Great Places To Run In and Around NYC

As we wrap up our last week here in NYC until next spring I have had the chance to do a few short post marathon runs.  The beautiful fall colors and paths brought back some really great memories of running NYC for the past 12 years and especially training for a marathon.  One of the best things about NYC, as well as it’s biggest drawback, is that despite NYC being one of the largest cities in the world it is geographically pretty small.  That means that after 12 years I have run almost every nook and cranny.  Some days I would weave around city streets and others I would travel parks and bridges.  Below are a few of my favorites that I recommend if you get a chance to run here.

Central Park:

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Central Park is synonymous with NYC.  While it is not one of my most favorite places to run, it really is a must if you come to visit.  The loop around the park is just over 6 miles of some pretty big as well as gently rolling hills.  The actual run is a nice challenge, but you also get to see a panoramic view of the city skyline.  You will see the Sheep’s Meadow, Wollman Rink, Carousel, The Boathouse, Great Lawn, Resevoir, Metropolitan Museum of Art and hundreds of other sights.  Take a stop at 90th street to admire the statue in honor of Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon.

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I have also worked in Central Park for the past 12 years and didn’t know until yesterday that there is a memorial set up for famed distance runner Ryan Shay.  I grew up just a few towns away from Ryan and we ran track during the same years.  Despite the fact that I took a break for awhile, I still followed his running through out high school and college.  Shay passed away from a massive heart attack in 2007 during the Olympic Marathon Trials in Central Park.  There was a rock carved by fellow runners near a tree in the park.  I believe I found the spot but the etchings have faded away.  When I went to visit yesterday I found myself overcome with tears as I read his plaque on a park bench.

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The West Side:

It seems that the only picture I have from running on the West Side is with Flat Stanley.  We had an impromptu 20 mile run together that afternoon.

It seems that the only picture I have from running on the West Side is with Flat Stanley. We had an impromptu 20 mile run together that afternoon.

If you are looking for a nice flat and picturesque run, head for the West Side of the city.  We once took a cab up to the George Washington Bridge and followed the stairs down to the Hudson River.  There you will find the Little Red Lighthouse.  You can follow the path for 13 miles all the way down to Battery Park where you will be able to see Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the new World Trade Center.  Along the way you will pass dozens of cool piers as well as the famed Chelsea Piers and The Intrepid.

The East Side:

That is Roosevelt Island across the river.

That is Roosevelt Island across the river.

Although not as continuous as the West Side path, the East River Promenade has a nice flat section spanning from 60th Street all the way up to 125th Street.  You can follow the East River path all the way down to Battery Park but you will have to weave a little bit as the path does not follow one straight line.  While the East River isn’t quite as picturesque there are still lots of great places to see along the way.

Take the Tramway Car at 59th Street over to Roosevelt Island.  This quiet spot will give you a couple of miles to run looking over at Manhattan from a different view.  Plus the ride in the Tramway Car (same price as a subway ride) gives you a bird’s eye view of the river and city.  And you can relive that pretty scary scene from Spiderman!

Take a run over a bridge.  Now here is where I admit that we once ran all the way along the East River to go run across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It looked different from what I expected and when we got to the other side we realized I had taken us across the Williamsburg Bridge.  Kind of a big difference.  But once we finally found the Brooklyn Bridge we took a detour and waited in line to wolf down a full Grimaldi’s pizza between the two of us.  By the way, I think the Williamsburg Bridge offers a much prettier view but definitely not the same pizza.

Randall’s Island:

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This is one of my favorite places to go.  Cross over the footbridge at East 101st Street and you almost enter a different city.  While you can still see the sights of the city, it is much quieter over there.  There are miles of running paths as well as horse stables, dozens of athletic fields, Icahn Stadium and tennis and golf centers.  It also doesn’t hurt that the FDNY has it’s training center over there and you often see many new recruits out doing training runs.  Excellent motivation for you single (or not so single) ladies or gents.

Upper Saddle River Path:

Get up early on a Saturday or Sunday and take a short drive from the city out to New Jersey.  In less that 30 minutes you will find yourself at the Upper Saddle River Path in Bergen County.  Follow this out for about 6-7 miles along the Saddle River.  Weaving in and out of woods and under bridges, you will feel like you are dozens of  miles away from New York City.  Watch wildlife and fly fisherman as well as happy families biking along the path.  Stop at any of the 100 awesome diners along the way home for a delicious post run brunch.

