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.

Running: A Love-Hate Relationship (But Mostly Love)

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Every weekend it seems like Todd and I either have a race or just go out for a run. I both love and hate that schedule: I like that it’s great for fitness, and great for getting extra calories to put toward food (though too often I put them toward snacks). I don’t like that it complicates plans and means getting out of the house super early after a long week at work. But we’re well on our way to completing the nine races (and one volunteer event) we need to guarantee our entry into the 2018 marathon, and that goal is worthwhile enough that I’m willing to deal with some inconvenience. (Even though I’m still kind of scared about running the 26.2 miles.) Plus, we try our best to keep our runs as varied as possible: morning runs, a few evening runs, short, long, speed, distance, indoor, outdoor. Overall, any run is better than no run, and our love of the sport means we’re willing to sacrifice things like time and toenails.

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On an early morning run in the neighborhood, noting all the unnecessary artificial lighting and wishing I could see some stars.

My favorite runs are long runs, especially if it’s a breezy Saturday morning and we can take our time looping through the Bronx. Maybe we’ll pass through the Botanical Gardens and snap some photos of flowers or Chihuly sculptures; maybe we’ll detour across town to Riverdale and then up to the Ridge Hill shopping center in Yonkers. The slower pace gives me time to think, to relax into my body and the rhythm of the run. Yet there’s something to be said for short runs, too. They’re faster and harder and after only two or three miles, you feel accomplished and exhausted in the best possible way. Case in point: earlier this month, Todd and I ran the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in the city. To my surprise, I achieved my fastest mile (7 minutes, 14 seconds) and placed 1,339 out of 3,646 women. I felt like my lungs might burst but I also felt glad because I had pushed as hard as I could. And I was very proud of Todd, who ran the mile in 6:26! That’s a time I can only dream of.

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After the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile

This Sunday we’ll race the out-and-back course of the Bronx 10-Mile. Though I’m not looking forward to dealing with the subways (always a mess on the weekends and sometimes not running at all), I am excited to explore a new part of our hometown—and then hopefully eat a good breakfast. (After all, what’s a love of running without a love of food?) In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: What are your favorite kinds of runs?  Your tips will hopefully inspire me to try a new workout or introduce a fresh element to my training, especially as we start preparing for next year’s marathon.

I Ran My First Half-Marathon!

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It was a long road to get here. I thought I’d attempt 13.1 miles last year, but a leg injury kept me out of my running shoes for too long before the race; I didn’t feel confident or prepared, and I feared hurting myself even further. So this year I made sure I was ready, running speed drills on weekdays and progressively longer runs every weekend leading up to the half-marathon, then slowly tapering and letting my muscles heal starting two weeks before. And last weekend I did it, in 2 hours and 20 minutes—10 minutes faster than the goal time that Todd and I had set for ourselves.

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Before the race, waiting for our corral’s wave to start.

In terms of running standards, it wasn’t very fast, averaging out to about 10 minutes and 48 seconds per mile. We started the first mile some distance down the block from Prospect Park. The weather was 58 degrees or so but it felt humid, with a little sun peeking through the clouds. I didn’t mind; I was just glad it wasn’t raining. Our corral, number 20 out of 22, inched forward, then finally the countdown began and we were off. Todd and I started out slow, about 12 minutes per mile for Miles 1 and 2. My parents ran, too, and they hovered just ahead of us for the first half of the race.

The first two miles felt easy, no huge hills or major descents. We ran comfortably; I listened to some low-key songs on Spotify, like “As We Ran” by the National Parks and “The Wolf” by Mumford and Sons. By Mile 3 we reached the Brooklyn Museum, and spent the next two miles traveling alongside the park. Todd and I chatted a bit and observed the other runners around us. I really liked a shirt than one older man was wearing: “I have fought the good fight,” it said, quoting from 2 Timothy 4:7 in the Bible, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

The start of Mile 5 turned us onto Ocean Parkway, which had been closed to traffic for the half-marathon. As we ran, we saw runners from earlier waves already making their way back up the parkway, passing the Mile 9 mark and getting ready to head into Prospect Park. Around Mile 6, I started to feel it. My knee hurt a bit; I was getting bored with the monotonous scenery and the knowledge that, as far down as we traveled, we would still have to come all the way back. I counted down: If that’s the Mile 8 sign across the road, it means we have another mile down this way, then another mile back up until I get to that point. To distract myself, I changed up my running stance, first skipping sideways for a few steps, then busting out a few high knees.

Mile 7: We looped around and headed back up toward Prospect Park. Around Mile 8 we caught up to my parents and passed them, then Todd broke away from me because he wanted to run faster. By this point I was running about 11-minute miles. It was hard but not too hard, and I knew I still had energy left. At Mile 9 we ascended a steep hill that left me breathless at the top, but when I tried to walk for a minute, my legs wobbled like jelly so I kept running instead.

We entered the park at Mile 10 and I sped up, running the next 2 miles in around 20 minutes. I kept an eye out for Todd and just after Mile 12, I spotted him walking. I ran up beside him—he looked at me incredulously, like he couldn’t believe I’d caught up—and then I pushed on ahead. He followed, and we ran the last mile together as fast as we could. We crossed the finish line holding hands. (Here’s a picture, but I have to link to it because I don’t want to pay $25 for a download.)

After the half-marathon, we received really awesome finisher medals and some free water and snacks. And then I got a good, hot latte from one of my favorite hipster coffee shops, followed by a celebratory meal at Shake Shack later that afternoon. This morning I signed up for my next race, a 7.5-mile scenic run in November, but I’m still looking for another half-marathon where I can try to beat my new PR.

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The family with our medals after the race! Love doing things together 🙂

An Easter Run and Recipe

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Of all the Christian holidays, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is the most joyous. The songs at mass are uplifting and glorifying. We share treats and dinners with family and friends. Even nature seems to feel the spirit: little tulip stalks pop up from the dirt, the sun makes us squint in every selfie. And we take joy in the little things, the memories we create: a good run, a broccoli soufflé cooling on the stove…

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