“I get to run.”
Not, “I have to run.” Change one little word, change the entire meaning. One sentence implies a burden, the other implies freedom.
I celebrated Independence Day by getting to run. And I got to run (and bike) at my Happy Place: Ocean City, New Jersey.
While OCNJ did get pummeled by Hurricane Sandy last fall, from a visitor’s perspective it felt mostly back to normal – though there are some remnants of that Frankenstorm: Some shuttered shops, giant random mounds of sand under buildings, a half-rebuilt dune system, and sights like this:
My brother-in-law and his wife are preparing to do that to their house in a few months. Whoa. They don’t be playin’ around.
So I GET to be in OC and I GET to run. Where should I go for my first long run – 9 miles – of marathon training? Let’s start with the boardwalk…
I left at 6:00 AM to avoid the heat and the crowds. I took off at the south end and headed up. Already, there were quite a few runners out. The boardwalk is always a forgiving surface to run on (except when it’s snow covered) but I noticed the boards were a tad bit warped from Sandy. Walkers wouldn’t notice but I certainly did not want to give my brother-in-law cause for calling me “Tripsy McBleedsalot” as he did a year ago when I tripped and bled 0.3 miles from his house on a night run, so I made sure to pick up my big clodhoppers and tread carefully.
I ran about 2 miles, then cut across the island at 9th Street and headed to the brand-spanking new Route 52 Causeway/Bridge. It’s 2.2 miles across with a huge, lovely pedestrian walkway that makes it an attraction unto itself. It has two hill climbs, great views, a nice breeze, and that makes it a perfect spot for a run. The family and I had biked it the day before and I couldn’t wait to venture across it again.
I ran to the base of the bridge. I wish I could have taken a better picture, but the ascent is curved and moderately steep and it does look like you’ll launch yourself into the bay, Dukes of Hazard-style.
Getting to the top, though, YEE-HAW, the views are breathtaking!
I’m so glad I dragged my arse out of bed to do this sunrise run! I’m about 3 miles in at this point, and I’m nice and warmed up. Here’s what’s in front of me, and it’s glorious:
Next, it’s a long downhill, then a long flat, and then and ascent/descent over the second span, which is very teeny in the distance. Stopping at the cluster of trees by the Visitor’s Center, if you’re a bit of bird-nerd you’ll spot some nesting Night Herons.
I just kept moving right along at a safe 11:00 long-run pace. There were times I had to hold myself back from running too fast. Being that it was the first long run of the training cycle, I did not want to blow-out my feet.
I get to the top of the second span, and the view is just blissfully breathtaking. By this time, I had a serious runner’s high going, I felt like I was sweating unicorn tears and sprouting Pegasus wings, this view was JUST THAT GOOD.
I got to the end, turned around and headed back over the same spans. The breeze was blowing, and there were many walkers/bikers/runners out, but not enough to make it crowded. It was PERFECT. Like riding a rainbow (again, it’s the endorphins talking here). I didn’t want it to end. My feet did, but I didn’t.
I left the span and headed back to the boardwalk to finish the last 2 miles. By this time, the boardwalk was getting crowded, but runners have their own cute little lanes.
As my run ended and the boardwalk narrowed, it became filthy with runners.
I get to walk out the door, get to wear what I want, get to experience beautiful run, get to take dorky selfies, get to sweat unicorn tears, get to ice my feet, and I get to be a little bit sore. For that freedom, I am truly thankful.