Brooklyn Runner

Global warming!
January 9, 2008, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, Seasons | Tags: ,

OK, I am all for an occasional mild day in January when you are comfortable running in the shorts and long sleeved shirt, but I’m sorry, this is just downright ludicrous! It’s January, people! “Cooling down” should refer to it dropping into the 20s, not the 50s! This is New York, not Boca Raton.

My last few runs had me in shorts, with no hat or gloves required. Which is nice, sure, once in a while, during the winter. But come on. As someone I work with astutely pointed out this afternoon, that’s why we love living in New York — because you have seasons here! In the winter it gets cold, and you get to wear your wool turtleneck sweaters and bundle up and brace yourself again the bitter cold. You have snow and ice and slush, and you leap over giant puddles of melting snow at intersections crossing the street. And in the summer you get to sweat and lounge around on the grass in the park in the sun.

Anyway. Those toe warmers I bought last year (the kind you break when you open them and stick in your shoes, and they stay hot for a couple of hours) have gone unused this year so far. Here’s hoping for “normal” weather sometime soon.

Running routes in Brooklyn
January 2, 2008, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Running Routes, training | Tags:

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I was eager to learn the local running routes and their precise distances. As a creature of habit, I like to run the same routes over and over again, getting to know each turn, incline, and mile marker so I can measure my progress or guage expectation and pace. As I’ve discovered, Brooklyn is a great place to run. So, to start out the New Year I’ve decided to share my list garnered from a season of experimenting, training and mapping — and lots and lots of miles.

— There is, most obviously, Prospect Park with its outer loop (and top or bottom loops for shorter distances). And Map My Run has been a godsend in calculating distances to and from the park or wherever else you’re headed.

For short to medium runs, I like the 3.34-mile outer loop at Prospect Park (tacked on to the distance from home for me it’s a solid six-mile run). It’s scenic and spacious and mostly flat, but watch out for a big long hill on the eastern top side of the loop, by the zoo heading up toward Grand Army Plaza (if you start at Grand Army and go counterclockwise it fall at the very end of the loop). On shorter days I’ll do the top loop, which is 2.2 miles. Start at Grand Army, go counterclockwise and hang a left turn just before the big staircase. Prospect Park’s website has running info, and Prospect Park Track Club has a map with mileage.

— Another great run is the Brooklyn Bridge. Nothing like being on foot over that beautiful icon with its expansive views. But it’s the farthest thing from a secret, so be prepared for crowds at just about any time of day or night, every day of the week. The only times I’ve found the bridge to be bearable in terms of congestion is at 6 a.m., weekends or weekdays. Also, it can get windy up there and it’s an upward climb in both directions, but don’t forget to look up and take in the view — it’s breathtaking.

There are two ways to access the footpath: Enter the ramp entrance at the intersection of Cadman Plaza East and Tillary Street (which I favor), or take the staircase up from Cadman Plaza East near Prospect Street. The bridge span itself is just over one mile (1.13 miles), but I think it depends on where you enter and when you start to measure.

To mix it up a bit, on the way back I like to make my way over to Brooklyn Heights and throw in the promenade. You have to swerve around leisurely walkers on nice days, but the view is one of my favorites in the whole city; it’s a place any Brooklynite must become familiar with.

— For long runs, especially helpful during marathon training, I take the bridge over to the Manhattan side and take the staircase down to street level, where you’ll be on Police Plaza/ Park Row. Turn right and double back under the bridge span, heading east along Avenue of the Finest/ Robert Wagner Pl. to access the East River running path. You’ll know you’re approaching the path when you can see the water ahead as you hit (and cross over) South Street underneath the FDR Drive. From there you can turn left to head north up the path, which is a continuous running path up to 34th Street. Including the bridge, that’s about five miles in one direction. There are plenty of water fountains along this route, and a decent public rest room just past the Williamsburg Bridge.

— For a longer alternative (think marathon season 20-mile training run), turn right to head south instead. Hug the coast of Manhattan’s southern tip, passing the Governor’s Island ferry station, Staten Island Ferry terminal, and through Battery Park (tourist alert: beware of the crowds lining up for the boat tours, Castle Clinton National Memorial, and the guy on stilts painted green and dressed up as the Statue of Liberty). Stop at the park’s water fountains and bathroom (on the northeastern edge of the park) before picking up the Manhattan West Side path at Battery Place.

The route takes some detours past all the construction at the World Trade Center site, but the detours are pretty well marked and intuitive. From here it’s a straight shot all the way up the West Side. I’ve gone as far as 71st Street (the 10 mile point, and turnaround for a 20-mile run for me), and it’s exactly the kind of run you want to be doing for a 20 — uninterrupted, flat, and designated for runners. Plenty of water fountains in the lower half, some Gatorade machines, and a public rest room at the Chelsea Piers building. The new lower Riverside Park, courtesy of Donald Trump, was looking pretty nice but the water fountains up there were not functioning at the end of the summer. (Also, we could use a rest room up there, Mr. Trump!)

Whew! That’s about all my running route secrets from Brooklyn. . . .

I know I’ve left out a bunch of good routes that go along Ocean Parkway, the Greenwood cemetary, or down to Coney Island. I’ve yet to explore these, but plan to this spring/summer. Please feel free to pass along yours, friends, and I’ll post them up here as well!

New Year’s Run
January 1, 2008, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Contemplating, training

One of my favorite traditions that has developed over the years is going for an afternoon run on New Year’s Day.

It started I can’t remember when, back when a good hard run in the winter cold was the perfect — and sometimes only — antidote to a frustrating, stressful week at work. A run was a way to be alone, to be doing something good, to work out frustrations in a healthy way (that I wouldn’t regret later). I loved the idea that the first thing I would do in the new year would be something healthy, something uplifting and good, something that would make me stronger and help me grow. It was something that only I could do for myself, a get-up-and-go activity in its purest form.

I still love all those things about my New Year’s Day run — and of course it’s helpful that a run is always a good way to ease out of a hangover. I’m not much of a person for New Year’s resolutions, but one thing struck me today in thinking about the new year. There are a thousand moments over the course of running and training when you could easily stop, when effort becomes hard exertion, and it’s tougher than you expected, and it makes you want to call it quits for the day. What makes you a runner is that in that moment you choose to keep going anyway. You put your head down, breathe deep, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that your efforts will eventually pay off.

I’m glad to be reminded of that on New Year’s Day, as we think about goals and expectations in the coming year.