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New York City

By Frank da Cruz - Central Park Drive is the 3-lane automobile road that winds around the interior of Central Park. It is closed to traffic weekends and other times, so it can be used exclusively by runners, cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians without worrying about cars or exhaust fumes. Enter at 110th Street and Central Park West (8th Avenue) and go counterclockwise (i.e. turn right from the entrance ramp). Trust me, it is better that way you get most of the hills out of the way at first, and save the super-fun S-curve around Lasker pool/rink for last (take it at top speed for full effect). The surface is smooth asphalt; you don't have to worry about stepping in holes. The full tour is 6.2 miles (10 kilometers). If, at the end, you stop at 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard) instead of climbing the steep hill to where you came in, it is 6 miles even. Either way it is highly recommended: the scenery is classic, you have lots of company (other runners, skaters, bikers), and the hills make it not boring. Central Park is never boring; there is always plenty to see, surprises around every corner. The main danger is that runners here are more serious and there are lots of them, so if you are like me, you might find yourself going faster than planned, then running out of steam before the end. If you have to stop for water and/or bathroom, the best spot is the boathouse at 74th Street on the east side; another good water fountain is at East 90th Street. Central Park drive schedule: it is silly for me to put the schedule here because it changes all the time. Here is the the Central Park Dot Com web page where the schedule is published: www.centralpark.com/pages/general-info/park-drive-regulations.html. If that link doesn't work, search for "Central Park drive hours". When the Drive is open to traffic, the inner lane is reserved for runners, walkers, bikers, and skaters, but you have to take the 72nd Street transverse instead of going all the way to the bottom of the park, which cuts the distance by a mile. The Central Park West entrances at 110th and 106th Streets have been closed to traffic since 1992. I don't recommend running in Central Park off the Park Drive or Reservoir path for a variety of reasons: footing is trickier, various obstacles, crowds, etc., and some paths can take you to secluded places that might not be safe (e.g. the 102nd Street transverse, the Rambles, etc.). Running in the dark by yourself is probably not a great idea either, although I have done it (there were long stretches with absolutely no light, I literally couldn't see a thing). I have run there in every kind of weather, including once when it was 5 F and blanketed with falling snow there was not a sound and I had the whole park to myself; it was like running on a cloud. Some people like to run around the perimeter sidewalk but I don't recommend that either the footing is dangerous, especially on Central Park West, and it is often crowded. The distance is the same as the Park Drive tour: 6.2 miles. You can also run around the bridle (horse) path, but running on loose dirt can be a chore or a better workout depending on your point view. In any case the bridle path consists of three distinct loops between a mile and 1.5 miles each, which can be combined in various ways. By the way, you can also run to and from Central Park along 110th Street if you want. Above 107th Street, Broadway is equivalent to 11th Avenue, and Central Park West is 8th Avenue, so it is half a mile from Broadway to Central Park. But I usually walk; it is a good way to warm up and cool down.


Runners who live in the Columbia University area of Manhattan, New York City (Morningside Heights and West Harlem) are fortunate to have Riverside Park, Central Park, and Morningside Park nearby. The parks and the Hudson riverfront are in better condition now than at any time in the last one hundred years, especially since 2000 with the inauguration of the Greenway. The site Upper Manhattan Running describes some obvious and not-so-obvious runs that start in the Columbia area, but it is also useful for anybody who lives on the west side anywhere between midtown and Washington Heights or Inwood.


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