A week of work in New York allowed me to check out Central Park for its jogging possibilities. I’m not a big city fan. But I had heard that Central Park is the perfect place to get away from the organised chaos of New York City.
The first thing that struck me was how peaceful the Park is. Despite the skyscrapers towering over the trees, I really did feel away from it all, even if 5th Avenue was less than a stone’s throw away. The roads are all blocked off inside its perimeter, so there was no fear of being run over by cars or motorbikes or tuk-tuks like I’m always aware of at home.
With work starting at 8.30am, I was up before dawn to get my run in. Despite it still being dark, the Park was already full of hundreds of runners and bikers, all getting in their fix before hitting the office. There was every shape and size of person out there: speedsteers and joggers, as well as old, fat, thin, and young. Such is the cosmopolitan nature of New York that the Park seems to attract an impressive cross section of its surrounding society.
Despite how Central Park looks on the maps, it is deceptively large and long. I kept running north, and north, before finally getting lost somewhere done the west side. The skyscrapers and trees all seemed to be going south, but apparently I headed east without knowing it. When I returned the next day, I made sure I knew the exit I needed to take to get myself back home. I had brought a GPS with me to avoid such a situation, but it failed to locate satellites for the whole week in the midst of all the buildings.
And despite how flat New York City is, Central Park is surprisingly hilly. The north end has a nice dip and climb that helped wake me up in the morning. And together with some nice cool autumn weather and a bit of rain, I felt like I was back in Ireland and having a pleasant break from South East Asia.
Two runs on Saturday and Sunday proved just how popular Central Park is. I jogged into the Park on Saturday morning, only to be accosted by 5000 runners starting the Grete’s Great Gallop Half Marathon. Organised by the New York Road Runners Association, we spent our jog watching the racers run towards us as they encircled the Park two and a bit times. On Sunday, it was the turn of the New York triathletes as they competed in a biathlon.
If I ever manage to head to New York again, I’ll definitely aim to book a hotel close to Central Park. Being able to get an hour’s run in as well as grab a coffee on the way home was definitely a great way to spend time before heading to the office.
Want to read other running tales from around the world – Haiti, Congo, Rwanda, Ireland, Laos? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears”.