I often receive emails from readers asking me about running routes in New York City. While the Big Apple is best known for its gourmet restaurants, high-end stores, and skyscrapers – it also has an amazingly vibrant running scene. I’ve been living in Manhattan for 2 years now and have been able to train for 2 marathons and bunch of half-marathons without a problem – it just takes a little planning (and some tips from a local!)
Part 1: Where can I stash my stuff?
First of all, if you’re going to go for a run in the city, you’ll need to plan ahead. Since most New Yorkers don’t have cars, you can’t stash your work clothes and gym bag in the backseat of your ride. Also, if your apartment or hotel is not close to a park/pedestrian path, you’ll need to take the subway to somewhere run-able. There are a couple of things you can do:
1) Run with only the essentials. When I run from my apartment to work, I only bring my metrocard, keys, and a cell phone. I leave a change of work clothes at my desk the day before and change when I get to the office. If you’ll be taking the subway either to or from a run – make sure to bring a metro card and a couple of dollars for a gatorade or emergency snack.
2) If you have a gym membership, you can stash your stuff in a gym locker and then take to the roads (try to find a gym that has locations near Central Park or Prospect Park). The Westside YMCA is near Central Park and a ton of New York Sports Clubs around the city. Ask about a day pass if you’re just visiting!
3) Leave your bags in the cubbies at the New York Road Runners office on E. 89th st. The office is open until 7pm, so you can get a quick run in after work or during your lunch break. Just make sure to pack deodorant – no showers here!
4) The Niketown store on E. 57th st offers group runs 3 days per week and the last time I attended a run, they had a bag-check (similar to a coat check) and post-run refreshments. I’ve never had a problem, but I wouldn’t leave anything TOO valuable.
Part 2: Where should I go running?
1) The most popular choice is Central Park. The Park’s boundaries are 59th street on the Southern end, 110th street to the North, Central Park West (a.k.a 8th Avenue), and 5th Avenue. For suggested routes and mileage, check out NYRR’s Guide to Running in Central Park.
2) Another favorite running route is the 4-mile long Riverside Park. When Alma and I were training for the Boston marathon, we did a long run that went all the way down Riverside Park, into Battery Park at the bottom of the island, and then up the East River Path (check out the public track near E. 6th street!). However, be warned: The East River Park ends around 34th st and turns into the FDR. Apparently NYC cops frown upon highway running…We learned this the hard way.
3) A few weeks ago, Highline Park opened to the public. This elevated park is located along former railroad tracks in the Meatpacking district (from W. 34th street to Gansevoort street). Exciting!
4) When I lived in Washington Heights, I used to love to run in Inwood Hill Park and under the George Washington Bridge. The NY Times roving runner recently paid a visit to Northern Manhattan and provided a very good recap of the neighborhood’s running options.
Part 3: What if I have to use the bathroom? Where can I buy running gear? Where should I go to re-fuel and celebrate?
1) Best public restrooms for runners: My personal fav is on the second floor of the Time Warner Center Mall at Columbus Circle. It’s never very crowded and usually very clean. The boat house bathroom (E. 74th St), the Delacorte Theatre bathroom (W. 79th st), and the bathroom near the Harlem Meer ( Northeast corner, near 110th st) are good options if you’re running in Central Park. You can also pop into a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks location in an emergency.
2) Local running shops (many will even videotape you while you run and recommend a specific shoe – for free!):
- The Super Runner’s Shop (Locations throughout the city)
- The Running Company (Columbus Circle and Third Avenue)
- Jack Rabbit Sports (Union Square)
3) My favorite places to eat after a long run or race:
- The Popover Cafe or Sarabeth’s for brunch
- The Firehouse Tavern for wings, burgers, and beer
- Levain bakery – 1/3 lb chocolate chip cookies. Need I say more?
- Zen Palate or the Whole Foods salad bar if you’re craving veggies!