I would love to hear what your favorite running spots are in the NYC area!

Un-Pasta Margherita

Happy Monday.  I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  While mine was awesome, it was filled with lots of work.  We are wrapping up our final week here in NYC for this fall and Trump Rink, formerly Wollman Rink, in Central Park opened up on Friday.  I spent 10 years as a full time skating coach there and for season 12 I got the chance to come and help out for the first week of lessons before we head back to Chicago.  This is the largest skating program in the country and offers dozens of classes on a daily basis for figure skaters, hockey players, adults, and beginners from ages 2 up to 100.  Did you know they even have a Fit Skate class that caters to runners to help keep them in shape in the off season on the ice?  It was so fun to be back and I still have almost a week left out there on the ice.  Skating is something that has been a part of my life for over 20 years and I truly love sharing this sport with anyone who wants to learn.

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Friday night I was craving a home cooked meal and wanted something healthy.  If I told you that our kitchen was tiny it would be an understatement as you can see from the picture below.  That is in fact, not just our kitchen, but also our living room which also serves as the bedroom.  Short term rental apartments don’t come with a lot of space here in NYC.  Irishrunnerchick mentioned that she thought true New Yorkers used their kitchens as shoe storage.  I am however not a true New Yorker, and this Midwestern girl likes to cook and spread out!  But I picked up a delicious spaghetti squash and was determined to do something with it using whatever I had on hand.
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That is the whole apartment there. I am literally leaning up against the window to take this picture.

I am not a big pasta eater.  I do not eat a lot of complex carbohydrates and generally just don’t crave pasta.  But I do get a hankering for margherita pizza now and then.  So I decided to combine the two into a super low carb and healthy recipe.  The end result was delicious and very easy.
The basil, tomatoes and cheese....so good!

The basil, tomatoes and cheese….so good!

Un-Pasta Margherita:
Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash
4 on the vine tomatoes or any other type of tomato
1 clove of garlic
Handful of fresh basil
1 medium ball of fresh mozzarella
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Directions:
Slice spaghetti squash (carefully) down the center lengthwise into two equal halves.  Scoop out the seeds until you are left with just the inner yellow shell.  Bake on a baking sheet for 45-60 minutes at 425° facing down.
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While the squash is baking, dice up the tomatoes and put in pan over medium heat with a dash of olive oil and fresh garlic.  Simmer until a nice “sauce” has been made.  Chop up the fresh basil and toss in.  Give it a good stir.
Remove squash from oven when tender and scoop the yellow strands with a spoon or fork and add to the tomato mixture.  Toss until everything is evenly mixed together.  Thinly slice the mozzarella and spread over the pasta mixture and allow to melt for a few minutes.  There will be a lot of “spaghetti” that you can scoop out of both halves.  I saved one half in a container for another time and used the other in my tomato mixture.  If you want to skip the dairy, goat cheese would be a delicious alternative.
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Serve and enjoy.  This is as close to a pasta dish as you will get without actually eating pasta.  It is a great light and gluten free option.  It also allows me to get that margherita flavor that I love from the pizza without overdoing it in the calorie department.
A huge congrats to all of the Marine Corps Marathoners for your hard work and awesome finishes this past weekend.  A special shout out goes to hellyontherun.  I have been following her blog through training and can’t wait to read her recap!

Fall Getaway

Happy Thursday!  We just got back yesterday from a lovely 24 hour adventure an hour north of New York City.  Several years ago my husband and I came across the small town of Fishkill, New York and we absolutely fell in love with it.  It is the perfect distance from NYC and just a beautiful hour long drive along the Hudson River.

