World Running Guide: Manhattan, New York

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World Running Guide: Manhattan, New York

Finding a city’s secret spots can only really happen at human speed. In this series, World Running Guide, we’ll provide information to help you discover your next destination through the eyes (or rather, feet) of a runner.

Senses are ablaze as your feet pound through the concrete jungle. Your heart pumps harder with every taxi horn, pigeon swoosh overhead or biker zooming past. No city offers adrenaline quite like New York, especially when daring to run through its already jamming streets. So, submit to the Sinatra classic: “These vagabond shoes are longing to stray, right through the very heart of it, New York, New York.”


On Your Mark

central park .jpg Photo courtesy of M01229, CC-BY

I know what some Manhattan newbies might be thinking: “Running in NYC with crazy traffic, a suffocating number of skyscrapers and 8 million people—doesn’t it sound kind of miserable?” Even amid all of those people, the running community is tightly knit. While you won’t have sweeping mountainous views in the Great Apple, you do have six miles of car-free landscape in Central Park. If you don’t mind the “urban jungle,” there are bridges and greenways for breathtaking views of the city and Hudson River.

New York is highly esteemed in athletic circles, especially for running. Runner’s World rated the city as #8 in their top 50 running cities in the U.S. and Women’s Running bumped it up to #5 on their list. According to Strava, New Yorkers go on 4,259 runs per week and run 23,092 miles per week. Never fear the beast that is Manhattan—there’s more to this town than just gridlock. Some say running through this buzzing metropolis is as exciting as a real-life videogame, so lace up and get ready for a wild ride.

Get Set

red lighthouse.jpg Photo courtesy of D.aniela, CC-BY-ND

Manhattan’s blessing for adventurous runners and curse for timid ones is its unpredictability. There’s always something new to see, even if you feel you’ve mastered the lay of the land. Maybe you notice a flower shop for the first time, or run past a saxophone player on a once-empty street corner. Whether you’re running along the Hudson River Greenway early in the morning or pushing up the hills in northern Central Park under the hot afternoon sun, opportunities for creativity in your routes are endless.

A classic Manhattan route for beginners or speed workouts is the 1.58-mile loop around the Central Park Reservoir. Another option (great for NYC first-timers who want an overview of the city) is the 11.5-mile straightaway from the George Washington Bridge to Battery Park. Take the subway up to 181st street and, if you want a pre-run treat, you can check out the 40-foot-high Little Red Lighthouse under the bridge in Jeffrey’s Hook.

If these two options bore you, then maybe 16.68 miles across five bridges will get your blood pumping. Bounce back-and-forth between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn through the 59th Street, Pulaski, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Unless you’re craving even more excitement, avoid high traffic and go on an early Sunday morning.


dashing whippets.jpeg Photo courtesy of the Dashing Whippets

If you’re nervous to take the jam-packed island on your own, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. New York City arguably has the most amount of running clubs in the world. As a starting place to avoid being overwhelmed, here are three groups worth checking out.

The New York Harriers have been rigorously training since 1988. While these locals definitely have fun with donut + beer parties and annual trips to Colorado, they also bust their butts with multiple-day training days led by certified coaches. Members can enjoy training plans specifically designed to fulfill their needs and goals.

The New York Flyers are one of the oldest and largest running clubs in the city, so if all else fails, stick with the ol’ faithful. Their calendar is extremely thorough, so visitors and members are always in the know of current club events. Oh, and if you’re a brunch fan, these folks almost always have a post-race feast.

The Dashing Whippets are a refreshingly diverse running club. Runners from all over the world (and especially from all five boroughs) call this group family. Whether you’re aiming for a mile or a marathon, this club is ready to meet your needs. Members only pay $30 per year, but first-timers can have a 90-day free trial. Members also receive perks like discounts on running gear and clothing.

“[New York City] is like a great woman,” said Woody Allen. Just when you think you’ve uncovered every inch of Manhattan’s beauty, she surprises you. Let the mystery lure you in and take a jog through New York’s beating heart.

Beginner: Running of the Balls 5K
Bold: Brooklyn Mother’s Day Half
Beast: New York City Marathon

Main image: Photo courtesy of Dicau58, CC-BY-SA

McGee Nall is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia. She was probably eating Nilla wafers and Nutella while writing this