Monday, February 20, 2012

An Ode to Central Park

There are rare moments in New York City when you stop and think to yourself: Man! I really like living in this New York City! This moment might finding a new Food Truck parked directly in front of your office when it's raining (mad props to "Seoul Truck" and their Bibimbop). Or it might catch you when you discover a particularly entertaining subway performer that doesn't make you want to kill yourself and all the people around you. This moment happens to me most often, however, when I take run on a particularly lovely day in one of my favorite places on earth: Central Park.

I've been to a lot of cities. And -- with the exception of Vancouver -- New York City absolutely wins for having the best design of a park within a city. (Seriously, if you haven't been to Vancouver, you should. Their park is sweet). Think about it though: NYC without Central Park? Would be...horrendous. Truly awful. I guarantee we would all kill each other zombie apocalypse style.  The park's design in the middle of Manhattan gives New Yorkers a place to do their thing! To relax, to exercise, to play the sporting games, to enjoy a carousel ride or -- perhaps -- to enjoy a small musical number:

For me, Central Park is the preferred venue for MeriG's training runs. What makes the park so awesome, you say? A couple of things. 

First, it is located near my apartment. Actually, rather, my apartment is located near it. I made sure to live near the park when I decided to move back to the UES after business school because I am a calculating genius.

The park is also great to run in because of all the public amenities such as vendors and bathrooms. Both are key. The vendors are great because for certain length runs I just bring a few bucks and then can purchase a Gatorade inside. No water bottle necessary! Genius! Bathrooms are just always a good idea. Minimal explanation needed on this one.

But what really makes it a phenomenal running locale is the multiple options. To do a full loop on the main road of the park is 6.1 miles and is a great 10K option for anyone. But what's great is that there are cut-offs that can make your run either 4 or 5 miles if you take them. Here's a map so you can see what I'm talkin' about: 

By the way, I had this linked from The Plaza's website so that it reinforces how truly elegant I am.

This map shows that there are other options you can take which have become my personal favorites. One is the loops around the Reservoir, which is a bit over 1.5 miles. You may recognize this path as a favorite of Sex and the City's Charlotte York. Or you may recognize it from the photos I took on Saturday that I have posted here: could you not be obsessed with New York on a day like that? Ridiculous.

I also love to run on the Bridle Paths of Central Park. There are various interlocking paths of different distances (between 1.5 and 2.5 miles) that are on dirt, which can be much better for your knees. The only thing is that they're a bit rocky and have branches and stuff, so you really have to be careful. I took a nice little   fall a couple of weeks back which was -- I can assure you --both graceful and attractive.

Simply delightful.

The way I personally like to do long runs is to do combinations of the different loops. As an example, for my 10 miler on Saturday I did the full outside loop (6.1) plus almost a full loop of the Reservoir (~1.5) plus a Bridle Path loop (2.5). I think this makes the run a lot easier because you're not repeating the same thing multiple times. Plus the different terrain mixes things up. I like the mixing up of things, you see.
This is a cool picture I took because it is from the rare point where all three loops run parallel. I'm standing on the Reservoir Path, next down is the Bridle Path, and below that is the Central Park road.
I think Central Park is -- in part -- what fosters so many people in this city's love of running. It really is a great communal place that you can be alone in your run, but also with people (I am so profound I really can't even stand it). Great for people-watching, great for options, and great for over-priced Gatorade, I feel very fortunate to live next to a park that attracts tourists from all over the world. 

Truly, if ever I was going to break out into an impromptu musical number, the Park would be my first choice in which to do so. You can quote me on that one. 

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