Bucket List Running – Central Park

I’m not alone in having wanting to run around Central Park, Manhattan. We had an aborted attempt in November, but The Bloke had injured his knee, so we managed just a couple of miles, and then got lost trying to get back to the Columbus Circle entrance. We decided that we would try again during the second part of our return to NYC, as our hotel was close enough to walk there without getting too tired. Manhattan is pretty big, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re wandering about. It’s very easy to rack the miles up.

Central Park is a labyrinth of smaller paths, all within a large multipurpose path that pretty much encircles the park. This is the loop that we, well I, wanted to do. At just over 6 miles, it has a designated run/jog lane, as well as cycle lanes, and in some parts, lanes for the horse driven carriages. There are various other loops, and circuits within the park. Central Park is far larger than most people realise. Having researched for the November attempt, I also read that it is surprisingly hilly, too. Forewarned is forearmed. 

 

It’s pretty big, that Central Park…


Our hotel was located three blocks east, and eight blocks south of the southeastern corner of Central Park. We decided not to run there, as all the stop-starting at the crosswalks can be a pain in the backside. You have to keep your wits about you; just because the little man on the lighted sign says that you can walk, traffic can still turn, if the crossing is clear. I’m pretty sure that pedestrians have priority, and traffic must yield, but quite often, there’s very little evidence of that. It just meant that with me being contrary, I would casually stroll across the crossing, whilst some impatient New Yorker got ever more wound up. Taxi drivers are the worst. They’re metered, you’d think they want passengers in their cabs for as long as possible! It’s what a lot of Leicester cab drivers seem to do. Even better, jaywalking is no longer punishable by death, so as long as you exercise common sense, you can cross when the little man says “no”. Just don’t do it whilst a taxi is within sight. It doesn’t matter if you have time to safely saunter across the crossing before the taxi gets near you, you will get beeped at. And boy, do they love their horns in NYC. I think our record was two short, and one long beep by the same cab, who was still 50m away when we reached the opposite pavement. That one was given one of the universal idiot signs, I confess.

Saturday mornings would normally mean parkrun, other commitments (Leicester City) permitting. I’ve always been surprised that America hasn’t taken it on board. When we arrived at about 10am, Central Park was busy, despite the fact it was raining. Joggers, runners, power-walkers, cyclists, skaters, all out getting their daily exercise. It took an age for my Garmin to find GPS signal, again, which was nice in the cold rain. Not. Eventually the watch found it, and we ran over to the main run/jog path. 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many runners not taking part in a race. There were runners of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities. In fact, it got a bit too congested in places, and we had to ventrue into the bike track to overtake others. 

The rain stopped, and the temperature quickly rose, making it very humid. The path also started to undulate. By undulate, it got quite hilly. There were, what my mate Gaz calls, some naughty climbs in there. The surroundings were amazing, however. Over the tops of the trees, I could see majestic tall buildings, the older ones, not the skyscrapers seen at the south of the park. There were lots of squirrels. Unlike the ones found along the Great Central Way, these ones didn’t run away. American squirrels aren’t shy. One kept standing in our way during one of our walks in Philly, it reminded me of the Boston Poser! There were fewer runners the further north we headed. At one point, there was peace and serenity. No noisy cars, no beeping, just the sound of our feet pounding the Tarmac, and my asthmatic Darth Vader breathing. It was hard to believe we were in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world. 

As we headed south back alongside 7th Avenue, the runners started to reappear in numbers, and the city noises returned. It was clear that several running events had been taking place, as a few runners passed us still wearing their numbers, and there were a lot of finisher t-shirts, in varying different colours. The path continued to undulate, but unlike a lot of routes, every uphill had a downhill section that aided recovery. There were no nasty surprises in the form of multiple incline sections. I saw a water station for one of the events ahead, and the two volunteers manning it were handing out water to all runners, which was very much welcome, as it was now feeling very hot and sticky, despite the cloud cover. 

