Monday, July 18, 2011

Central Park Dream Run

Here I am in Central Park. The one and only Central Park!
For years, I have romanticized running in Central Park.  Could it possibly live up to the images etched into my memory by popular cinema?  Might I brush shoulders with a celebrity New Yorker?  Sarah Jessica Parker, perhaps?  Would I be safe?  Would I get lost?  The map of Central Park had so many lines and loops, I practically got dizzy just looking at it.

Recipe for getting lost.
 I was travel-weary and grumpy from spending so much time with my whiny kiddos who decided they didn't like the smell, sounds, heat and humidity of NYC in July.  Did I even have a run in me?  Perhaps I should put it off another day? NO, no, no!  I was going! Running Central Park was on my bucket list, dammit!  Not only was I going to run Central Park, I was going to enjoy each and every fucking second of it!

I pulled on my coolest running outfit.  Magically, looking like a runner, made me feel like a runner!  My directionally savvy hubby had shown me the map, traced my route, prepped me and made sure we both had our cell phones on sound AND vibrate.  He assured me that he saw lots of female runners running solo during his early morning run, many were plugged into their iPods.  He wasn't the least bit worried about my safety.  I, on the other hand wasn't so sure.  "Only thing we have to fear is fear itself", or so says FDR.  I was about to find out I thought as I put on a brave face and headed out of the quiet, security of my hotel and onto the bustling streets of NYC.  At the very least, I would run a mere two symbolic miles in Central Park.  At best, I would run a nice 6.1 mile loop.

Taxis clogged up the streets honking their impatient horns.  So many people, all in such a great hurry.  I got caught up in the palatable energy and clocked my first half mile at sub-nine minute pace.  Smokin' for me!  A homeless man going the opposite direction saw me coming, jokingly imitated my running and called me "Speedy".  That's right, Speedy. That's me.  I ran right by the neon lights of Times Square, down Broadway and alongside the building in which the David Letterman show is filmed. 

My family in Times Square the day we arrived all starry eyed and jet lagged in NYC

 Can't you just hear the window breaking when Dave throws his pencil at it?! Me too!
My heart skipped a beat when I realized I had made it to  Columbus Circle, the grand entry-way of Central Park!  Tears sprang to my eyes and my throat constricted with emotion.  There I was at the base of the Maine Monument.  It was time to really begin my run.  I felt like I could run all day in this spectacular iconic setting.

Lots of action on Columbus Circle
Maine Monument
My running route was teeming with honking, speeding taxis and cars, carriages drawn by plumed horses, racing bicyclers and countless runners, joggers and walkers, many accompanied by their happy pooches or slumbering babies.  It was like one giant party out there and I was in on the action!  I must have looked quite the fool with the cheesy grin I wore.  My plan was to stay on this main strip and steer clear of the confusing park's interior.  I was guaranteed to get lost if I ventured that direction.  
Notice from left to right, runners, cyclers, motorists sharing the road.
Central Park Drive around the boundary of the park. Inside the park is for foot traffic only.
I got greedy.  My already fantastic run would be even more so if I could lay my eyes on some of Central Park's picturesque bridges, bodies of water and landmarks.  I was feeling full of energy.  Steve had given me the green light to take my time, run as long and far as I liked while he held down the fort with the girls.  It was great having lots of family time and being on vacation.  Nonetheless, traveling with children is stressful!  I have come to realize that traveling in a foreign country where I don't speak the language and can't drink the water is easier than traveling in the United States with two little kids!  Everything goes slower, is riddled with whining and revolves around seeing to it that they are safe, fed, entertained, sun screened, hand sanitized and have empty bladders and bowels.  I love my children dearly, blah, blah, blah, but it was liberating being away from them for the time being.  I wanted to be totally in the present.  It's not every day that I get to be in New York running Central Park!

I felt utterly and completely safe.  I was surrounded by people, none of whom looked the least bit shady.  It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky.  Fuck it, I'm going in!  What's the worst that could happen?  I get lost and have to ask a stranger for directions?  I have to hail a cab to take me back to the hotel?  I have to call Steve and confess that I wandered off course and needed his support?  This was a chance of a lifetime and I wasn't going to limit the opportunity by being fearful of getting lost.  I always get lost! 

Into the belly of the park I went, in search of its treasures.  I ran alongside the Central Park Zoo and caught a glimpse of the harbor seals swimming in their tank.  Just as I ran underneath the brick archway, the Delacorte Music Clock animals circled around as the clock played a sweet song.  I spotted the "Checkers House" where they filmed "Searching for Bobby Fischer".  I was spellbound the entire run.  Here is a peek at just a few of the exquisite sights I saw:

I have seen countless romantic comedies where happy couples walked across or shared a kiss atop this charming bridge
One of the many bodies of water. I was looking for the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir, but never found it.
Trees, plants, grass, flowers all within the heart of New York City
The city and the park meet
Belvedere Castle

 Alice in Wonderland Statue

Being in New York for the first time was a dream come true and here I was running in Central Park! Did I get lost?  Of course, I got lost!  Without a doubt, it was the best time I've ever had being lost.  I ended up running over six glorious miles.  I got myself turned around several times within the park.  I called Steve for advice, consulted maps countless times and asked several strangers and a pair of the nicest NYPD officers for directions.  By the time I got back to my hotel, I had the biggest runner's high and a smile glued to my face for the entire day.  May you all have opportunities to be brave, spontaneous and chase down your dreams!  My dream-run in Central Park is one that I will always treasure and hold near and dear in my heart and my mind's eye.

"Not all who wander are lost."


  1. Leah... That's amazing! You rock! I just did the mckenzie trail b/c of your last blog! It's beautiful!!!

  2. Thanks Wendy! That's great that you got to run McKenzie River Trail!