Saturday, July 22, 2006

Finishing Uphill (Rain Coming in Fast)

If you are going to run a long way in July you have to start early in the day. So, at 6:oo AM, I started out from 59th street and the Merchant's Gate. At that hour there are still many homeless, mostly men, still stretched out sleeping under the trees. My plan was to run just up to 72nd Street, then jog over to the river and run up the river to the George Washington Bridge and from there another mile or so to home.

I like running in places I've never been before and, though I had seen lots of people running and biking on the RiverPark trail, I had never been on it North of 79th Street. Luckily for me, one can scout out such things now online. You go to
USATF Routes and punch up the map, the satellite or both. So you can see the little ziggy detour in the middle 90's and figure out how the hell to get around in the Fairway (125th Street) area.

The other problem was water. I knew I could get water at several spots but I didn't have a clue exactly where the fountains would be, so I decided to carry a bottle with me. I am learning to travel light which means that on long runs like this one (more than eight miles) I don't carry my phone, my Palm or my wallet, just my housekeys and my Metrocard.

The one thing that didn't occur to me until I hit the river was the road home would be uphill the whole way. "That's why the river flows to the sea" the sarcastic portion of my brain reminded the duller parts, "We are going uphill for the next hour or so. (Grit teeth)

Meanwhile, off to my left, there was a large cloud formation. It was still a ways out, but I've seen enough thunderstorm fronts on the plains of the West to recognize that this was a big one. But I was already committed (or maybe I should BE committed.) so I kept on slogging along. Keeping one eye out for water fountains and the other on the looming stormclouds.

At about 96th Street, I got a break. There was another runner who looked as paunchy as me and who was running at about the same speed, if it can be called speed. Lurching along together we wordlessly challenged the other fat guy to a duel. I flipped from the book I was listening to over to the faster songs and, after we had traded the lead a couple of times, he seemed to fade and I bounced along through the one-hundreds and the one-tens. I got about a quarter mile lead on him and settled in for the long haul to the bridge.

One thing about the George Washington Bridge: from 72nd Street, it looks close. It looks close but not much closer at 96th Street, it's just there. There the whole time you are running, it just never seems to get any nearer. I was thinking about that when I heard the footsteps, I glanced behind me and there was the other fat guy moving at full steam. Apparently he thought we were only racing to 125th Street which was coming up soon. He thundered by me and sprinted to the compass that is embedded there in the sidewalk.

"Thanks for the lift, " I said as I approached, " but I'm on my way to bridge." He shook his head and both his hands and laughed. I hope I run into him again.

From there to about 138th Street, it's dicey. You run pass warehouses and big men pushing huge handtrucks of everything from Avian Water to Canned Cream Corn. There is traffic and honking and forklifts working the backends of semis. Then after making a short left/right you are on a fenced in narrow passage between some railroad tracks on your right and more warehouse on your left. There is also an elevated State Park right there, but the stairs up to it from the river look like they stay locked a lot.

Past there and you are home free. Except that now the real hill begins. The storm was coming in fast, the first big fat drops splatted here and there around me and I wondered just how much more wet I could get. I soak myself completely while running.
The hill under the bridge is very steep, all the bikers either walk up or stand on their pedals to get up, then it turns across a bridge over the railroad and heads up again. They don't call it Washington Heights for nothing.

I must be living right. The rain held off just long enough, just, for me to make the four corners at 181st, Bennett, 184th and Overlook Terrace. As I stuck the key in the building's front door the thunder rolled.