We randomly had two days off this week and a free night to use with our Marriott points so we cashed them in and headed north.  The weather wasn’t perfect, chilly and rainy, but we weren’t complaining.  The fall colors were out in full display and Fishkill sits perfectly at the foothills of some small mountains.
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Our first stop was Fishkill Farms where we make an annual trip to get some apples, apple cider donuts and coffee.  It was pouring and since it wasn’t the weekend, they didn’t have their usual awesome festivities going on.  So we grabbed some freshly made (as in still warm) donuts and hopped back in the car.  We both agreed that they were the best donuts we have ever had.  I could have eaten them by the dozen!
Another reason we love this area is that it is full of incredible history.  The town itself was established in the early 1700’s and there are relics of the Revolutionary War all over.  Many properties still have the original fieldstone lining them and there are so many gorgeous original churches, cemeteries, and even a few homes.  On our drive in we passed the spot where Benedict Arnold fled during the Revolution.
Despite the weather we drove to a favorite rail trail and wandered for a few miles.  Being that it was the middle of the week on a drizzly afternoon, we had the trail to ourselves.  It was delightful!  This was where we trained two springs ago for a marathon.  We did a 17 and 18 mile run on this path and have some pretty great memories from those runs.
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Rebellious!

Rebellious!

After a stop at All Sport Fishkill (my favorite gym ever and they offer free passes to hotel guests) for a nice interval run, we headed out to one of our favorite places for dinner.  This was my first real run since the marathon and I admittedly did most of it because I planned on doing some damage at dinner.  Café Maya is a legit Mexican restaurant.  I went to town on the chips and salsa and had a margarita that I had been really looking forward to.  That was followed up by some authentic Mexico City tacos.  Heaven!
Did I mention that the hotel hooked us up with an upgraded room?  This is awesome anytime but considering the tiny studio apartment we have been living in for the last few weeks here in the city, this was a HUGE deal!  Our place in the city is so small that we have been sleeping on a pull out couch and there is no TV or internet.  We enjoyed sprawling out, watching TV, and sleeping on a real bed!
Wednesday was followed up by some more rainy rail trail action and then a drive to the Sleepy Hollow area.  Most people visit the area this time of year because it is Sleepy Hollow but we were there for an even more exciting adventure, Stew Leonards!  This grocery store is a food lover’s dream.  You won’t find anything prepackaged here.  It is just a maze of fresh produce, meat, and dairy along with singing produce and animals around every corner.  In the spring and summer they even have a baby farm animal petting zoo.  Plus they make their own frozen yogurt and ice cream. Worried about where your milk is coming from?  Check out the live video feed from their dairy farm in Connecticut.
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Sometimes its nice to have a band sing to you while you pick out your produce.

Sometimes its nice to have a band sing to you while you pick out your produce.

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If you ever come to NYC for a trip, skip the Statue of Liberty and visit Stews.  Sit outside and get something from their grill and enjoy their not so NYC produce prices.
We stocked up on some delicious produce, grazed on yummy samples, and headed back to the city determined to figure out a way to cook healthy meals for the remaining week we are here in our minute kitchen.
Oh yeah they make donuts too.  In case you were wondering, they are delicious as well.

Oh yeah they make donuts too. In case you were wondering, they are delicious as well.

What an adventure!  Sometimes all it takes is 24 hours to come back refreshed and ready.  And a comfy bed doesn’t hurt either.  Any color tours planned for you?

Find What You Love

Last Wednesday I was strolling up Fifth Avenue with earphones in and cruising along.  I had been in NYC for less than 24 hours and was admiring the marathon route flags all over the place and still enjoying the excitement of just finishing ours.  As I was daydreaming a woman walked past me and I noticed her stop.  Then she tapped me on the arm, “Coach Sarah!  What are you doing here?  Thank goodness, I need your help.  I am running the marathon in a few weeks and I am a bit lost in my training.”

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I have to admit, it felt pretty awesome to be stopped like that.  I felt a bit like a celeb (just a tiny bit).  It was the parent of a student I have worked with and she had heard from other people that I was a running coach.  I was relieved to know I hadn’t been forgotten here in NYC while I was away.

On Monday my husband and I went to the first hockey practice for a school here in the city.  For over eight years my husband was the director of their early hockey programs and I was one of his assistant coaches.  From the moment I met him he has always had a very special patience with children.  They flock to him and he works wonders.  It has never been about the actual sport to him nor worrying about being the best athlete.  For both of us it has always been about instilling a joy in whatever the activity is and about feeling good about yourself.

