After about a month off from running, this weekend I am back. The left foot had a spot, around mid-foot on the arch, that was very painful to the touch, so I took the doctor's advice to give it some time to rest. I switched to cycling and it was not very satisfying, but better than nothing. I was supposed to take the whole month of June off, but June 1 was National Running Day, so I ran a short route on that day then began the hiatus on June 2. I resumed running on July 3 so that was about right for a 30-day break.
It was the weekend so it was tempting to put in a long run, longer than my usual five miles anyway. Luckily, the reasonable side of me resisted the temptation and I ran just my old, daily five miles. I picked the Dyker Height route because it involves a hill at the midway point, where I would turn around and head back. The route goes through residential areas only and has no long stretch with no traffic. At every corner is a either a stop sign or a traffic light, something to stop for and look before crossing, so for the whole month cycling I didn't use this route. As I headed home, the sky darkened and by the time I got breakfast it was raining lightly. No problem, the bagel shop where I got breakfast had a picnic table on the side of the building, with a window awning just enough to cover me. It was a nice way to celebrate my return to running - my favorite breakfast of toasted bagel with cream cheese, in the quiet rain.
The next day, Independence Day (July 4th), I finally joined the Holiday Marathons people in Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. In this day and age of pre-registration and sold-out races, the Holiday Marathons (HM) series is a welcomed breath of fresh air. While the typical organized races, whether through Active.com or NYRR, charge $20 and up, the HM series only ask for a $10 donation. You do not get a souvenir T-shirt or official time but there is refreshment at the beginning and at the end of the race. It is really just one loop of 6.56 miles. Run one loop and you have about 10K, 2 loops then you have a Half-Marathon, and 4 times get you a Full Marathon. Again, no medal or any prize whatsoever, but if your goal is to run one of those distance, it can be done without any requirements. The course is a trail most of the time, so it was muddy or bumpy in places, somewhat of an obstacle course and not your typical road races. The volunteers were helpful, the crowd was small enough for me to actually see the person singing the National Anthem, and there was a small cheering section. For a donation of $10, it was a bargain.
The run was great except I unknowingly cheated myself out of a few miles. I am totally unfamiliar with Van Cortlandt Park and the race course. Knowing my slower pace, I put myself in the back of the pack at the beginning of the race. I simply followed the big crowd of people in front of me but eventually there were just a few people, like two, one in the front and one in the back, around me on the race course. As usual, I ran without my near-sighted glasses but could see the road fine. Every now and then I would see the orange streamer hanging on trees as route markers. At forks in the road there were white arrows on the ground to point me in the right direction. Unfortunately, when I got out of the trail and back on the edge of parade ground, I automatically thought that was it, that I would just go around the perimeter of the parade ground. I totally missed the arrow pointing back to the woods. I was supposed to follow some path that intersect the Henry Hudson Parkway then make a U-turn back to the parade ground. Even on my wrong course, I made an early left turn but realized quickly and resumed the course, still the wrong, shorter course, but I was not aware of it. I did notice someone running downhill from the woods onto the perimeter of the parade ground, but I thought it was just someone running a longer route. I imagined there were veterans of the area who knew other longer route. As I approached the finish line, some fast runners were passing me and I simply thought they were on their second loop. Some people are just that fast! As I logged my time, I was amazed how much faster I was. My pace was less than 10 minutes per mile. I found it hard to believe, what with me just came off a month-long break. While cooling down after the race I saw people who I knew on DailyMile.com coming in. I know they are fast runners, much faster than me. A long subway ride home later, I decided to review the race route to find out where I made the shortcut. The Garmin map at http://thejuly4thmarathon.com/the-course/ is hard to see but opening it in Google Earth helped a lot. I found my early left turn and then the right turn that I missed. I still enjoyed the run and felt good afterward.