Monday, March 4, 2013

Half-Marathon Training Take Two - A New Route

With a little over eight weeks until race day, training for the half marathon I'm running on May 5th has kicked into high gear.

As most long distance runners know, there is a distance threshold beyond which runs are incredibly hard. Not that runs below this threshold are always easy, but just that they are more manageable.

After almost three years of distance running, I have come to understand that this threshold is more psychological than anything else. And for me, that threshold is six miles. Any run shorter than six miles seems, in my head, relatively simple to handle. I can generally do it in under an hour, and it is pretty easy to piece together a six mile route no matter where I am.

But once I get beyond six miles - once I am running for more than an hour - I need a little mental boost. It is no longer acceptable to me to cobble together a route on the streets where I am stopping and starting for traffic lights and busy intersections. The bland scenery of houses and buildings doesn't suit me for such a long period of time - since I don't run with music I need a little ambiance and some distractions along my route.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached yesterday's seven mile run, and the eight, nine, ten and eleven milers in the coming weeks. As you know, I have been struggling with my running routes since moving out of Manhattan. I never really thought much about routes before I moved since I did all my running in Central Park, where there is no traffic, plenty of ambiance and sundry distractions. But now they are pretty much all I think about. Because when one spends a significant amount of one's time running, the route better be good.

I decided on Friday that I needed to find a Central Park-like route that pleased me for the second half of my training season. So I took to the internet, determined not to stop researching until I found some new pavement to pound.

In short order, I discovered the Bronx River Pathway, a trail that runs alongside the Bronx River Parkway from the New York City-Westchester line all the way up to Valhallah - a 13.2 mile stretch. Being a big believer in fate, as I am, I figured it was no accident that the trail spanned the exact distance of a half-marathon. I had to try it out.

So I plotted an out and back route that would take me from the White Plains Metro-North station, where I could leave my car, all the way up to the end of the trail and back for my seven miles. And when I woke up Sunday morning I couldn't wait to get started.

I wasn't the least bit disappointed.

The run was delightful, the trail gorgeous. In some places I had company, and in others I was alone. There were ponds, benches, trees, bridges - all the things I loved about my former Central Park home.

I was so excited about this new development in my running life that I couldn't help but stop along the way to document my first run on the Bronx River Pathway - the first, I am absolutely sure, of many.

Friends, I do believe I'm back.

Starting Line (and Finish Line)

The Trail

Halfway Marker

Kensico Dam Park


  1. Oh, nice!! I used to have this wonderful trail directly behind the apartments I lived in and it was wonderful!! I would just step out my door and onto the trail and off I would go. And then, of course, when I lived in Honduras, you couldn't beat that for running. Best scenery ever, and I love the sound of my feet crunching on dirt.

    See, you've made me nostalgic :) I have some decent places around here, but nothing spectacular, but you've inspired me to start huntint one out.

  2. Looks like you found yourself a good one. Almost makes me want to start running again. Almost! :)

  3. I loved reading this. I have gone from being a non-runner to runner to runner-wanna-be. When in college, I absolutely hated running, but in my early and mid-twenties, I really took to it. Now, as I settle in to my mid-thirties, my body just doesn't seem to take to it as well and I have had to significantly cut back. Through it all though, I've always been a treadmill runner, needing the distraction of the TV/music and the motivation of a pacekeeper. I have always admired runners who can run outside, anywhere, and without music. It seems so much more therapeutic. I'm glad you found a good route to get in the zone and think up blog posts :-)

  4. I'm so jealous of the beautiful trail you found!! I've pretty much always lived in cities and have had to contend with traffic lights and such. In order to do my marathon training, I turned to the beach bike path. While the view of the ocean was great, I'm more a forest girl, and I long to run in trails through the trees. Also, besides the fact that I have to do a boring out and back run along the beach, the paths are flat as flat can be, so the reality of the inclines during the actual marathon killed me!

  5. So with you on this. It's six miles for me too. Feels like i will never again run that far. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS.

  6. A good route does make all the difference. I don't run; I'd like to, but I just never had the stamina for it. But biking, that's something I've been trying to do lately. I want to do the 40 mile marathon throughout Manhattan in May and while I'm not sure I'll be able to hack it, the training has been fun. I've gotten out and biked and hiked with friends along the local countryside and in nearby woods and it's just so rejuvenating, you know? You're taken away from everything for a little while and you get a chance to clear your head. Hurray for you! Go get 'em girl! I'll be cheering you on!

  7. Beautiful route! So glad you founds a place to run that makes you happy!