Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Favorite runs of 2009

It's hard to top 2008, when it comes to favorite runs. Last year we were able to climb mountains in Provence, dodge traffic in Paris, and stare down monkeys in Hong Kong. But that doesn't make 2009 a down year. Helen and I ran together up and down the east coast, Helen defended her title at Half-Wit and added another one in our backyard race, and I achieved three of my four goals for the year (and all three running-related goals).

Goals Achieved
Running the Four Corners (August)
A great achievement when it happened, this run also really prepared the way for the marathon training that was to follow. Running 21 miles might have been contra-indicated but things wound up great. It made the later long runs much easier.

Philadelphia Marathon and breaking the 3-hour mark (November)
We're around 4 weeks removed from the marathon now. I still get excited when I see my marathon shirt. And as I type this, I'm wearing the "pain is temporary, pride is forever" t-shirt that Helen got me. Is it all downhill from here?

Staying on-course in a trail race
Here's the amazing thing: I didn't go off course in any of my trail races this year! Not one!

Other Runs:
Snow Running in the Wissahickon (March)
This might have been the most beautiful run I did all year. Surrounded by snow, empty woods, the sun shining. It was a great day to be in the woods.

Running on Ward's Island
When we were up in Manhattan, staying with Helen's friend Kristi on the upper east side, our original plan was to run over to Central Park, run around the park a little bit, then run back. But then I thought, what if we run east instead? What if we see about running along the East River?
It turned out great. The part of the run in Manhattan was a blast, running up the river front, seeing all the local Manhattanites out for their morning walks, their morning runs. But the real treat of the run was crossing over the brige onto Ward Island, and running around the parks there. I always like seeing the 'local' parts of a big city, the nice parts that the people who live there use, and not just the more famous spots.

Running from the new house (April and May)
This wasn't any particular run, just the fun we had in running into the woods once we moved into the new house. It's not like we were far from the woods before. But now, we're only around a quarter mile away. It took some getting used to our new little trail up the Cresheim Creek. And yes, we both got poison ivy at some point, which we imagine was from those trails. But this now feels like our trail, our way home.

Morning run at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (early May)
Last year's trip to Hong Kong was more epic. No question. But waking up at 5 in the morning, on a very beautiful campus clear across the planet, was a surprising little treat. I planned on running short, but I was having so much fun I just kept going, up and down the hills and around the loop. I ended by running a few laps around what has to be the most beautiful track in the world.

Wissahickon Trail Classic
I was pleased with my run, but that's not what gets this into the list of the top. In some ways, this run wasn't fun at all when I was doing it - I probably went harder here that at any other race this year, except for the last 3-4 miles of the marathon. What gets this into the list is Helen's performance. She'd had an off spring, with a lot of PT, and less running than she wanted. Her time at Broad Street (May) was good, but not as good as 2008. So when I saw her coming across the finish line in first place, it was awesome. She was back to her dominant self – the silent assasin! She went on to wins in two other trail races this year, Double Trouble and Half-Wit.

The July 4 Green Ribbon Run (July)
This was a repeat of last year's July 4 run. Helen had sat that one out, deciding (not without some justification) that it was a bit of a boy's club run. I knew that if she had her chance to show up the guys she'd do well. And she did! This year she came along, and Bob R arranged us all a van ride out to the start. We ran the 10 miles back to Bob's house, running along the Wissahickon, running on trails, through mud, across highways, through more mud.

Half-Wit Half-Marathon (August)
This was a win-win, it was everything that I'd wanted Half-Wit to be.

For the first time in three tries, during the post-race festivities, I wasn't fuming about going off course. Helen defended her crown. I brought home the coveted 7th place M 30-39 award.
When I think back to good days this summer, one of my main memories is sitting around post-race, wanderers in full force.

Trail Running in Vermont (August)
Thanks for this run go to Jim Walsh of Paradise Sports
We'd stopped by his shop in Windsor, VT, on the way up to Mom's. We'd called him ahead of time, because we'd gotten a tip that he knew the trails up in Vermont. He actually went and got us a map! From a whole different store? And told us about a trail that isn't even on the map!
The run itself was a lot of fun. A trail run, but a very different kind of trail than we're used to. Much softer, but also quite muddy. You could divide this run into three parts: the fairly-flat-for-Vermont, the not-flat-at-all, and the 5K. We started by running along a creek, through the woods. Then, the trail-that-wasn't-on-the-map took us up to a peak with a lookout tower. Climbing up that was kinda scary... From there, back down, retracing our steps, until we wound up where we parked. There was a 5K course there, up the side of the hill along the creek, which we ran to finish off the run.
15 miles throught the woods. I don't remember seeing another person the whole time.

Finding the Lost Cemetery (September)
This was a run that our friend and fellow wanderer Doug led us on. I started the race in a somewhat off mood; I'd cracked a tooth the night before and, while it didn't hurt, I was pretty conscious of it. Seeing new trails was a hoot, though. I'd never seen those woods, even though they're really quite close. The highlight was coming across an abandoned Jewish cemetery, right in the middle of the woods. Creepy, but not actually scary.

Running Home
This became the mid-week run for Helen and I this fall. We'd either meet at Penn, or at Lloyd Hall, and run back to the house together. This used to be a 12-mile run; the new house makes it only ten. When it's a nice fall day, it's hard to beat being out on the drives.

Those are the runs that stand out. A lot of other to consider – the other trail races we did, the long runs from the marathon training, climbing Mount Everett... you know, as I write them, I'm thinking that they deserve a place, too. I haven't done the math, but I'm pretty sure I ran more this year than any other year, so it's not surprising that there are so many candidates. Here's hoping for a 2010 filled with many more memorable miles!

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