 

Thanks for the bottle of water, chaps! (Taken the day after, thats why it’s sunny)


If I’d known about these other events, I might have been tempted, but then we wouldn’t have run most of the loop. I say most; The Bloke thought we’d reached the start, and wanted to stop. We hadn’t quite, and we came out of the entrance where all the horse drawn carriages were waiting. I know I have a lot of friends who love horses, but by heck, they stink.

 

Hills, lovely hills… *sobs*

 
We went back the next day, with the aim of running three miles. We had done a lot of walking over the past couple of weeks, and I certainly was tired. I said to The Bloke that this would be good training for TR24, getting used to running on tired legs. The plan was to run to the 84th St entrance, along the bottom of “The Res”, and back. 

We were. I have later than the previous day, having overslept, and then watched the Ireland v England game on ESPN to see the Jamie Vardy Party. Leicester City’s great escape was mentioned, and what a tremendous achievement it was. Are you watching, America? 

 

Sunday morning in Central Park; dont let this pic fool you, it was HORRENDOUS!

 
It was also very sunny, and already hot. I don’t mind, I’m a summer runner (hayfever aside). Central Park was heaving, however, with Sunday runners, along with tourists, and locals out for a stroll.  Etiquette had decided to have a lie in, for she was nowhere to be seen. Instead of using the normal paths, the run/jog track was full of people leisurely plodding along. Oh, you’re just going to stop and take a pic? How very thoughtful of you! Yes, please do walk in a massive group, taking up the whole lane, I’ve always fancied “death by bicycle”!

And just because you’re wearing technical running gear, it doesn’t turn your Sunday morning stroll into a power walk!!! 

I was desperate for an air horn – “GET OUT OF THE BLOODY RUNNING LANE, YOU MORONS”! Such incredible lack of common sense and consideration brings out the running snob in me. I should be applauding the fact that people are getting off their backsides and moving about. Instead, I was having to weave in and out of pedestrian traffic, slow down and speed up, which my legs were not liking, or risking life and limb in the bike lane. Are people really so stupid, or do they do it on purpose?

 

How much more obvious does a running lane have to be? A great idea, ruined by stupid.


As it turned out, we were stupid too. 84th St wasn’t signposted. We didn’t realise until we reached 96th St. Thankfully, there was a dirt track back south, which should hit where we were supposed to be going in the first place. We had reached “The Res” which apparently is a cinder running track around the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. I’d read that runners are meant to run around anti-clockwise, which is why I didn’t suggest we take a look, but despite me reading about that six months ago, and the clear signs telling runners which way to go, we still saw lots of stupid strolling around clockwise. If there had been a wall nearby, my head would have repeatedly met it. 

We reached a fork; I said left,  The Bloke said right. I bowed to his superior knowledge. We ended up back up at 90th St! Thankfully, we found the main track, and many more idiots, and headed back down to where we started. We ended up running 4.6 miles, and with no free water, as there were no events. Our pace was slower than the day before, not through fatigue, but trying to navigate around all the stupid people. 

 

The end of the run had seen much shouting, which I pin solely on stupid people.

 
I can see why there is no Central Park parkrun. Even on a Saturday morning, there are a lot of runners about. There appears to be several events in the park at any one time, and given the mazy internal paths, there is huge potential for runners to abuse the honesty of a parkrun event. I wonder if a Saturday morning that wasn’t cloudy and raining be more like the Sunday shambles, which would make running such an event even more harder. 

I’m delighted to have fulfilled an ambition, but my advice to fellow runners visiting NYC is to try and run as early as possible, to avoid the tourists and amblers. Coming in from the UK, that is quite easy as your body clock will be ahead of the current time. It’s a beautiful setting, and most runners seem to be concentrated in the southern parts of the park. Up in the northern parts, it’s serene, beautiful. and worthy of a six mile/10k run. It’s also far more challenging than expected, with a rolling terrain. Despite the number of very stupid, I’m going to miss running around Central Park. If only Leicester had a place like this, that is so accessible.

  

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