While I could be tempted to describe Washington (without the humidity or heat) as a running paradise (flat, scenic, quiet, pretty), I think New York is probably as far removed from it as it gets. Ok, maybe that’s a slight overstatement: various megalopoles are equally horrific: Jakarta, Mumbai and Hong Kong spring to mind. But, these three at least exposed me to a new culture.
New York, well… meh. Loads of people talk about the excitement of running in Central Park and it certainly has a certain buzz about it due to the sheer volume of other runners and joggers but … that’s part of the problem: they are all running around in circles because there’s virtually no-where else in Manhattan to go.
It’s worth saying that, by ‘New York’, I mean ‘Manhattan’: there may be lovely places in Brooklyn or further afield to run around! Also, I’ve since been told there’s a nice route along the Hudson but let’s ignore that for now. And, because of the grid pattern, if you do go running in town, the longest uninterrupted stretch will rarely be more than 100m which would drive me spare on a regular basis. And, obviously, there are also thousands of workers and tourists to dodge (and I guess a few very wealthy residents).
I was staying in the East Village for most of the week. It was very hip – I have no idea what statements most people were making with their fashion sense, but I now feel confident I can secure my retirement by holding on to my current clothes for another few years, by which point they should be fashionable and mind-bogglingly expensive again!
A few mornings, I took the nearest escape route out towards Williamsburg Bridge which only saw me have to go through 5 or 6 blocks (and stops). After that, I could mostly run free of interruptions for a few kilometres along the East river which was reasonably pleasant, though it was right along a main road which was very busy and polluted. On the plus side, you get to run under Brooklyn Bridge and towards the financial district, from where you can see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. And that, well, is about it other than the large number of Asians doing Tai Chi (with swords!) one morning (Chinatown is nearby which explained why there were so many).
For my last night for work, I moved up into central Manhattan. This was convenient as it was only 10 blocks away from Central Park so I’d be able to get there relatively easy (as well as waste my money in the M&Ms shop next door). And, as I said at the start, running here is … meh.
Other than the frustratingly stop/start journey to Central Park itself, running around Central Park isn’t hugely exciting. Granted, it is pretty and, compared to the rest of New York, it’s a breath of fresh air (literally?). Also, it was glorious weather and, unusually for me, I did my last 10km with my top off because it was that hot and humid! And, really on the plus side, a full loop is 10km so you can run a full 10km without a single interruption which is rare in any place in the world.
However, it’s kinda boring! Compared to Manhattan, yes, Central Park is amazing. But, compared to other green spaces around the world, it’s far from mind-blowing in particular if you run the outer circle loop which doesn’t take you through the meandering tiny paths which do have more charm.
The worst bit however was the feeling of being a hamster running around in a circle along with my Lululemon-clad peers. However, running in a circle I can do and I used this chance to do my a decent 25km training run which made me use up every last drip of my water bottle. Once I’d finished, I found one of those meandering paths and collapsed (and nodded off!) for half an hour on a large slab of extremely cool granite in the shade. And that was totally blissful!
So, all in all, it’s a fairly mixed review for running in New York!