Monday, November 14, 2011

Drug of choice

I can't remember a more beautiful early November than we're currently experiencing. It almost makes up for the muted foliage season and the need to crank on the furnace in October to offset the chill from our premature snow event. Something happened to me this month, just like I've always feared since high school health class when I learned that one could become addicted to heroin with just one use. I've found my heroin in cross country running.

Now, granted, once upon a time, I knew I was born to be a gymnast, however I started lessons way too late to ever be competitive, so I competed against myself. Maybe that's when I became a non-team player. I remember one summer in particular, I practiced for hours with my friend, Brenda, in her cement basement cushioned with old mattresses, as she worked to perfect her side aerial and me my back handspring. I kind of lost my passion after an unrelated injury forced me to take some time off. There was an extended period of time when my feats were more social and academic than traditionally physical endeavors, which means I was too busy having a different type of fun to exercise with any real commitment. And then the babies came, which was an entirely different and engrossing physical experience, of course, leaving no room (or energy) for recreational physical pursuits. It was about mere survival some of those days.

I stepped back into the exercise world when the boys were in primary school, beginning with yoga. When I left my first class I remember declaring "I've found my sport!" I immediately loved it, the combination of physical stretching and mental quieting was just what I needed. Ultimately I learned that it really was all about the instructor and just couldn't work a class I loved regularly into my schedule. And honestly, I need to exercise more than once or twice a week and would find myself easily bored with yoga. I needed something more demanding. Spinning class met the requirement for physically challenging, but again it was about the instructor and their music and I needed more flexibility in my schedule - plus I hated the competitiveness necessary to get a bike. And I got bored.

The only things that really held my attention, and that I could do on my own schedule, were cross country skiing and cycling.  While totally dependent upon the weather and season, these two activities provided everything I seemingly wanted in a drug exercise - I could go solo or with friends, there were both local and more distant places to pursue these interests, I could literally do either on a moment's notice, modifying my route to accommodate time available and challenge desired.  And I could party exercise outdoors - something I found increasingly more appealing as I began to acquire the clothing and gear that allowed me to play outside and remain comfortably warm.   

But, now there's something new in my world - an activity I never expected to like, much less fall in love with. Running cross country has changed my world. Perhaps my passion is a natural progression on the path of health and well being I've been increasingly drawn to you as I age. Which is ironic in a way because when I'm trotting along a wooded path in a park or golf course, I feel very much as if I'm revisiting my childhood.  The sensation of being outdoors, observing and absorbing the world around me while  pushing my body to keep going, is amazingly invigorating and stimulating. Like speed with a slightly different, less erratic heart race.  

I'm never going to run a marathon, unless running 26 miles is 6 times more fun than running 4.5 miles, and I'm perfectly okay with that.  The pure joy (now I get it, Lucinda!!) I get from running solo, or in the company of a friend, allows me the opportunity to continue my lifelong quest to enjoy moderation in all things.  Anybody want to come along and score some endorphins? 


  1. Don't write off that marathon yet. The people of NYC make you feel like a rock star when you compete in the NYC Marathon. Its another high you can't imagine until you experience it . . . like X-C running and heroin.

  2. Do you have recommendations on places to run x-country around Albany? When I was living in Northampton there was an amazing set of trails that I loved to run on-- haven't found anything around Albany yet, but I'd love your suggestions.

  3. James -Thanks for two terrific, hilly runs. That was a blast!

    nc - I loved the trails in Saratoga and think 5 Rivers has some serious potential also. Capital Hills on New Scotland is great for a combination of blacktop and woodsy trails and I'm really enjoying getting to know the terrain un-snow covered. I think Washington Park would do in a pinch to get off the roads/sidewalk for a change of pace. Also, I hear Thatcher Park has some great trails. And The Crossings in Colonie is nice, too.

  4. Have you had any contact with the Albany Running Exchange? I have run alongside many of their members who come down to New Paltz to participate in some of the mountain runs put on by the Shawangunk Runners Club. The ARE website is worth checking out for you Capitol District run lovers: