Here at Greatist, we believe in taking a day off. Instead of our regular programming Saturdays, our writers get a chance to write about living the greatist lifestyle and, basically, whatever they want. This is one of those awesome articles. Enjoy!
It was over a year ago, but I still remember my favorite run.
I’m a runner. It’s taken me about three years, three half-marathons, five 10Ks, and numerous shorter races to become confident enough to say that out loud, but I am indeed a runner. Why do I run? Because it’s the easiest, cheapest way for me to stay in shape. It works for me, for my body, and my life. But that’s not all. My answer to that question changed last June, when I had my favorite run.
I had read an essay in Runner's World in which the writer described his favorite run— not a favorite route to run, but a favorite specific run he took at a specific point in time. At the time I read the essay, I didn't have a favorite run. I thought maybe my first half-marathon would be my favorite run, but it wasn't. It was my proudest run, without a doubt, but that's different from being a favorite. All of my races are proud runs, and some of my morning runs are tough runs or surprising runs or fun runs, but none stood out in my mind as a favorite.
As I walked outside that morning, turned on my Garmin, and re-tied my shoelaces, I was thrilled that the weather was basically perfect for a run: 60 degrees, breezy, and just beginning to get sunny at 5:45 AM. It had been hot, humid, sticky, and just generally gross-feeling in New York City for the week or so prior, so the prospect of a comfortable run in near-ideal conditions had me giddy.
I set out for my 4.5-mile route, one I had run on countless mornings before. The route starts on a hilly residential street in my Brooklyn neighborhood, then takes me out and back on a short pier, and then continues on a bike path beside a highway and finishes at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. I know I’m lucky to live in New York City and regularly run on a tree-lined street and a waterside path in view of one of the most impressive suspension bridges in the country, but it had become routine for me.
I didn’t realize it was my favorite run until about halfway through, when I turned around at the end of the pier. I caught a glimpse of lower Manhattan, the just-risen sun in my eyes, a breeze coming in on my left side. Right as I changed direction, the chorus of "My Life Would Suck Without You" by Kelly Clarkson kicked in on my iPod, and I smiled big enough for the early-morning fishermen to see.
The thought immediately came into my head: This is why I run. All the other reasons I thought I ran didn't matter anymore: I don't run to lose weight, I don't run to stay fit, I don't run because it's cheap and I don't want to pay for a gym membership. I run for moments like these, when the light is magical and the air is crisp and the right song comes on at the right time and I feel like I could keep running forever.
As I turned down the bike path, the wind at my back for the final two miles of my run, I knew I was going faster than my normal speed. For a split second I worried that I'd burn out and regret this pace later on, but I pushed the thought out of my head. My legs were moving automatically, my shoulders were down, my eyes were forward. As I passed other runners and walkers and cyclists, I knew my form was tall and strong, my breathing even.
Before I knew it, I had a half-mile left to go and I found another gear I didn't even know I had. I weaved around a group of middle-aged women that I see walking together every morning and crossed my personal finish line— the NYC Parks leaf logo printed on the asphalt near the base of the bridge. I stopped the timer on my watch. I had run those 4.5 miles faster than I ever had before, even during a race.
But the time on my watch didn’t matter; the feeling did— sore legs, beating heart, red face, endorphins pumping through my entire body. Breathless and sweaty, I couldn’t stop smiling as I walked back to my apartment, feeling totally and completely alive.
I am a runner and that was my favorite run. And I can’t wait for my next one.