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For that very reason we have always taken the group of skaters who cannot stand up or are struggling.  On Monday there were about 15 of these kindergarten boys who needed help just standing up.  Together we crawled on our knees, held boys up, and showed them how to stand on their own and march across the ice.
It would be easy to get frustrated with ourselves, each other, or the children but we have both learned that things never go as you expect and a little sense of humor is the key to everyone surviving  By the end we had 15 little penguins moving across the ice and some hilarious stories to share later that evening.
I survived!

I survived!

As we laughed about some of the funnier moments at the rink my husband said, “It was nice to be out there again and to remember just how good we are at that.”  He didn’t mean it in a cocky way.  It was just an honest and proud moment for both of us.  Over the years we have watched coaches come and go in various sports. Some were great athletes and others were just new to the sport.  Those that lasted and succeeded understood that each child is different and not everyone is going to love this sport.  But our job as coaches is to be patient and make sure each child or athlete receives the love and attention they deserve.
It blows my mind that I have been coaching for 18 years now.  I started coaching figure skating at the age of 16 when my own coach was looking for an assistant.  When he saw me succeeding with students he helped to encourage me and share his knowledge, less about skating and more about being a good coach and ambassador for any sport.  I was lucky enough to be taken under his wing and travel with him around the country to teach clinics.  Despite the fact that he was a figure skating coach he encouraged me to also put on hockey skates and work to understand that sport more as well.  He emphasized a positive attitude and caring demeanor, both of which will be passed on to those you are teaching.  He also taught me that an end of the day Chardonnay can improve just about any rough session.
My beloved coach was lovingly known as LKS "Lord Kollen Sir."  He will forever hold a special place in my heart.

My beloved coach was lovingly known as LKS “Lord Kollen Sir.” He will forever hold a special place in my heart.

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I once went into a political science course in college and the professor said, “I love political science.  I realize not everyone else does and that is okay.  But I hope I can make this a fun enough course that you come away with something you like about political science.”  It worked for me because I switched my biology major over to political science a year later.  What I loved most was that he understood that the subject wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  A good teacher or coach finds a way to bring out something about that subject that you enjoy.  Great coaches motivate!
Over the years we have taught dozens of sports to children.  Some kids stick with it and others move on to greener pastures.  Sometimes parents will see my husband or I and sheepishly say, “Oh Bobby doesn’t play lacrosse anymore.”  My husband will quickly say that it is okay and ask what activity they are doing these days.  “Oh he’s really into soccer now,” they might respond and my husband’s honest response is always that it is great to hear.  Sometimes lacrosse isn’t for everyone but it is great to see that an athlete has found something that works for them and gives them enjoyment.
I think this is important for all of us to keep in mind as coaches, adults, and parents that we all should strive to find something we truly enjoy.  For me it is running, although there was definitely a time when it wasn’t.  But I also know that running isn’t for everyone.  And I wouldn’t recommend running to a person who doesn’t like it.  On the other hand, as a coach I always try to be like my political science professor.  I KNOW running can seriously suck and I try my hardest to find something, anything, about running to make it fun for an athlete.
Find something you love and enjoy and stick with it.  We are never too old to try new things.  It honestly is all about staying active and having fun.  Give everything a shot, because you just never know….
Thanks Coach LKS.  I love my hockey skates!

Thanks Coach LKS. I love my hockey skates!

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Terry Fox

This past Saturday was the Terry Fox 5K race in Central Park.  Our student Zach wanted to try out a 5K for the first time and we all thought this would be a good one for him.  One of the first friends I met here in New York City 12 years ago has been doing this race for awhile and highly recommended signing up.  Heather is one of nicest and most fun people ever, so it was an added incentive to see her too.

