Friday, March 16, 2012

Four NYC 10K Jogs from Times Square

Spring Break in the Big Apple, with a family that likes to sleep in. I am the only early riser and therefore have the morning hours to myself. What better way to spend them than to engage in some sight seeing by way of jogging.

Running in a big city brings some unique challenges, like traffic-related interruptions, dodging pedestrians on congested sidewalks, etc. Another issue is catching a good signal for the GPS receiver of a fitness watch.  Our hotel (The Muse, very nice, like other hotels of the Kimpton group I have visited) is just half a block from Times Square. While you can't really call Times Square an open area, it shows a little more sky than other intersections, so that's where I went at the start of every run for my FR305 to grab a signal.

March 13: Central Park

Always nice to return for a jog in Central Park, which I have visited for jogs on many previous occasions. Due to work-related constraints I was never able to get beyond the southern half of this beautiful park. No such concerns during this trip, I set rounding the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir as my goal.

From Times Square I ran up Broadway and followed the Central Park Loop clock-wise to the reservoir. I did notice a few things:

(1) There was quite a bit of running going on
(2) Peletons of cyclists going in the same direction
(3) 95% of runners were on the Loop, not on any of the many other trails crisscrossing the park
(4) Almost all of them were going counter-clockwise

I was definitely bucking the trend. I did a loop around JKO Reservoir, counter-clockwise, like a good boy, and then moved to the much less traveled and in my opinion much more interesting trails meandering through the park. Yesterday I noticed daffodils on the way in from LGA, today it was more daffodils, forsythias  and some pink-flowering tree (cherries? crab apples?). I am definitely not in Minnesota though I recall when I spent my first two weeks in the US here 20-some years ago in mid-April and from my vague recollections nature seemed to be at the same stage I see it now in mid-March.

I concluded my park loop running along the Metropolitan Art Museum and through the zoo, returning to the hotel via the Avenue of the Americas.

March 14: Hudson River and Central Park

After running in unseasonably mild weather yesterday, it was downright warm this morning. After my obligatory five minute GPS lock-on period at Times Square I headed down 46th Street towards the Hudson River, where, when I reached I turned right, going north along the bike path. First the path went right along West Side Highway which soon started to climb to elevated level. The stretch between city and river widened into Riverside Park, a pleasant, apparently freshly redone green space. The bike trail users weren't as fortunate as the trail kept following under the elevated road.
69th Street Transfer Bridge
Trump Place condos behind the West Side Highway
I took a few opportunities to take pictures, like of the 69th Street Transfer Bridge, Trump Place and others. At around 78th Street I began looking for a way up and back to the city. Earlier, I had noticed some bridges and tunnels that connect pedestrian and bike trails to the other side of the express way and now I was looking for such an opportunity to cross. My first attempt was unsuccessful as I erroneously entered in a tunnel-like public works storage area. Soon, I found a place where a steep road provided access to the city. I ran across the Westside to reach Central Park. By now, the temps were downright balmy and the forsythia and daffodil blossoms seemed to lag behind the season indicated by the temperature.
Daffodils and forsythia in Central Park
I noticed that the Central Park Loop was now carrying regular traffic and only few joggers. The bicyclists were now limited to commuters everyone was either at work or on the way. I quickly reached Broadway at Columbus Circle and followed it back to Times Square, admiring the dedicated bike path.
Broadway Bike Trail between Columbus Circle and
Times Square
March 15: Queensboro Bridge

After the last two days' temperatures this morning felt much more seasonable at 9 C, which is still about 5 C warmer than average. Queensboro Bridge is the nearest bridge I could reach and cross on foot from our hotel. Today's jog had the most amount of city travel of all I would do.

I left Times Square going zigzag diagonally through town, always picking the pedestrian "go" light, which evened out over the course of my run to more or less two city blocks north and two east. The GPS track is somewhat random due to running in those deep canyons between the skyscrapers. Just as I reached the bridge, I was hailed by a NYPD copper who asked me if I had a suggestion for a running route for a woman jogger she was helping. I suggested to do like me and run across the bridge but she was adamant on wanting to run downtown. Unfortunately, I could not help her.
East River with Roosevelt Island on left and Queens with Con Edison East
River Electrical Power Plant on right.
On Queensboro Bridge, there are two levels of traffic, the pedestrian/bike path is along the north side an the lower level, the traffic is noisy, not a very pleasant run. From Manhattan, there is the Roosevelt Island (aerial) Tramway and on the Queens side of the bridge, the yellow subway line emerges from the tunnel and goes elevated. The bridge was well traveled by pedestrians and bikes, most westbound on their way to work in Manhattan.

Riding, running or walking just a couple meters away from
noisy and stinking traffic. But a good transit route for
bike and foot commuters

March 16: Hudson River to Chelsea Piers

On this rain-wet and cool morning, I returned to the Hudson River and ran south this time. about half of the distance was right along West Side Highway: not so fun, especially when I passed a NY Transit depot where a dozen or so buses were warming up their engines and belching out their diesel fumes. Still, I do appreciate that it seems quite easy to get around by bike in this huge city.

But then there were pedestrian and bike friendly areas with a little more distance to traffic. I took advantage of the many piers and boardwalks jutting into the river and ran to the end of a few of them. When I approached the northern edge of Chelsea Piers, a large entertainment and shopping complex spanning several piers. I heard a wood thrush call from the bushes, almost within arm's reach.

On the way back, I saw a big cruise ship come up the river, fully lit in the dark and readying to moor at one of the piers. I noticed a big sign on top of the ship spelling out "Queen Victoria." I was not sure if this was the Queen Victoria or a cruise ship line of that name but when I checked later, it was indeed the ship, readying for a trans-Atlantic voyage with destination port of Southampton. Quite a bit of smaller boat traffic on the river, too, some looked like ferries, others like fast police launches. On the way back to Times Square, I passed a construction site where dozens of workers were arriving for their shift.

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