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Monday Morning Marathon Training Quarterback: Tasting the Rainbow at the Happiest 5K

By Kristy Ojala
This week was scary because I realized that the NYC Marathon is less than 10 weeks away. Betty was on probation between her first two chiropractic visits, and because I am learning to walk/run again without looking like a peg-legged pirate in serious need of some fiber, I eliminated my mid-week longer run (7 miles) to recover and rest for the big bad 15 miler ahead.

On Thursday, we went back to Dr. Doug for some electric muscle stimulation. Basically this meant being wired up on the backside and neck/shoulder area, and after about 10 minutes of low-level zapping and warmth, you feel pretty relaxed and dopey. That makes you a perfect victim for an adjustment: Before you know it, that T12, T4-6 and piriformis are all ready to roll over and wave the white flag. Again, I don’t know why, but I always want to laugh hysterically whenever the good doc gets them to pop back into place. Something about blocked qi, I’m sure. Betty stayed pretty silent on the way home, but did enjoy scrunching into a sour-faced lemon drop of stiffness when I hauled out my heavy bags and walked up the subway steps.

For TGIF, Betty and I celebrated with our first acupuncture visit in two weeks. Afterward she looked like a poor pimply-faced teenager, covered in red needle marks that indicated all of her “problem areas.” My acupuncturist recommended a warm Epsom salt bath, but I had a birthday celebration and substituted with generous amounts of Sauvignon Blanc. Woops!

Saturday’s long run was shifted to Sunday due to aforementioned wine consumption (tsk, tsk), lack of sleep, muggy weather, and psychological warfare. I panicked about my preparedness, despite feeling good about last weekend’s 14 mile LSD. Months ago I’d signed up for the very sold-out NYC edition of The Color Run 5K and was feeling like maybe I should bail on it. I needed to focus on the 15 miles, right?

Then I read this blog post from my Chi Marathon guru, author Danny Dreyer, and its simple yet confidence-boosting tone put things into perspective:

Don’t say, “I’m going to break my limit today.” Be respectful of your body and just ask yourself, “I wonder if I can go farther today?” Then, take off with no expectations of doing anything but matching your previous best. Remove any performance pressure by not setting any speed goals, except to maybe do it at a pace that feels relaxing.

Danny always knows how to talk a runner off a ledge. So why wouldn’t I make The Color Run a fun part of my existing plan, rather than fight it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to share one of my FIVE 5Ks with thousands of other runners celebrating what running is about to begin with? Hell yea!

VIDEO: The Color Run in Action

I hatched a completely crazy plan. I would go to bed at 9 p.m., like a farmer or a small child. I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., thinking that if I got fueled and out of the house by 5:30 a.m., I would get one 10K done by the time I needed to meet my friend Dana and my boyfriend to get to the far reaches of Brooklyn. Then I would need to figure out how to finish my remaining 10K, but hopefully the adrenaline of crossing the 5K finish with 10,000 crazy rainbow trolls would carry me the remaining distance. When the alarm went off, I was mostly ready. I ate some toast, eyed the dark Manhattan skyline, and worried about who was still out there wandering the streets from Saturday night.

I ran down the sleepy streets. I mean they were literally sleepy: I saw no less than four passed-out folks, shoes off and set neatly aside, sleeping on benches, and suspected their shoes would not be waiting for them if they snoozed a few hours longer. When I got to my favorite scenic vista, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, it was spookily deserted and ominous. Not one dog walker, even. I hightailed it back along the residential streets until I made it to Cadman Plaza, a small park at the eastern mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge. Construction on the bridge on-ramp was in full force, and I remembered it had been closed on weekend evenings. Could I even get to the other side? A construction worker told me “only walking and biking,” so I continued on. As I rounded the corner into Cadman, the bushes rattled and something ran out. Instinctively, I screamed bloody murder… until I saw it was just your everyday NYC gang of rats. I was so worried about running into a nefarious boogeyman that it was a relief to see them taking full advantage of a breakfast buffet at the trash can.

