sweat on, but it was cold. And grey. And if I don’t know whether to run on the sidewalk or street here in America, how the hell would I have determined right from wrong over in the UK when just crossing the street confounded me?
Maybe it was the weather today or my overall state or the countless friends I have who all drink this running Cool Aid and surpass milestones as a result. Or maybe it was the articles and essays I’ve read by travelers who all speak highly of going out for a jog each time they’re in a new place to really see it. To really feel it. Or, oh yeah, maybe it was the birthday. But today was the day.
And so I ran.
And get this: I made it to my Happy Place where, as if on cue, the Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” came on:
She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes
I smiled, did a few quick stretches with the Statue of Liberty staring me in the face, and turned around to head back. And I didn’t stop until I reached the block along the river I started from. I ran the whole way! Remarkably, my shin splints disappeared and my breathing reached a fairly steady in-and-out.
I felt fantastic. I didn’t necessarily start out with any other goal than trying something new and I exceeded my expectations on how far it’d take me.
Am I a runner now? Doubtful. Will I try it again? Likely. Cliche or not, I needed this today. And oh how good that pain au chocolate tasted after.
The dog days are fucking over. I’m picking my shit up and making moves.
Oh happy (birth)day!
PS. Map My Run says the route I took was 3.24 miles ONE WAY!