“It’s like a jungle, sometimes…
I always thought Melle Mel was referring to the crime, drugs, and poverty to be found in New York City. I now think he was referring to a run around Manhattan’s largest green space. Central Park was on my running bucket list (not the marathon, it usually clashes with the football), and it was on our list of things to do. Unfortunately, Carl has had a dodgy knee, to add to the catalogue of other injuries he’s had, but Central Park has lots of different loops and circuits. The plan was to run the 6ish mile outer loop, with the fallback of being able to cut across the park if Carl was struggling.
That was the plan.
Winter was definitely on its way. We were awake early, and out of the hotel at about 7am, and were greeted by an icy blast. I regretted not packing a running jacket, opting for more room in my case for the shopping I wouldn’t be able to do, but I wasn’t to know that at the time. I did take my West End Runners vest, though.
We walked to Central Park, just a couple of blocks away. We somehow managed to find the long way, in a part of New York that’s designed in grids. It pretty much summed up our morning. When we reached the park, my Garmin refused to connect to any satellites, and I stood in the cold, freezing as I waited. Even Carl’s Garmin had connected! Just when I thought I’d give up, and just start running, when it decided to connect. Hooray!
For 7.30am, Central Park was busy with runners of all ages and abilities. From families, to pensioners, I think everyone was covered. Unlike back home, though, nobody acknowledged anyone else. No friendly nod, or encouraging greetings in the Big Apple. My West End vest, rather than drawing admiring glances, attracted the kind of look that you’d reserve for the local nutter.
Carl’s knee started twinging early on, and he sensibly said we should cut the run short. We took the first turn to our left, expecting to come out on the Upper West side. We didn’t. We ended up lost, in a labyrinth of wooded paths, at times literally running in circles. There seemed no hope for us. I began to wonder if we would be stranded in the middle of Central Park, having to scavenge from the squirrel stores, when I looked up to the sky, imploringly. Then I saw it; the big CNN screen at the top of the Time Warner building. “That’s it, we head in that direction,” I said to Carl. Because, ladies and gents, that was where we had started our run.
The labyrinth had other ideas. Paths that looked to be heading towards Columbus Circle, seemed to take us further away. By now, Carl had to walk, and the cold was going straight through me. According to my data, it was 2.8°C. Not only were we lost in a literal urban jungle, but I was going to die of hypothermia. As I was about to lose all hope, there was a break in the trees, the path widened, and we were free! We’d also ended up almost heading back to the point where we’d decided to cut across. Sensibly we walked back to the hotel, despite the Arctic conditions. Traumatised by our experience, we managed to find an even longer route back. I have never been so pleased to have a hot shower. I needed it, as I had reached the point where I’d need to be defrosted.
I never returned to Central Park. Not to get a photo in my WER vest, for the newsletter. Not for another run; clearly, it’s far safer to stick to the outer path, than being lost in the wilderness. Carl didn’t want me to run in my own, for safety reasons, but there were enough people about, I’d have taken the risk. The following day, it absolutely hoofed it down, and as mentioned above, I opted for more room in my case. It’s not the first time I’ve made the wrong choice.