I am cautious. I ride a low bike so that when I stop my feet reach the ground. This is reminiscent of my old banana seat bicycle in the 70’s with the purple handle bar streamers. It was comfortable because of its lack of height and its smooth, plastic seat. I was a proud rider on the streets of Haddontown, Kresson Heights, Brookfield and Woodcrest, riding my modern bike in my bright red keds.
This past week I braved the New York Streets to take my bike out for the third time this summer. I was halfway to my destination, Central Park, when I realized the traffic was too thick. Cars and trucks were double parked. I am not that adventurous. I am cautious. So, at Third Avenue I turned around and headed for the promenade on the East River. When I get to the park I ride to the crosswalk because I can avoid riding up on the curb. I like a flat ride, no bumps. That’s not easy in New York, so I do what I can.
It wasn’t very crowded. It was Tuesday, and some had just started back to work, while others were just getting back from their Labor Day getaways. I rode as if I were a child, gleeful to have the promenade virtually to myself. I ring my high-pitched bell when the few people walking are four wide and there’s no place for me to go. They part and I move on, happy I didn’t have to stop. I am in heaven. There’s something so sweet about moving in space, especially when I know at any given moment my feet can touch the ground.
I can be a solitary person. I like my alone time. I like to figure things out on my own and I like doing things by myself. But I learned something new about myself today while running my first race in awhile. I resist change. In the past I was happy to be a solo runner. I am a very slow runner, mindful of my age and the wear and tear my body has endured. I was pleased to be running at all, and it took me a couple of years to run even one race. Then I ran one run, uncertain of the shouts and cheers the volunteers provided. They meant well, but I liked going at my own pace, listening to a book or a podcast, enjoying beautiful Central Park.
Today for the first time I ran with a partner. Zena, my husband Larry’s cousin, asked if I would meet her to run, and I said I would. She has been a wonderfully encouraging supporter of my running. She runs in Chicago, as well as around the world when she’s traveling for work. So today I ran alongside her. We talked, and she asked how I felt about run/walking. My friend Jeannette, another supporter and avid runner suggested it last week, but I said I wasn’t sure. Clearly they both knew something I didn’t.
The four-mile run today was set to Zena’s clock so we could run nine minutes and walk one minute. I was afraid that if I stopped running I wouldn’t want to start again. But it was a great way to pace the run and feel rejuvenated and motivated. I have always thought myself someone who is open to change, but today seemed more of an exception than the rule. I really enjoyed having a running partner, and I liked the walk run process. I’ll be doing it again. Plus, I may need a good running trainer. As much as I like to do things myself, getting proper support is invaluable. Or so I recognized today.
So, between Zena & Jeannette, my running support, and Larry, as well as our friend, Justine, my cheering squad, along with our dogs, Lucy & Nyah, this run was truly delightful.
I’m zipping down Park Avenue. Now I’m on 54th Street trying to cross during a grid lock. I glare at the driver of the black SVU, as I choose which end of the car is safest to pass. Okay, the front, I think. There’s barely enough room from his bumper to the Volvo in front, but I make it past only to get to the other side where there are fur junior executives side by side blocking the side walk. I’m going at a clipped pace, and I don’t like to be slowed down. I wait for the guy on his lunch hour to pass going the other way, then I aggressively move past the four juniors and go right in front of them to let them know they’re blocking the sidewalk.
There’s nothing that gives me greater pleasure than walking In Manhattan. I feel free and carefree. It’s great to pick up speed while walking, listen to a book, a podcast, or good music, while going from block to block, surprised I’ve already made four miles. It’s my favorite way to decompress.
On the other hand, I’m realizing how I resent anyone getting in my way. I feel like I own the city, and I take it personally when others aren’t mindful that they are not the only ones on the block. There are the slow moving tourists, the entitled young professionals on their way for frappuccinos, and teens hanging with no room left for pedestrians. However, the worst are the moms and nannies, tow-and three deep with Mercedes strollers. They hinder anyone who wants to walk down any given block in residential areas.
These are the certainties of walking in the city. I hadn’t realized I was taking something that means the world to me, and turning into an exercise of futility. There’s rarely a time I don’t encounter some obstruction. I made it personal. I saw their obliviousness as something to be challenged. I wanted to awaken the unconscious amblers to their foolish ways. But I realized I’m simply a righteous foot traveler. I’m in it for myself, and anyone who gets in my way, anyone who is doing what they do for themselves is the enemy. Nothing relaxing about that. Do I find I need conflict? Apparently so. After witnessing myself get all self-righteous in contrast to the unknowing, I am on a mission to transform my walking life. Will I have patience with myself as I begrudgingly let go of my abhorrence of the inevitable? Only time will tell. I am preparing to learn to go with the flow. I don’t know if I will, but that’s the plan, and I’m sticking to it.