Healing through Hiking

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Because I’ve been dealing with some head and neck issues since the New York City marathon last November, I haven’t been running as much as I’d like. While I work my way back into a regular routine, I’ve been looking for other avenues of fitness, and I’ve found one that I really enjoy: hiking. I can surround myself with nature for several hours at a time and enjoy the tranquility that comes with a long walk. Plus, I love that even if you only hike for a couple of miles, it’s still a workout; you’re constantly being challenged by uneven terrain and obstacles like boulders or fallen trees.

Wissahickon Valley Park, May 2019

This past weekend Todd and I visited Philadelphia, and we spent part of the trip hiking in Wissahickon Valley Park just outside the city. Situated on the Schuykill River, it extends about seven miles to the north, with an abundance of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails. The trails are color-coded, and signposts indicate whether it’s going to be an easy trek or a tougher one. We ended up on the orange trail, a narrow dirt pathway that wound along the river, and more than once turned into a mud pit we then had to slog through. About half a mile into the trail from our starting point, we reached a landmark called Devil’s Pool (below). The river cut across the trail, and the only way across was to leapfrog over slippery rocks to the other side. At first we considered turning back, but then decided to attempt the crossing—and somehow we made it without tumbling into the river!

Devil’s Pool, Wissahickon Valley Park, May 2019

We passed several other hikers on our trek, and with each we exchanged a friendly greeting or a nod. When we came to a bridge, we crossed the river and hiked back along the other side, first on a wide gravel road and then on a path that cut through the forest. We got to see different kinds of birds (unfortunately I couldn’t identify any except the geese), butterflies, and so much greenery. In total we hiked about three miles, but it took us quite a long time and felt a lot harder than one might expect. It felt so rewarding to get back to our starting point and take a good long rest on a bench overlooking the river.

Hiking Wissahickon Valley Park, May 2019

This summer I’d like to hike in as many different parks and preserves as I can, and find a spot to stop and do tai chi (my other new obsession, but more about that in another post) along the way. If you know of any good hiking spots along the East Coast, please share in the comments! I’d love to check them out and report on our hike there!

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A Runner’s Dream

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Yesterday, for the first time in 40 years, an American woman (Shalane Flanagan) broke the finish line tape of the New York City marathon! I’d been following her career with interest, so I was especially excited to watch her succeed in what she’s called a childhood dream. Her unofficial time was 2 hours and 26 minutes—only one minute and one second faster than that of the three-time defending champion. It’s so crazy to think that had she taken a slightly slower pace, she might not be celebrating victory today. It’s something that strikes me every time I run: whenever I want to slow down, I remind myself that even a few seconds can matter, though my races are nowhere near as high stakes as the marathon was for a four-time Olympian like Shalane.

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View from the Pelham Bridge in the Bronx. #nofilter

I’d never dreamt of running a marathon. In fact, a few years ago, I couldn’t begin to contemplate completing a 10K. But somehow, the sport takes hold of you, and once it does, you find yourself pushing farther than you’d ever believed possible. And in 2018, I will race the NYC marathon, even though racing double the amount I’ve ever run before seems intimidating at best, impossible at worst. About half a year from now, I’ll start looking into which training plan Todd and I should follow (yep, he’s doing it with me; I have the best husband ever) and I’ll focus on things like pace and gear and timing and energy gels and how to run 26.2 miles without having to pee.

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A perfect postrun snack: Cocoa-topped coffee accompanied by a homemade, whole-wheat, pumpkin olive oil bread with walnuts and fresh ginger!

Until then, though, I’m going to just bask in the run: short two-mile morning jogs under the few stars I can see from my neighborhood, long runs in the Botanical Garden or to the cemetery to visit my grandma and grandpa’s headstone. My running dream is to appreciate each experience, even if it’s hard or I just want to sit on the couch and watch TV instead. This weekend, Todd and I did a run to the beach and back home, seven miles in all. We didn’t worry about how fast we were going, we just took in the scenery and walked when we needed to and ran just to enjoy the run. For me, that’s the best part. That and and the post-run coffee (accompanied by carbs & protein!) I like to have when I get back.

A Bike Ride and a Lofty Goal

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The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is a cycling race with a course that passes through each of New York City’s boroughs: Staten Island to Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx to Manhattan.wp-1456171020530.jpg On May 1, 2016, the streets will be free of cars, volunteers will man four rest areas and three water stations, and musical performances will take place along the 40-mile route. Approximately 32,000 cyclists participate in the bike tour annually—and this year, Todd and I will be two of them.

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