There’s a hill on the east side of Central Park that most people refer to as ‘Cat Hill’. The name comes from a statue of a stalking cat (pictured at left) that’s situated on top of a huge boulder. I looked around for some information about the sculpture and its placement, but I was unable to find anything. The hill is between .25 and .3 miles, depending on what you consider its starting point, and winds upward pretty gradually. It’s almost always crowded–it’s just a popular area in the park, close to the museums on the Upper East Side and the Boathouse, a restaurant in the park.
Vehicle and foot traffic in Central Park is supposed to move counter-clockwise, which means that if you’re obeying the rules, you’re always running up Cat Hill. Depending on what loop of the park I decide to run, I hit the hill during my third or fourth mile. If I’m doing a long run that involves a few loops of the park, I may run it as many as three times.
Central Park is full of rolling hills. I’m sure they wouldn’t be much for someone who lives in a truly hilly area, but they give me a pretty good workout. For the most part, I just deal with them. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m running uphill, other times I just want it to be over. But Cat Hill is different.
Ever since a particularly bad long run last year during which I had to stop and walk the hill, I’ve been intimidated by it. I felt so defeated that day, and it was a huge blow to my confidence. The run was supposed to be something like 9 or 10 miles, and it was toward the beginning of my training for the Philadelphia marathon. I had taken one of my infamous hiatuses prior to starting to run again in preparation for my marathon training, and I was not in the best shape. I felt like crying as I walked up the hill, but at the same time I was trying to remind myself that this was just one run, not the end of the world. Long runs like that tend to stick with you though, and I developed a real fear of Cat Hill after that.
As I’m looping around the south end of the park, I always catch myself starting to worry about Cat Hill. Lately, I’ve been using this as an opportunity to work on my thinking: Cat Hill doesn’t have to be the hardest mile; Cat Hill doesn’t even have to be different from any other hill in the park. These days, I’m clocking some of my fastest splits during the mile that includes Cat Hill. I’ve learned to approach with the belief that I have the power to determine what sort of experience I have while running it. The hill does not have power over me. Changing the way I think about Cat Hill has made it possible for me to conquer it. Instead of dreading it, I now look forward to it because its become a concrete way for me to measure how strong I’ve gotten, mentally and physically.
Embrace:Me 30-day Challenge, day 20: I was inspired by a conversation I had on twitter with Jill yesterday about accessories, and how something as simple as wearing a piece of jewelry can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself. So today, I wore a pair of earrings that my parents got me for Christmas, and that I adore. There’s something about them that makes me really happy when I see them. They’re colorful, but still simple, and I like my jewelry to be simple. It felt good to have a little something extra on, and I got a lot of compliments–some on the earrings, and some just in general. It really served to prove that what Jill and I had been saying about jewelry was true, and it’s refreshing to know that something so small can have such a big impact.