Sunday was the 12th annual Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 mile run at Central Park. Achilles International is a nonprofit organization that pairs able-bodied volunteers with disabled runners so that everyone can participate in main-stream athletics. I know some people who have volunteered with Achilles and all have described their experiences with them as pretty unforgettable.
The race started at 9am that morning and as of that time it was 74 degrees with a humidity of nearly 60%. As I was on my way to the park that morning, I went down the checklist to see if I had everything that I needed for this race:
– Phone? Still plugged into the wall and sitting on the windowsill.
– Music? Unlikely since all my music is on my phone on that windowsill.
– Earbuds? No, but I didn’t have a phone to plug them into anyway.
– Vivobarefoot sneakers? Of course!
– Race bib? Yes! 3667 was already pinned to my shirt.
I had the things that I absolutely needed so I was all set. No phone, no gps watch, no problem – I could rough it. It would be like camping, but with a lot more running. (Or camping while running away from a bear, maybe?) It was “only” 5 miles and I would be done before I knew it.
I got to the beginning of the race about a minute after the starting horn sounded, but there were still a ton of people waiting to cross the starting line and so I shimmied my way into the crowd and felt like I was missing something. I went to turn on my music, but remembered I didn’t have any. My right hand instinctively went to my left wrist to start my Nike+ watch but it landed on my bracelet that I always wear instead. No sign of my watch anywhere. Alright then – I guess the only thing left to do was just run. And so I started to run.
There were so many Achilles guides in their bright yellow shirts, and a ton of runners in wheelchairs, handcycles, with prosthetic or amputated limbs. Some were training to be guides, too – there was a girl running while wearing a mask over her eyes while being helped by a guide. Kind of makes you never want to take those legs, eyes and everything else you’ve got for granted again!
The course started around 67th street on the west side of the park and went counterclockwise around the southern loop of Central Park, up the Cat Hill, through the 102 Street Transverse back to the west side, and then straight down the west side of the park back to where we started. Pretty straightforward and nothing I’d never done before.
When we got to the Cat Hill, I happened to be near a runner whose right leg and arm twisted extremely inward, forcing him to move his body in a strange direction each time he ran on that leg. The hill must have been incredibly tough for him, but he didn’t show it. The entire way up the hill he repeated “This hill has nothing on me. It’s got nothing. Nothing on me.” Each time he said it he smiled, and he made it (pretty exuberantly, I might add) to the top of that hill. He had an energy about him that made me glad that I happened to be in that particular spot at that particular moment to see that particular victory.
Because I didn’t have my Nike+ watch and have grown very reliant on it to check my pace, I had no idea how fast or slow I was going. I thought I was taking it easy, especially because my legs were tired and kind of screaming at me after my 25 mile bike ride and 0.5 mile swim the day before, but I really had no way of really knowing so I just kept chugging along. I know that I picked up the speed the last mile or so. It was very hot and humid out and I kept thinking about the fruit that was waiting at the finish line and wanted an apple more than anything. Seriously, at the moment, nothing in the whole world sounded better than an apple. They ended up handing out peaches and bagels. I grabbed a peach after picking up my medal and a bottled water, and oh man – it was better than an apple.
According to the official results from New York Road Runners, I finished the 5 miles in 40:49 – an 8:10 pace. Not bad for a lazy Sunday while roughing it without modern technology! While I was somewhat surprised to see my time (I had estimated that I was around an 8:30 pace, but really didn’t know), I have also seen a big change in my running lately. Everything else, too, but mostly my running. Maybe it’s all the training starting to come together. Maybe it’s the whole vegan thing I’ve been doing for the last month (after months of research and a relatively slow initial transition). Maybe it’s other things. Maybe it’s all of those things.
But whatever it is, I like it.