|I took this picture during a run. In general, don't take pictures when you're running|
I have lived in New York for more than three years now and by my off-the-top-of-my-head estimation, I have run somewhere in the ballpark of 10 million miles in Manhattan’s two places to run: Central Park and the West Side Highway. During that time, I have evolved from a quiet, polite guy who says “excuse me” and stops so tourists can take pictures of street performers, foliage, hobos, etc. to screaming obscenities at tourists, running into them if they don’t move and under no circumstances stopping, changing course or delaying my spitting/snot-rocketing for their stupid pictures. Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m not still standing on the Bridle Path waiting for the 300th picture of everyone gathered around the reservoir (“Take it again! I blinked!”). But, I was naïve then. I didn’t know that if you want to run in New York, you have to run with balls, you have to run selfishly and you have to run with hyper-awareness of your surroundings. This past weekend, as I raced – and beat -- a bus with “Pippin” painted on the side of it across a driveway on the West Side Highway, I realized I had made the complete transition. And you know me. I'm a stickler for rules (that I make up. Not anyone else's). So, now I am ready to pass on to you, the rules (Version 1) of running in New York City.
You can’t run on city streets – People always ask, “Where do you run?” “Is it cool to see all the buildings?” “How do you deal with the crowds?” As I said above, there are two places to run in Manhattan: Central Park and the West Side Highway. You can try to run on city streets, but you will find yourself stopping approximately every four feet for large crowds of people, stoplights or food vendors. You also run the very high risk of falling into the concrete basement of a bar. If you try to run in the bike lane you will be hit by a bike, car or street sweeper depending on the time of day.
You can run over the Brooklyn Bridge – As long as you do it before 8am. If you try to run over the Brooklyn Bridge after this time you will get sucked into a large crowd of tourists and it will take you no less than three hours to get to the other side. Also note, there is a running lane and a biking lane on the bridge. Do not run in the biking lane. You will get run over. The cyclist may not even ring the bell.
You can run on the bike path on the West Side Highway -- Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, you can run in the designated bike lane on the West Side Highway. Ignore the giant sign that tells you to run on the sidewalk portion adjacent to the river. Will some cyclists yell at you? Sure, but it’s better than tripping over a bench and/or someone walking their dog. The bike path is wide enough for everyone. Just be polite and run to the side. Also, look out for golf carts.
Your life is worth less than a cab fare – Cab drivers won’t stop for you. If you run out in front of a cab thinking the driver is going to stop, your next step is going to be through pearly or fiery gates.
You can drink out of the water fountains in Central Park – Do raccoons, squirrels and possibly people pee in them? Probably. But, I nor anyone I know has ever gotten dysentery from drinking out of them and it beats strapping on a fuel belt. Don’t strap on a fuel belt.
Bathrooms are not easy to find – You can’t just run into the gas station when disaster strikes. Sometimes the nearest bathroom is mile away. Sometimes it’s two. Sometimes making it to that bathroom is not an option. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of in Central Park and I’m sorry. That said, I know where every single bathroom is in those 843 acres and I know the quickest way to get there. They are not always open. Rushing to a bathroom to be greeted by a locked door is one hundred times worse than going through the subway turnstile as the train doors close. At least in that case there will be another train. A locked bathroom means a trip to the woods. Now, if an emergency strikes on the West Side Highway and you aren’t close to a bathroom, I don’t know what to tell you. Fortunately, it has never happened to me. If I had to take a guess at your best bet, I’d say it would be hanging over the railing into the Hudson River.
You can’t smoke in NYC Parks – It’s illegal. I will not hesitate to inform those I see/smell engaging in the habit. I implore you to do the same.
Never leave without a metro card and a $5 – A lot of stuff can happen and you might need to get home. You might not be able to run there. Maybe you run into some friends and they want to grab a beer when you’re done. Maybe you break your ankle. No matter where you are, a subway is always within walking (or hobbling) distance. Be prepared. What’s the $5 for? It’s for the coffee or the beer. Wait, it’s New York. Better make it $10.