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Crazy fact; I have lived in New York City off and on for over 12 years now and never run a single race in the actual city.  I have done  so many races in Connecticut, New Jersey,  and all over Upstate New York.  So this was actually a first for me too.
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The race started right smack in the middle of Central Park by the Bethesda Fountain.  We had signed up online and packet pick up was the hour before the race began.  Registration was free with the offer of making a donation on behalf of the Terry Fox Foundation.  Unbelievably we each received T-shirts with our bibs the morning of the race.  The shirts are you standard cotton T-shirt but the front is a really neat picture of Terry Fox.
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Terry Fox was a Canadian athlete who was diagnosed with cancer.  In 1980, with one leg amputated due to his cancer, he went on to start a cross country running journey to help raise money and awareness for cancer research.  His journey was called the Marathon of Hope.  He made it to Thunder Bay, Ontario where he had to cut short his journey due to his illness and passed away nine months later.
Today the Terry Fox Foundation is huge both in Canada as well as the United States.  Races are run in his honor each year all over the country to help spread his legacy and continue his humanitarian efforts for cancer research.
This was my first run back after the marathon and was glad to take it nice and easy with our buddy Zach and his friend Raphael.  I followed them as they took off on their first 5K, two laps of the lower loop of Central Park. This was a nice easy one for these two who are already accomplished half marathoners at the old age of thirteen.  It was well directed and boasted over 3000 runners!
My husband's depiction of the race to our preschool sports class yesterday.  Pretty accurate.

My husband’s depiction of the race to our preschool sports class yesterday. Pretty accurate.

There were plenty of aid stations for a 5K (hosted by the Harlem Rangers youth hockey team) as well as plenty of cheer stations full of volunteers along the course.  The Park can be crowded this time of year as athletes are winding down their marathon training along with lots of tourists and horse drawn carriages blocking the paths.  The volunteers did a great job with crowd control.
I crossed the finish right behind two sweaty but very happy young boys.  There weren’t any medals to be given out but the Terry Fox 5K did not disappoint.  There were tents full of food and refreshments, emcees chatting it up with the crowd and some really incredible raffle prizes.  The Four Seasons Hotel made for one awesome sponsor for this race.  Free trip to Orlando or brunch at the Four Seasons?  That’s a nice incentive to wake up and run a few miles.
The best part of the day, besides Zach winning one of the raffles, was that despite this being a free race they pulled in over $130,000 in donations.  Now that is a serious success!
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Congrats to Zach, Raph, and my friend Heather for running a great race for a great cause on Saturday.
By the way, if you are missing that achy post race feeling in your quads and hamstrings we came across the perfect solution for you.  As we were leaving the park there was a group doing a two mile lunge adventure.  My husband ran up to take their picture and they offered to let him join.  He decided last weeks 26.2 was enough damage on the legs for time being.
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Lies, Lies, Lies

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Yesterday I got to do one of my favorite things, stroll around the city and listen to “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” I’ve said this before but this radio show is one of my favorites. I get into the news quizzes and answer questions out loud without realizing it and I probably look like a nut walking around laughing to myself.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when one of the quiz questions happened to be about running. The question was, “In the interest of runner’s safety, the Baltimore Marathon has banned spectators from doing what at this weekend’s race?”

The answer is something that I had recently mentioned to my husband. What is the most annoying thing that you should never say to a person running in a race? Never, ever shout, “You are almost there.”

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Yes the marathon had requested that spectators not shout those words. They wanted to help keep the runners from sprinting towards the end too early.

Peter Sagal is the host of this show and is an experienced marathoner. Here is what he had to say about this: “At all the big marathons, and I’ve experienced this, thousands of spectators line the streets supporting the runners. And we love this – they support the runners by shouting obvious lies at them. They yell things like “almost there” when you’ve got 10 miles to go. They yell “looking good” because the truth is ‘Dear God seek medical attention now,’ is not encouraging.”

I was laughing pretty hard at this and replayed it for my husband when he arrived home.

This past summer he trained for the Chicago Marathon. He worked pretty hard and was looking forward to trying to beat his time from over a year ago. For the previous race we both had trained really well and went in hoping to finish under 4 hours. We both surpassed anything we expected and finished nearly a half hour under our goal. I was so excited for him to run Chicago because he had trained well and was looking great. I saw him on the course at mile 10 and he was running strong.

As I was running with my athletes and helping them along the course he called me. I thought for sure he was calling to tell me that he finished. Instead he called to let me know that at mile 18 something popped in his hip flexor and he was really struggling. He was going to finish but would have to walk the rest of the race and didn’t want me to worry.

I was heart broken for him. It was so frustrating to work that hard and get that close to the finish and have a surprise injury like that come out of nowhere. He had never had ANY issues with his hip flexor. But as is the nature the marathon, you never know what will happen out there.  So he walked the rest of the race…or should I say he hobbled.

