As the Counting Crows once crooned to many a nostalgic listener: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
For some people, it’s love. For others, it’s health. For all of us, it’s classic Joni Mitchell songs not actually in need of a 2003 facelift feat. Vanessa Carlton.
For me, it’s the Central Park bridle path. I’d always known it was core to my daily routine, but it was only when it was brutally snatched from under my Asics that I realized just how much it meant to me.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with New York’s Central Park, the bridle path is a 1.66-mile dirt running route that circles just outside the reservoir loop, a slightly smaller and more elevated 1.58-mile route. In my mind, the bridle path is superior to the reservoir loop for many reasons: it’s wider, it’s less congested, it has water fountains, it doesn’t flood as badly after storms, it’s near bathrooms, you can take the extension to 103rd St. and push your workout to 2.5 miles, and horses legally have the right of way. Anywhere where furry beasts reign supreme is a A-OK in my book.
Literally the only downside of the bridle path vs. the reservoir is you don’t get the same breathtaking views of the city skyline, since it sits slightly further downhill.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the reservoir loop, too, and considering its view is my blog’s permanent header, I can’t really knock it too hard. But for all its beauty, the reservoir comes hand in hand with something far less desirable: tourists.
Unless you’re running at 6 a.m., the reservoir is without fail full of camera-wielding, stop-and-go tourists walking against traffic and three abreast. I love that people visit our city and keep our service industry employed and patron our landmarks and share the good news of our delicious pizza abroad, but for the love of God, when you step onto a running path where hundreds of strangers are all moving counterclockwise, why oh why would you choose to do the opposite? Be warned, fair funner: Travel the reservoir and know you’ll be darting and weaving more than a loom.
So it was with great dismay that I arrived at the park earlier this month to find that a segment of the reservoir had been temporarily closed to allow for path maintenance.
With the reservoir closed off from 90th St. to the north end of the loop, there was only one place to divert them. You guessed it.
Fortunately, the bridle path is wide enough that even with the new influx of traffic, you can still make your way around without too much fancy footwork. But for a loop that used to feel exclusively mine, it’s now jam-packed with bodies kicking up my dust, sharing my water fountains and disrupting my oh-so-coveted solitude. I’m a middle child. I’ve never been good at sharing.
Of course, I understand why the reservoir repair is taking place and pushing athletes and tourists alike onto my beloved bridle path. According to the park’s website, the reservoir running track was last repaired in 1999, helping explain the erosion, flooding and damage that I’ve witnessed on it after many-a-storm. The reservoir path is crucial to the park’s history — Madonna ran here, Jackie O ran here, Bill Clinton ran here — and even more importantly, some say jogging as a U.S. past time was pretty much initiated here. I can’t attest to that, but I can verify that at least one runner’s first steps — mine — took place around that 1.58-mile loop.
So while it’s no bridle path, the reservoir loop has it’s place in both the park’s history and mine, which is why I’m going to be donating today to it’s continued repair and maintenance. I want to ensure it stops flooding after thunderstorms. I want to keep it well lit. I want to fund more signs reminding people to follow the flow of traffic.
But let’s be honest. Most of all, I want the reservoir reopened so I can reclaim my beloved bridle path. I’m coming for you, old girl.
Has your favorite running route ever been taken from you?