When it comes to running, I am not a meanderer. My course is planned out the day before, and I don’t veer from it if I can help it. See, on long runs, I switch into auto-pilot mode to conserve my physical and mental energy, and a predetermined route is one less variable to worry about. So inflexible am I that a forced detour of only a block can really throw me off my game. A go-with-the-flow runner I am not.
That’s why, on Saturday, it was extremely uncharacteristic of me to swerve northward into Riverside Park instead of continuing along 79th Street to the Hudson River, where I planned to turn toward downtown. My stomach was overriding my usual desire for order: if I tacked on a few extra miles before turning around, I would finish near City Bakery instead of further south in Battery Park. Battery Park is woefully bereft of post-run snackage. It’s a depressing place to end a run. (I know what you’re wondering: why didn’t I continue along my planned route and simply stop a few miles short at City Bakery? Because I would have been upset with myself for not running my prescribed 16 miles.)
Maybe it was the endorphins, or the crisp air (oh, to not be soaked with sweat), but I was instantly enamored of Riverside Park. No one has ever implored me to visit. Central Park gets all the glory. Why have my friends on the Upper West Side never sung the praises of Riverside Park? There are flat, open boulevards as well as winding paths. Happy, frolicking dogs abound, but there are blessedly few bikers or fellow runners. Even the sound of traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway was lovely.
I form very fond associations with many of the places I run. Often this is simply because I’m grateful my running habit has taken me to ground I would not normally tread upon during my day to day existence. On top of that, there’s the magic of having a normally-bustling area (say, Times Square) almost exclusively to myself. Shawn was diagnosed with a herniated disc this past spring, so I’ve been running alone. This solitude has fostered an even stronger connection to my routes. When I have company on runs, my surroundings fade into the background, but when I’m by myself, they take center stage.
I was so excited to “share” Riverside Park with my husband that early Sunday morning we packed breakfast along with the Times and took the subway uptown. I was nervous I had oversold it, but Shawn was impressed. (Dinosaur Playground alone probably would have made the trip worth it for him.) We walked from 96th Street to 122nd and then back down to 79th. I’m already counting down the days til I’ll return for another run.