One of my very first posts (over a year ago!) was about running through city streets and how it’s a way to become familiar with a new place. Today, I’m even more in favor of this practice after spending the last month with doctor’s orders not to run due to an injury (which I, coincidentally, received while running). I miss my running routine dearly, and that’s something new for me, as I’m definitely not one of those marathoners who relishes the 5am sweat of a jog more than her morning coffee. Running isn’t often something I look forward to; it’s just a part of my life, like showering or taking out the trash. However, being cut off from this practice for the last four weeks has given me a fresh craving for it. As they say, you never value good health until you lose it. I certainly have a whole new reverence for the cadence, the pavement, the breeze and the city that I get to experience when I run. Honestly, there are whole sections of this city that I never see unless I’m running. Either they’re too far to get to on foot, or they’re not destinations in themselves; rather, they are the places I love to move through. If you step outside with your sneakers on, you might just discover some of these places yourself. I challenge you to give it a shot.
I was surprised to find that the city has changed since the last time I ran. Back in June, the tourists were less present on the parks and trails where I usually jog, and even the residents were slow to make their way back outside after a long, hard winter. It was as if we all discovered the city anew—the flowers that bloomed where snow banks once resided, the birds pulling fresh worms out of green grass, the street-stands shifting to advertise ice cream and popsicles. I ran all the way through the winter, but most of my runs were solitary, broken only by the occasional die-hard biker or insistent nanny with a bundled up child burrowed inside a stroller. In June, folks reappeared and found their favorite park benches all over again.
Coming out a month later now, the parks and trails are utterly alive. For those of us without air conditioning, these may be some of the coolest spaces in an otherwise 90 degree city, so we make them ours. On my first run since my injury, I skipped down to Riverside Park, a trail that runs along the waterfront of the Hudson River and found it boisterous and jubilant. Children raced each other on scooters while their parents roasted meat over portable grills, coolers and picnic tables overflowing with potluck-style dinners nearby, delicious smells wafting across the water. Music blared from all manner of speakers and vehicles. Young couples lazed on blankets in the grass or strolled down the sidewalk. Residents carried the day’s produce and staples back home from a nearby grocery store along the pleasant path. As I moved south and the path narrowed, the demographics changed to runners of all ages—some alone and others joined by friends—jogging uptown, downtown; bikers too, commuting or enjoying an evening ride with their families.
Without my running shoes, I might never have set foot on this trail. I find myself privileged to take it in, especially after a month without it. So all that is to say, if you’re curious about running as a way to get to know a city, I urge you to give it a try, particularly if you haven’t done so in a while. I assure you it’s not that hard. Just start with a walk. Bring a friend or your iPod along. Let the path unfold in front of you and I bet you’ll discover something new.
Photo taken in Central Park.