Good Morning, Central Park! It’s Me
By Kira Garry
Honestly, I have never been a morning running person. I went to graduate school in Michigan, where getting up for a run in the morning meant braving a dark, icy tundra. When I moved to Manhattan, I still hated getting up and rushing out the door, with no time for that coffee/peanut butter toast/reading/getting fully caffeinated before the run order of business. However, this past Tuesday was different. I bolted out of bed at 6 a.m. and was probably the most hyper pre-coffee version of myself. My roommate, Erika Fluehr, and I were meeting people to run in The Park. (Central Park, the only Park. I’m definitely kidding, but only slightly. For New York City runners, saying ‘The Park’ is the equivalent of New Yorkers calling their home ‘The City’. Clearly, these places dominate our world.)
Erika and I snuck out of our rooms trying not to wake our third roommate, kneeling to tie our shoes, threading the key into our laces in silence. We closed the door to our apartment and finally talked inside the elevator, simultaneously stretching and doing drills. We really maximize the time it takes to go from the ninth floor in a 1960’s elevator to the ground floor before setting off in the dark, weaving through the early commuters and making our way down the hill to The Statue on 72nd street, also not the only statue in the world that exists, but a common meeting place. Erika and I looked for the figures of Sarah Cummings, Christina Henderson, and Tim Cousins to emerge–and then down at our watches, jumping a bit to stay warm. We are from different NYC clubs. We run different events. We are different ages. We went to different colleges. We did all run at HEPS at one point or another, but this group came together through friends of friends and racing each other.
It’s just how the NYC running community works- someone knows someone who’s friends with someone, and now you’re friends that run together.
For me, this morning was the first time I had run with this group since August. I’ve been injured with a hamstring avulsion and have had 6 months of PT, PRP, and shockwave therapy to get back. I spent more time swimming under the fluorescent lights of the YMCA than I would like to remember, and a lot more time questioning when I’d get one of these mornings again. I had a lot of bad days–losing faith in why I do this, and fighting my body, wondering what I was doing wrong, assuming the slow healing was my fault. And as I built back up, aqua jogging in the pool or biking, I pictured a Central Park morning just like Tuesday.
So there we were, meeting at The Statue (finally!) and I was so pumped just to be standing there in the dark, waiting to do a loop with friends.
Right before we were about to start, I heard my name, “KIRA!”
One of my college teammates, Jenny Donnelly, who is currently in her build-up to the Olympic Trials, saw me from afar and came running at me. We greeted each other in a giant hug. We didn’t even really say anything–she went on her cool-down and I started the run with the group–but that hug meant a lot. She knew how long it had been since I’d been out there, knew my doubts and struggles, knew how much I missed being able to do this.
Our group set off north as the sun slowly lit up the Park. There were people running fast and slow, young and old, groups and solo runners, tights and shorts (it was 39 degrees), and it was perfect. We run and talk, as the city is slowly waking up and the bustle begins. There’s something magical about it. It always feels like stealing a moment from the City, the City where it feels like there are far too few hours in the day. It’s a moment siloed, even stolen from the craziness, when you get a different perspective by taking a step back. It’s the heightened heart rates going up Harlem hill, the sound of our feet hitting the crushed gravel on the Bridal, a few weird maneuvers to dodge a bike or two, and all the while the sun peeking through and lighting up the sky. Then, after a loop or so, we all go our separate ways and on with our days. The mornings are sacred: a few moments of quiet, running together and feeling alive, in the busyness of New York.
Good Morning Central Park, it’s me, and I’m happy to be back.