So after the successful run-on-the-road in Denver, the very next weekend (this last one) we were going to be in New York for a whirlwind trip to celebrate my birthday and see the show Sleep No More, and it was also the weekend for my last big run of the training: 20 miles. We were trying to figure out how to fit the four hours I’d need for the run into the schedule and so I did a little bit of Google Maps research and decided on an audacious plan. When we arrived at La Guardia Airport, Erica took our bags and got in a cab and went to go visit a friend in Brooklyn and then would later make her way over to Manhattan to check into our hotel. I walked out of La Guardia and started running.
I had literally two pages of Google Maps turn-by-turn directions clutched in my hand to guide me through Queens to the Queensboro bridge and then over to Central Park. I thought I’d have to do two loops of the Park to make my distance, and then it would be 3 miles down to the hotel.
Running through Queens was a lot like running Chicago neighborhoods, plus hills. And with a little bit of almost-getting-lost, as the route I was taking had me paralleling highways for a while and several of the streets I needed to follow were unlabeled access roads where I needed to turn onto them. I also took a chance on some signs that directed me to the “waterfront”, since I knew I had some extra miles to kill. It turned out that the small waterfront park I ended up at did not extend south towards the bridge, and so I did have to do some detouring around the power plant. But that did let me find the Queensboro Bridge Park and I was happy to discover that New York park bathrooms are open in the winter.
It was cold but impressive running across the bridge, and plenty of other people were out for a run or bike across the bridge. In Manhattan, it wasn’t ideal running on the crowded sidewalks, but fortunately it wasn’t far Central Park.
I had forgotten how hilly Central Park is as well, but the looping drive is smooth and wide. When I got to the Reservoir, I decided to take a loop around, as I knew I still had some more miles to chew up. It didn’t hurt that it’s nice and level, and it was cool to run around that “jogging” landmark.
The north end of the Park is really hilly and that was a bit of a slog for this Chicago-trained runner, but at the top of the hill I had a nice surprise when I noticed some folks looking into the woods and I got to see one of the famous Central Park red-tailed hawks. (I think. I’m pretty sure. It was some big raptor.)
Coming back down the park, I was happy to be able to visit a restroom again, and to refill my water bottle with a Gatorade purchased from one of the many park vendors. As I hit the southern end of the park, I did a mental calculation and was pretty sure that I had managed to chew up all the extra miles I needed to do and could just head straight for the hotel.
Running down 7th Avenue, with the short blocks and crowded weekend tourist traffic, was very start-and-stop and I was getting a little frustrated. If I had it all to do again, I’d do the extra miles in the Park and take a cab to the hotel. But I did run through Times Square, so I suppose that’s cool. When I got to the hotel, I’d undershot my distance by a mile, so I headed down 29th Street (at least fewer stop lights running on the longer Street blocks) and added on the distance I needed.
Nike+ says that I again set a PR for the half marathon distance. I have no idea how that’s calculated on a long run like this—if it’s the first 13.1 or just any fastest segment within the run. But for sure the 20 miles and change was the longest distance I’ve ever run. And really, it was pretty darn cool. I’ve taken a cab from La Guardia to Manhattan so many times—to run that trip feels pretty badass.