Monday, November 21, 2016

10 Years of Running: My 10 Favorite Miles

December 1 will mark 10 years since I became a runner instead of a smoker and changed my life. On the way to that 10th runnerversary, I am going to celebrate with an occasional top 10 post.

My 10 Favorite Medals | My 10 Favorite Bibs | My 10 Favorite Shoes

Officially, my favorite mile is "the one you're running." It is vital to think that way as a runner, and in life. Unofficially, I definitely have some of my own favorites just like everyone else. This is the hardest of my lists to narrow down, but here are 10 that have special meaning in my life.

10. Mile 11 of Maratona di Roma. Between the 17K and 18K markers, you follow the cobblestones right up to Piazza St. Pietro and the Vatican. As I passed the Pope's window where he gives his short speech and blessing some Sundays, crowds were forming behind barricades in anticipation. It is really hard to decide on just one mile in this race. This race is a feast of the senses.

9. Miami Marathon, Mile 5. Run past the historic Art Deco hotels on Miami Beach's Ocean Avenue as the sun is rising and some locals are still staggering out of the nightclubs. This is from roughly the 4 1/2-mile mark past the Mile 5 marker and covering much of the next mile.

8. Central Park bridle path near Strawberry Fields. It is perfect hard clay, a little puddly at times, with a gentle stillness around John and Yoko's turf, going under the Riftstone Arch across from The Dakota. You will always find marathoners logging their miles here, away from the more familiar paved path. If you run Central Park, the 10K road is iconic and a must-run, but to really experience running there like the locals, use the bridle path.

7. Siesta Key, Florida. The most beautiful beach in America is a secret to many. It's not even the most famous one in Florida, or even in the top three or four. It is in Sarasota. I ran it one time, in 2007, and I will never forget how amazing it was, with its white sand. See for yourself.

6. Rodeo Drive, Mile 16, Los Angeles Marathon. Beverly Hills, baby. Had to stop and take this selfie, wish I could have stopped to shop. Recap.

5. Last mile of the New York City Marathon. When you re-enter Central Park at Columbus Circle for the homestretch, you feel all the feels. And for me, I feel the presence of my Dad. My first marathon there in 2007, I looked up and cried the last 200 to 400 meters, as he had given me my start in life and this opportunity to be a runner. I did the exact same thing earlier this month. It felt like I had come full circle in my 10 years of running. Thanks, Dad. I could choose so many other possibilities from the world's largest race, such as Mile 16 after the Queensboro Bridge or the incredible crowds heading into Williamsburg, but they can't top this.

4. Mile 2 of the Falmouth Road Race. The start of this mile is at the historic Nobska Light, where I snapped this selfie two months ago during the 44th running. This coveted, hard-to-get-into race starts in Woods Hole in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and while you are running in this mile, Martha's Vineyard is off to your right and seems so close you can reach across the Atlantic to touch it.

3. Golden Gate Bridge. The length of suspension span including main span and side spans is 1.2 miles, but really anywhere from the Marina District to the Marin side of the bridge. I have a tradition of trying to always stay behind an extra day to run after working the MLB All-Star Game, and the day after the 2007 game, I stayed behind and did a 15-miler with my colleague Jason Beck. (I lived in the SF market in 1990-91 but was not a runner yet.) The vistas looking over Alcatraz is gorgeous.

2. Mile 17 of the Paris Marathon. You're running along the Seine, fully mesmerized about life in general, and then there it is on your left. So you ask a bystander if he would please take your picture with Tour Eiffel behind you, vertical if possible, merci.

1. Times Square. It is one thing to see it for the first time. It is quite another to take it over. We do that in the New York City Half, which I try to run roughly every other spring. Times Square happens in the seventh mile, and when you giggle outloud while you run, feeling outlandishly happy and privileged (no taxis!), I think that feeling deserves the top spot on this top 10.

Honorable mentions: Great Wall of China, Badaling gate . . . Cat Hill in Central Park . . . Lake Michigan Ave. in Chicago . . . Budweiser brewery mile in the St. Louis Marathon . . . Cornfield by my parents' home in Evansville, Indiana . . . Key West Half past Ernest Hemingway's house . . . A1A/Fort Lauderdale Marathon finish on the strip . . . Brooklyn Half finish on Coney Island . . . Sunset Cliffs in San Diego . . . Anywhere #RunWestin suggests! . . .  Over the bridge from Cincinnati into Kentucky and back . . . The Grandview stretch of the old rail trail near my home on the cliffs along the Hudson River north of NYC . . .  too many to list!

What's YOUR favorite mile? Please follow me @Marathoner on Twitter and let me know!

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