Sometimes I run. As dictated by a fine bout of weather, the ebb and flow of the physique or, most often, the need for a physical break from indoors, I dig out my joggers, pin back the hair and head out. These running jags start and end as dictated by heat waves and cold spells and often precipitate on a day of supreme indoors antsiness. Too many hours in the same stew of thoughts, an excess of coffee, mind bulging with overthink. The only place to dump it out is the running route.
My preferred circuit is a noose-shaped loop around Prospect Park. This route is punctuated and made possible by three water bubbler stops and the potential for spray coming off the majestic fountain centering Grand Army Plaza. There is no place in NYC more wildly lush than Prospect Park in the summer. Dense bush coats every surface of hill spilling down to the pedestrian road, immediately followed by an expanse of verdant green grass leading to the big meadow.
Besides being the most beautiful park in Brooklyn, Prospect Park is one of the only unbroken pedestrian paths in the borough. This means a great diversity of users, ranging from the idle toker walking an imaginary balance beam along the curb to uniformly clad speeding cycling teams. My plodding jog occurs parallel to faithfully chugging Iron Man trainees, strapped up and down with evenly spaced tiny water bottles. Despite the current Olympic fever, I do not aspire to the heights or lengths of many fellow runners. My body has a high tolerance for activity, and I can successfully decide to run five miles at a time between long periods of inactivity. Paradoxically, this same body is slow to achieve any further lung capacity despite committed training cycles. After a few weeks on the route, a paler shade of scarlet might stain my face as I complete my run, but not much more payoff can be hoped for.
Along the final steepest stretch, the route laughs at me as my pace slows to a baby crawl through the heat. I knot the noose, exiting the park back up Vanderbilt and begin praying for stop lights to halt my journey. A fuzziness of hearing occurs as heat replaces brain matter. I jog past Ample Hills Creamery and curse the families who have ice cream afternoons rather than runs. I pass Soda Bar and smell the backyard and cheap beers that could be happening right now. I even contemplate snagging the last bit of bagel out of some dude's hand as he sits on a bench texting, wondering if I could outrun him with a throat clogged with cream cheese. As I hit Atlantic, the run turns into a chant. I know there are only five blocks to go. My knees do, too. I plod along chanting the blocks: Fulton 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, Greene 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, Lafayette 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, and finally Dekalb. At Dekalb it doesn't matter what the number is. I can stop this madness at the next light. I walk the final block to my apartment building and practically throw the keys at the door, impatient for the jug of water waiting on the other side. I glug jar after jar, trying to respect my promise to stretch after the run. I check the mirror: face is an alarming maroon, body does not look appreciably better, sweat is showering from me onto the floor. But I did it. And I am calmer. Calmer than you are. Calmer than I was. Better.
In other running news, I was lucky to watch a live score and outdoor screening of Run Lola Run this past week at the Prospect Park bandshell, as part of Celebrate Brooklyn! 18 years later, the movie holds up to its rep and the live score done byTHE BAYS was absolutely elevating. If at all possible to see the two simultaneously near you, make it happen. (Thanks, Diane!)