Whew! I hope everyone had an awesome weekend! Mine was pretty hectic, chaotic, but so much fun. In retrospect, I guess it had to be because the whole weekend revolved around three things that are near and dear to my heart - running, spectating, and soccer (and yes...in that order!)
After taking a whopping THREE consecutive days off from running this week to rest, heal, and restore my faith and passion for this sport, I woke up bright and early Saturday excited to make my first attempt at something I've never done before. I was going to run from my apartment in Flushing Queens to Central Park in Manhattan! Although on the surface neither the distance nor the running seems extremely challenging, but negotiating the narrow streets of Queens saturated with cars and traffic lights at seemingly every corner can be quite intimidating. But after hearing a good route as suggested by a friend who bikes to the city frequently, I decided to use the bike lanes on an early weekend morning to make my trip into the city.
I packed everything I would need and was out of the door by 7:30AM. Although I was anxious and didn't know what I could find on this run, the whole journey from Flushing to Central Park was entirely stress-free and relaxing. There were minimal cars on the road. Bikes were few and far in between and there were street signs with arrows and directions on how to get to Manhattan. Sweet! I didn't see many other runners but I made sure to greet or say hi to all the ones I did. Once at the bridge though, I did run up behind two twentysomething lads who seemed to be running super fast. They seemed comfortable and were chattering away when I came up behind them. They must have felt my presence because they immediately sped up again. I kept them in my sights and pushed my pace hard. Eventually, I finally caught up to them on the outskirts of Central Park. I thanked them for guiding my travel and pushing my speed as I finished up this ten mile run with a 6:55 final stretch. Average pace came out to be 7:20 min/mi which I was pretty satisfied with.
All-in-all, it was such a fun experience exploring new sights and running into the city. I'm sure I'll be repeating this run multiple times in the upcoming months ahead as I prepare for Chicago on 10/10.
[The weather was so perfect that I went out for a chopsticks (11) mileage run Sunday morning as recovery and ended up running faster than I did yesterday (avg pace was 7:15). Go figure. I also did about 4 "extra" miles this afternoon on a run to my parents house because I was tired of waiting for the bus.]
After ten miles of running, racing and dodging weekend traffic, i was a little pooped by the time I got to Central Park. I barely had time to catch my breath when one of the park volunteers instructed the pedestrians to get off the course because the race was about to start. Was I late to my own race? Luckily no. You see, this past Saturday was the race day for the Mini 10K, a womens only race organized by the NYRR to commemorate the first organized race that catered to women. It's always a popular event and I try to be there every year to spectate and cheer on the ladies as they race through one full loop of the park. This year was especially exciting because Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher (both 6 months pregnant by the way) were planning to run the race too. [Unfortunately we would find out later that Kara hurt her back a short while ago and was forbidden to run this one by her coach Alberto Salazar. Bummer!]
I watched, cheered, and took pictures at mile 5 of the course with some Flyer friends. It was a cool but humid day so some women came through with huge smiles on their faces while others were sucking wind by that point and just wishing that the race would end! Paula came through in the middle of the pack with a barely perceivable baby bump and a huge grin on her face. It was obvious she was enjoying herself out there. I tried to cheer and take pictures at the same time but those specific multi-tasking skills were not up to par as I would often not get my camera ready in time until the racer was already passed me. (See Paula's picture...enough said!) I did see many Flyers and friends as they passed by which made me both happy that they were doing well and sad that I wasn't or couldn't run this one with them. It really was awesome though to see everyone out on the course that I ordinarily don't see when I'm running.
After the race, I headed over to the finish (having received a tip from a friend) and found Kara signing autographs and talking with her million and one admirers. Watching her up-close, I was impressed that she does not look one bit like she's pregnant (unless you knew and focused on her belly). Otherwise, she appeared just as cool, calm, collected and cute as she'd been when I first met her a couple of years ago. She was really patient with everyone and answered almost everyone's questions. It was all just so awesome to see.
After the race, (and some brunch) it was time to hit the bar for some World Cup soccer. Woohoo! Now I don't claim to be a fanatic. Some would even say I'm hardly a fan, since I don't play and I watch the sport with almost the same frequency as I do curling, but for four weeks every four years, I fall in love with the game for several personal reasons.
First of all, it is almost the only sport that my entire extended family can bond over. Since my family, including all my uncles and aunts, are all immigrants from China/Hong Kong where the game is a national past-time, it will be an inevitable topic of conversation at the next family function. Hence, it would serve me well to know a little something about the happenings in the World Cup.
Similarly, I love soccer and the World Cup because it reminds me of my late grandfather. Gramps was a no-nonsense all-work, no-play kind of guy who worked in a garment factory from dawn til dusk five, and sometimes six days a week. Although I lived with my grandparents for a long period of time in my early childhood, I hardly saw him except for an hour or two everyday and on the rare weekend day he had off. Yet, I do remember how crazy/fanatical Gramps was about soccer. Every night, he would fall asleep with an earbud listening to the radio broadcast of a local soccer match. On random nights, he would even miss dinner and not tell anyone that he snug off to watch a big soccer match. He even took me with him a couple of times and tried to explain the game to me. But because I was like 4 or 5 at the time, I had no idea what I was watching and no matter how happy and excited Gramps got explaining the game to me, I couldn't see and couldn't understand what all the fuss was all about. This was extremely frustrating to me. So I never went back with him even though those were about the happiest times I've ever seen my grandfather.
My gramps passed when I was only ten so I never got a chance to watch and talk soccer with him. I know he would have thoroughly enjoyed watching the World Cup. I know I do now when I see an amazing play on the field and think of him trying to explain the rules and action to me, smiling and laughing at my confusion and ignorance.