Marathon training in Central Park is no picnic

Training in the park can be risky business. Illustration by Jim Carroll
Training in the park can be risky business.
Illustration by Jim Carroll

February was the first time I had ever run in Central Park, taking part in the 4-mile Gridiron Classic, a Super Bowl Sunday road race around the park’s lower loop. Until then, I’d primarily used the park for getting quick sunburns or taking long contemplative walks (which, OK, I never took — it just sounds good).

My relationship with the park has taken on a new dimension since I got into the marathon, and one of the reasons I do the majority of my training there is its variety of running surfaces. From the soft cinder trail around the reservoir, to the dirt surface of the bridle path, to the asphalt of the Park Drive loop — it keeps things fresh, which is important for a runner like me.

There are also some challenging hills on the main outer loop that can help develop a larger range of muscles, which is important for a fairly hilly marathon course like New York. Overall, the park is perfect for marathon training, which is why it’s home to so many marathon training programs.

The park, however, is not without its faults. Weekend afternoons are a parade of potential skull fractures due to the variety of recreational activities that it can host. Here is just a partial list of what a runner must dodge on any given weekend: horse-drawn carriages (and what comes out of a horse that draws a carriage), zip scooters, rollerbladers (who have clearly invented a time machine allowing them to visit us from 1998), tourists on bicycles, tourists on foot, tourists taking pictures, tourists eating ice cream, rickshaw bicycle taxis, serious cyclists, park department vans, police cars, crazy squirrels, skateboarders and the occasional wedding party.

Now, picture any three of these things converging all at once at different speeds and angles. If you pictured a crying bride holding a bloody squirrel, leaning up against a flipped-over rickshaw: Congratulations, you get the picture. I just accept this as all part of my training, so if a crazed time-traveling rollerblader leaps out at me during the marathon, I know I’ll be prepared.

Weekdays are a different story, with the park being primarily inhabited by runners and cyclists who aren’t too fond of each other. It’s true hatred: think Sharks vs. Jets, Hatfields vs. McCoys, Red Sox vs. Yankees. Both believe they have the right to the road and both aren’t afraid to get into a shouting match to defend that right, using colorful language best kept out of this family-friendly blog.

Overall, the park is a pretty peaceful place, and at times while running alone, I imagine Nov. 3, when hopefully I’ll be entering the park at mile 24, finishing this long journey where it all began.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Trump Plaza in Atlantic City to close, adding…

Trump Plaza booked less than half its rooms in the first quarter of 2014, and had the lowest gaming revenue of any of the city's casinos in May, according to…

National

Debut 'supermoon' hangs in the summer sky

It was the first of three times this year the full "supermoon" will orbit closer to earth and appear unusually large and bright.

National

Exclusive: YouTube weighs funding efforts to boost premium…

By Ronald Grover and Lisa RichwineLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - YouTube has embarked on a new round of discussions with Hollywood and independent producers to fund…

National

Pot farmer charged with starting California wildfire

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 37-year-old man accused of starting a raging wildfire in Northern California while tending to his marijuana farm was arrested and…

Going Out

NYC's Best Bar: Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club?

Having actually played shuffleboard on the beach on Royal Palm Boulevard in South Florida, we expertly approve this hipster hangout.

Going Out

Cocktail of the Week: The Royal Palms Shuffle

The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, in Gowanus, Brooklyn, created this drink to feature Brugal Extra Dry.

Going Out

NYC's Best Bar: Hill & Dale?

Every bar should be the best at something: What's Hill & Dale's angle?

Music

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' was sexual, but not…

  Robin Thicke has a certified dud on his hands with "Paula," the follow-up album to his multiplatinum "Blurred Lines" and its eponymous title track that…

MLB

Yankees All-Star break report card

The first half of the season rarely went as planned for the Yankees, right down to a massively disappointing injury diagnosis to Masahiro Tanaka in…

NBA

Nets lose Paul Pierce to two-year deal with…

Paul Pierce is taking a gamble on joining a franchise on the rise.

NBA

GIF: LeBron James returns to Cleveland so deal…

To anyone out there who is upset about his decision, this .GIF is for you. Enjoy.

World Cup

A game of two popes: Vatican plays down…

By Philip PullellaVATICAN CITY (Reuters) - With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry…

Food

Taco Bell goes totally off-script with new breakfast…

Taco Bell is betting that you, or someone you love enough to take there, wants healthier options. At least first thing in the morning. For…

Wellbeing

Sex or drugs, it's all the same to…

Pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts similar to the effect drugs have on the brains of drug addicts, researchers said on Friday — but…

Lifestyle

Pets: Dogs die in hot cars! Be careful…

Leaving animals in a car even with the windows cracked, even in the shade, can cause heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Home

Bring on the flea market

The editors at Wayfair show us what to do with cute flea market finds.