Our Favorite Race: The Chocolate 5k Run

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When Todd and I first started running, I wanted to find a race that was timed and competitive but also fun, with good prizes. As fate would have it, my Google search led me to the Chocolate 5k Run. It offers a challenging course (with an off-road element), a spirit of community, and both a race shirt and breakfast (eggs, sausage, pancakes, chocolate fountains!) included in the price. This year, as the race marked its fifth anniversary, Todd and I received honorary jars of chocolate for being two of only fifteen people who have participated in the run every year since its inception!

Clockwise from top right: at the starting line;
standing among the five-year participants;
getting coffee in nearby Cornwall, NY.

The race organizers, members of the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in New Windsor, have no idea how important that jar of chocolate was to me this year: For the past six months, I’ve been dealing with a scary head pain that started a couple of weeks before Todd and I ran the New York City Marathon in November. Tests have, thankfully, come back negative for anything sinister, but I’ve still been really anxious for it to go away. Plus it’s completely affected my exercise regimen and my training, so I knew that I wasn’t going to run the 26-minute Chocolate 5k I did last year, placing in the top three runners of my age group to earn a jar of chocolate.

I’m proud to say that, on race day, I did the best I could, given the circumstances. I made sure to stretch and do the neck exercises my physical therapist has assigned to me, and despite the rain, I started the race in good spirits. I kept a slow pace for two miles, running first beside Mom, then Dad, who encouraged me with his antics (racing past me while singing, zooming ahead only to wait for me and wave me on at the top of a huge hill). I took the time to look around and be grateful, for the pretty trees and blooming leaves, the handmade signs of encouragement around the course, and the community members who stood outside in the rain to cheer us on. And I even finished the race with a spurt of speed, thanks to one very competitive runner who tried to beat me to the finish line in the final stretch.

I might not have placed this year, but my honorary jar of chocolate is an award enough, because it means I didn’t let pain or fear stop me from running my favorite race or living my life to the fullest.

My Fastest 5k Yet!

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16939531_10106026132379209_4669073140362198351_nThis year Todd and I are working toward the NYRR 9+1 program, in which you run nine races and volunteer at one to gain guaranteed entry into the 2018 NYC marathon. (No, we have never attempted such a long distance before. No, I am not sure I even can run an entire marathon. But I know I have to try, at least once in my lifetime.)

Because we figured January and February would be super cold, we chose the Washington Heights 5k in March as the first of our nine runs. Did I expect it to feel a little bit like spring? Silly me. The temperate was in the 20s; I could see my breath while we hurried to the starting line. I’d dressed in high socks, leggings, a tank top with a pretty warm jacket on top, gloves that could become mittens, and my Pusheen hat—and though that combination worked perfectly during the race, it left me hopping around trying to stay warm while we waited in our corral.

The course was a simple out-and-back that looped up through Fort Tryon Park, taking us around the Cloisters, a MET museum specializing in medieval art and architecture. I highly recommend checking out the collections there; the entire museum is so incredibly peaceful and awe-inspiring. It’s also situated at the top of a very large hill, which we had to run up as part of the race. This is where I say thank you to the creators of Disney’s Moana soundtrack: As I labored up the steepest of the inclines, the song “How Far I’ll Go” popped up on my playlist, and its yearning buoyancy gave me the push I needed to stay strong and positive. From there just another small hill, and then I sprinted the rest of the way down Fort Washington Avenue, about a mile left to the finish line.

I didn’t catch my time as I crossed, but I felt really good, not winded or aching despite what I knew had to have been a faster pace than usual. I’m hopeful that this means my weekly combination of one long run and several short speed bursts is training me to become a better runner—either that or I was just trying to outrun the cold! When I later checked my chip time, I’d completed the course in 27 minutes and 7 seconds, a new PR. I’m a little worried that it was just a fluke and I’ll fall behind in my next race, but the only way to find out is to sign up and run. One down, eight to go…2018 NYC marathon, here we come!

Running the Haunted Island 5k

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I didn’t have any reason to go costume shopping the weekend before Halloween, so I decided to run the Haunted Island 5k on Roosevelt Island instead. Though some people got decked out in costume—including my dad—I just settled for wearing my monster hoodie. Todd didn’t have a costume at all, so I didn’t feel too bad. Before the race, Halloween hits blasted out to get runners energized, and the post-race party featured candy and other snacks.

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Getting Used to Autumn Running Again

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I love running outside in the summer, with the heat bearing down like thick molasses and sweat making my skin shine. There’s something about a blistering sun overhead and the smell of sunblock slathered all over my face that says freedom like nothing else. I also like winter running, bundled in extra socks, a hoodie, ear warmers, and mittens, when I sweat through all my layers as though it were summer again. Running during spring or autumn, especially autumn, is a much greater struggle.

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Overcoming My Fear of Biking

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I enjoy running in 5k races around the city, such as the NYPD Memorial Run or the Roosevelt Island Ice Cream Social. I also love jogging on my own or with a running buddy around the neighborhood, exploring little-known trails or picking a destination like the miniature golf course. It’s especially rewarding to reach new milestones: this past weekend, I managed to jog five miles! But running is easy: one foot in front of the other, slowly at first and then building up to a faster pace once you’ve trained enough to handle it, the comforting feel of the asphalt always beneath your feet. Running feels safe. Biking, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

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Reaching My 5k Goal

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When I made it a goal on New Year’s Eve to run at least three 5k races this year, I didn’t anticipate crossing it off my list so quickly, nor did I think that I would get progressively faster with each run. In April’s Run for the Wild, I ran 3.1 miles in about 34 minutes. Earlier in May at the NYPD 13th Annual Memorial run, my time fell just under 30 minutes, at 29 minutes and 54 seconds. On Memorial Day at the NYCRuns Ice Cream Social on Roosevelt Island, I just barely beat my record: 29 minutes and 48 seconds. Continue reading