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
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…