The Brooklyn Bridge, while a storied landmark and a wonderful place to run, is to be avoided at all costs between the hours of 8 a.m. and uh, late on weekends. Unless you want to go elbow warrior on some tourists who walk in the wrong lane, stop in front of you, walk in packs five people wide, and refuse to move while snapping photos—forcing you into the path of an irritable cyclist who will take it out on you AND the tourist—well, it’s best you find another route.

Brooklyn Bridge

However, at 5:40 a.m. here is what the blessed bridge contains: Four twenty-somethings walking home from a party. Two Italian lovebird tourists in trendy sneakers. Two other runners (“Good morning!”). One cyclist in a very good mood. Three random guys chatting on their phones. And then there was the sunrise over the East River. Though I felt slow and half-asleep, this alone made it worth getting out of bed. The Watchtower clock told me it was just 71 perfect degrees.

I continued through Tribeca to the Hudson River greenway path, where I found fishermen, people doing tai chi, and more runners. I relaxed and found my stride until I hit 6 miles around the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Back to Brooklyn I went, where I changed into a white shirt, white bandanna (to keep my blond hair from being turned into a river of melted jaundice and cotton candy hues), and my old Brooks.

Even though they told us to get there at 7:30 for an 8 a.m. start of the first wave (I believe there were 10 waves total, starting five minutes apart), no one seemed very worried about rushing there. People in rainbow wigs and elaborate outfits posed for Instagram photos, played their favorite get-pumped running songs, and ambled toward the race grounds, a massive cordoned-off section of the Floyd Bennett Field, an aviation strip at Gateway National Park.

Who's the clean freak?

The course was pretty unsentimental, even a tad fugly, but the energy of the participants—walkers, small children, and recreational runners (this is not a timed race by any stretch of the imagination)—made it a real treat. Instead of running a mind-numbing 5K by myself somewhere in lower Manhattan, I was surrounded by people begging volunteers to douse them in billowing clouds of Smurf blue, magenta, and pink. The “colors” are actually pouches of corn starch artificially dyed. Some of them were so overjoyed that they dropped to the ground and rolled in the colorful concrete to pick up more of the essence that makes The Color Run so fun.

After we finished, we were treated to a cold water station and an after party. People danced like they were at some late-night rave instead of 9 a.m. post-race festivities, including a newlywed couple in a wedding gown and tux. Every 30 minutes, they counted down to a group release of more bags of color. A jewel-toned cloud rose above the crowd. I was so happy that we didn’t skip this race. I highly recommend you find a Color Run near you!

The Color Run Party in NYC

The time came to get serious, refuel, and finish off that final 10K. After hitting a diner for some quick breakfast, I showered off what I could of the pools of yellow, pink, and blue. Note to future color runners: Invest in a loofah or some sugar scrub. The stuff really sticks to you! My shower looked like Katy Perry had been using it. And I worried about my bloody nose, until I realized it was pink, not red.

I changed into my third running outfit of the day (who am I, Cher?) and the mister and I headed to Prospect Park for the final 6 miles. It was pretty hot and sunny at this point, and I began to see the foolishness of not doing the whole mess in one shot in the early morning. However, as we made our way around the park’s perimeter, we had some shade, and a light breeze felt lovely. We completed a loop of the park, including the final evil hill (not so bad, all things considered) and when I hit the “end” button on my Nike Sportwatch, I found myself staring blankly into a bright stream of Sugar-Free Cherry Cola Slurpee at my corner 7-11. It reminded me of the color of my skin.

bloody toe blister from marathon training

Today, after another 9 p.m. bedtime and a healthy icing, Betty seems to be hibernating. The only war wound I have to show for the effort is a bigger version of the blister I usually get on the tip of my toe whenever my mileage goes to half marathon levels or higher. A small price to pay for the pleasure of pushing past one’s limits, no?

Runners, how do you cope with increasing mileage?

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Top photo courtesy of The Color Run; personal Color Run photos by Dana West

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