Brooklyn Runner


Urban runs

These days when I go for a run I experience sensory overload from the beauty of the urban environment surrounding my home. I feel lucky to have backdrops like these during just an ordinary run…

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Part of my route takes me past the beautiful and decaying Admiral’s Row at the edge of the Navy Yard.

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An uplifting message in the industrial waterfront of Dumbo.

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The Brooklyn Bridge at Night
November 11, 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Running Routes, Seasons, The City | Tags: ,

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Brooklyn Bridge at Night.
Photo by madabandon.

The other night I ran through Dumbo and across the bridge at night, like 10 o’clock. (I would never do this alone but since I was with another person I felt it was OK).

What a treat it was to be on the bridge and above the water with the city all up in lights and the air cool and mild on your face. It’s a different city up there at night, quieter somehow but still full of life. Perhaps it was the colder weather, and how it gets darker earlier these days, but everything’s a bit more subdued.

With the winter coming and the weather cooling the nights seem quieter now. The cold has always been one of my favorite times to run. Fewer people on the street. The stillness and hardness of the earth seem to make running a more solitary experience — more soulful somehow.



A New Running Route
August 28, 2008, 9:46 am
Filed under: Running Routes, The City | Tags: ,

Hankering for a new “short route,” the other day I tried running some place completely new. A few friends have told me about running along the perimeter of the Brooklyn Navy Yard property, sometimes just for a short run, sometimes on the way to the Williamsburg Bridge. The down side: running on concrete sidewalk for most of the length. The upside: an uninterrupted path for a pretty good stretch. Also, some pretty interesting views, from the old industrial (and in some cases decaying) Navy Yard to the East River and Manhattan skyline.

It’s easy to get to the Navy Yard property. From any major bisecting avenue, head up to Flushing Avenue and you’re on the south end of the property. It’s also easy to know where you are — just stick to the perimeter of the property, which runs up against the river. I stayed on Flushing Avenue for a few blocks, veered left by the BQE entrance ramps, which got me to Kent Avenue heading toward Williamsburg. It’s pretty gritty, with government property and working factories dotting the landscape. An old lumber yard sits near South 11th Street right on the water. Around there the gritty landscape gives way to signs of hipsterville — old buildings graffiti’ed with “Screw Rent” and other clever sayings, and glittering glass condominiums by the Williamsburg Bridge.

There’s a nice new promenade sort of area on the river off South 9th Street behind one of the new condo developments, with benches, new trees, and an amazing view of the city and the bridge. It’s open to the public, so take advantage of this sweet spot. (No water fountains though).

It never ceases to amaze me what an interesting place Brooklyn is. It’s a great short hop around some cool spots, and a continuous uninterrupted path. Oh, but be sure to go during daylight. I wouldn’t want to be wandering this route after dark.



Push for Car-Free Prospect Park
August 26, 2008, 10:22 am
Filed under: Running Routes, The City | Tags: ,

The NY Sun has a story on a push to make Prospect Park a completely car-free park. Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle advocacy group, says they have already successfully whittled away at the hours cars are allowed inside the park. The group is lobbying the Bloomberg administration for a three-month no-car experiment next summer in the park, and are trying to convince the mayor to make a car-free park part of his legacy.

It’s a little confusing, more so since I’ve never driven in the park, but cars are allowed for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening (hours on Prospect Park website here).

Quite frankly, I so rarely see cars (other than police vehicles) in the park when I’m running that it startles me when cars do come by. And if I’m in a car and in a hurry to get somewhere, I’d want to find a route that did not take me through a big, heavily used park, with all its pedestrians and activities going on.

NY Sun: Prospect Park Is Now Eyed For Ban On Cars
Prospect Park website:Hours



What a Disappointment
May 12, 2008, 11:10 am
Filed under: Marathoning, Racing, Running Routes | Tags: ,

I was dismayed to realize in the last few weeks that the Philadelphia Marathon — where I ran my first marathon in 2004 — has added a half marathon to race day.

I’m not knocking Philly for adding a half. But I’m so very not in favor of the way they did it. The half marathoners line up right alongside those running the full marathon. They go off with the same gun. They benefit from the same crowds, same support stations as the marathoners, but they only run half the course — essentially getting all the glory but without having to work as hard.

This seems extremely unfair to me. I get it that the half marathon is a good race for a lot of people, but it’s not fair to have the half run on exactly the same course at exactly the same time as the full marathon. The marathon is a special race, and adding the half in this way does a disservice to a distance that should be respected and honored. If the race organizers wanted to give people a chance to participate in marathon day, they could have set the half marathon an hour or two later, and put the finish at a different point.

And it’s worth noting that typically the field for the half marathon in Philly is about twice as large as the full marathon field. The year I ran it, the half marathon (then called the Philadelphia Distance Run, and held in September) was about 12,000 runners while the full marathon (in late November) was about 5,000. This also made the half marathon work well with the fall training schedules of people all over the Northeast. Can you imagine running in a marathon and at mile 13.1 — your halfway mark — more than two thirds of the field drops out because they are finished? Hearing them get cheered on to their finish while you still have — yikes — 13.1 more miles to go? It seems so wrong.

I had a great experience in Philly in 2004. I was living in that city at the time and did my long training runs up and down the Schuylkill (pronounced skoo-kul) River, which takes you past famed boathouse row and its teams of skullers. That strip and many others that I used to run are part of the marathon course, which made it extra special for me, to be able to run my first marathon on home turf. I loved it. The crowds were great, the weather was perfect, the finish in front of the “Rocky Balboa” steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum was the perfect way to end a marathon. It’s a race I’ll never forget.

I used to rave about this race, encouraging all my friends to do the marathon there as well. Not anymore! How sad … Why the change in 2006? Philly was a treasure among the huge fall marathons in New York, Chicago and DC, all of which are much harder to get into. It’s really too bad.



New Paint on the Bridge
April 21, 2008, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Running Routes, The City

The folks up on the Brooklyn Bridge this weekend were laying down fresh paint on the walk-way separating the pedestrian and bicycle lanes. A badly needed improvement, but unfortunately it’s still way too common for pedestrians (read: tourists) to be blocking up the entire pathway. Whatever good will I had harbored toward these crowds in earlier days of running across the bridge have completely evaporated!

Alas, I’m determined only to run across the bridge only before 8 am, pre-crowds. Call me a jaded New Yorker… I love running over the bridge, but dealing with all the jostling just does not make for a good run.



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!