Oh how I missed the high found on a running track! Not that I was that familiar with it. Before this morning the last time I was on an outdoor track was during a brief stint on my high school track and field team – go Colonels. I wasn’t very good, but I found a lot of fulfillment in pushing myself in ways I never had. Even if that did mean overdosing on an albuterol inhaler or temporarily paralyzing my leg muscles and avoiding stairs. Truly, it was worth it.
In my goal to getting fit, I’ve started walking a few miles during the week. So far I’ve walked routes through the West Village and Meatpacking District, and I’ve walked along the Hudson. Today I wanted to take on the outdoor track in Astoria Park. The first time I discovered said track it was full of what I perceived to be hardcore athletes. In reality, I was too dazzled by the stadium lights to notice the wheezing, overweight men running laps. Now in daylight, I could see the beginning runners and out of shape hopefuls. Perfect. I belong here too.
As soon as I hit the track I fell in love. Yes, the sweaty, muscle-perfect men were just lovely, but I was too distracted by the red pavement ahead of me. When I looked down at the rough and porous road, I saw infinity. Infinite time, infinite space, infinite possibilities. If I wanted to walk, I could walk. If I wanted to run, I could run. If I only had ten minutes, that would be okay too. That complete open space mingled with the structure of an exact quarter-mile course made me feel safe and free at the same time. Safe and free, exactly what I need.
I never felt pressured or guilty to do or not do something. It was okay that my legs hurt or that one lap required two puffs from my inhaler. Because the track wasn’t going anywhere. Any motivation I needed, I got from the pavement. It’s as if it was coaching me. Sometimes it would say “come on, I dare you” and other times it would soothe me with, “it’s okay, slow down”.
The landscape surrounding the track cannot go unmentioned. Astoria park has become one of my favorite places in New York. I call it my park beneath two bridges. Just to the right of the track the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge stands tall. At one end, past the fencing, runs the Hudson River. At the other end and to the left are trees and park benches. The rest of the park continues up the Hudson and offers some of the best views I’ve seen in the five years of living in New York. Having the track cradled by such a landscape makes it that much sweeter.
They say exercise releases endorphins and can account for better moods (and I imagine, for this high I’m on 2 hours later). I bet “they” would also have something to say about the environment you exercise in. Don’t hold me accountable for scientific findings, but I can say that my 1.75 miles at the track was the best way I could have started my day. If you don’t like exercise or find it hard to get motivated, a “go get ‘em champ!” speech from me isn’t going to get you running. What I can say, is that there is a way for you and when you find the right routine, you’ll know. This morning, I found mine on the track.
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