Chicago has incredible amenities along its course. There are 20 aid stations that span 2 blocks each. Each aid station also has medics and massage therapists. Every time he approached an aid station medics would come to him and ask if he was okay. Most were very helpful and once they knew it was nothing threatening they would offer him some Biofreeze or Tylenol and send him on his way.

But at a few aid stations he encountered medics who would shout, “Keep going.  You’re almost there.” He said that it happened first at mile 20 and he found it so frustrating. He wasn’t even close and at the rate he was going it felt like forever until the finish. One medic at mile 25 yelled, “You’re almost there you have less than a mile.” He wanted to shout at him and tell him he had OVER a mile to go.

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The night before the marathon I spoke with the athletes on our team and reminded them that one of the most important things that you can do during any race and especially a marathon is stay in the moment. Stay in the mile you are currently in and don’t worry about the next one or 10 miles from now. One runner later told me she used that as her mantra and would think, “22, 22, 22,” and then, “23, 23, 23.”

I know, and we all know, that the spectators are a huge part of what makes the marathon doable for us. They pull us through some really hard parts of the race when we really need to dig deep. But when someone tells you that you only have one more mile to run I want to ask them to run the mile with me. Most non-runners find a mile to be the longest thing they have ever had to endure. Usually they start asking me how far they have gone just a quarter of the way in.

While I appreciate the Baltimore Marathon’s efforts to keep spectators from shouting such frustrating words, I also find it quite amusing. All I can think is that some frustrated former marathoner was definitely behind that idea.

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What do you think of this?  Good idea?  Silly idea?  What would be the best sign you could see on the course?  Personally, food and drinks motivate me :)

A special congrats to our friend Angie who did the Avon Walk For Breast Cancer this past weekend.  Talk about endurance!  She walked 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday for this great cause.

The Post Race Blues

A little over a year ago my husband and I got married.  It was a spectacular day and something I dreamed about for a long time.  After we got engaged I had a blast planning for our wedding and was on a mission to make it a good time from start to finish…no bridezillas here.  I embraced finding ways to make it fun for our guests and also easy(ish) on my parent’s wallet.  The whole process was fun.  And then the day arrived and I loved every minute of it.  I loved the dress, the ceremony, the reception….oh we partied hard.  I went to bed and then I woke up the next morning.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a moment of, “So now what?”  I remember wondering what it must be like for those brides that pour their hearts and every last bit of their selves into that big day.  Because when you wake up the next morning, it could be easy to be a bit sad to see it over.

The very same thing seems to happen with running.  I can’t begin to tell you how many people told me that they were “over” running right before the marathon.  Fast forward three days later and I have had numerous requests for recommendations for upcoming races.

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It is somewhat amusing how awful the last few miles of a race can be.  Add that to how tired you are at the end of a training cycle and you often feel like you need a break or at times a change of sport.  But something seems to happen between the time you cross the finish line and when you arrive back home.  You are either high off of the excitement of your experience or in some cases, seeking revenge.  Either way, you have that “what next?” feeling.

First, make sure you take some time to adequately recover.  Rest your body.  If you feel antsy go for some walks or do some yoga.  But let your body get the repair time it needs.

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Then remember that all races are not created alike.  You don’t have to run another half or full marathon.  And you don’t even have to race.  Sometimes just being out with the running community is all you need.   Find a 5K, 10K, or trail race.  Ask some friends to join you or help someone new to the sport get through their first race.  That will get you excited to move forward.

This time of year is perfect for finding fun themed races.  In fact, yesterday we registered for the Hot Chocolate 15K and a Turkey Trot.  The latter is for obvious damage control reasons.  But there are all kinds of jingle dashes and holiday fun runs to put you in the spirit.

If you are feeling the post race blues but your body still isn’t feeling it consider volunteering at a local race.  Getting the chance to give back to the running community is a great way to lift your spirits.  You get the best of both worlds; the exciting vibe of racing without feeling like you might throw up.

You can also meet up with your running buddies at a local bar to commiserate.  Hopefully you have already done this!

And if you are still feeling those post race blues take comfort in the fact that soon you will find yourself deep into another training cycle and feeling that other kind of misery all over again.