I could attribute my successful running career [I use this word loosely; Nike isn’t sponsoring these 8-minute miles or anything] to lots of things — a rigid sleep schedule, a largely whole-food diet, an innate fear of finishing last. But I believe my achievements in fitness these past few years were mostly guided by the same forces that drive real estate: location, location, location.
That is, I’ve spent the past six years residing in a runner’s paradise, New York’s Upper East Side, and that has made all the difference.
I realize there are plenty of more successful runners from other parts of the world (I’m looking at you, Kenya), but for me at least, the UES has been the prime location for me to hone my performance. Why, you ask? So many reasons, but here are some of the main ones:
- Proximity to Central Park: For six years, I’ve been just a half mile from 800 acres of paved running paths, dirt trails and welcome escape from the urban hustle. My tried and true routes have been the 6-mile main loop, the 1.5-mile reservoir and the 2.5-mile extended bridle path, which goes around the base of the reservoir and then up and over around the 102nd St. transverse. The park isn’t perfect, especially on tourist-filled summer days, but it sports clean bathrooms, often-functioning water fountains, and some of the best views in the city, including the header of this here blog. It’s also the home of most local races, encouraging me to sign up for dozens more that I’d have done if I had to take a train to the starting corrals.
- Proximity to the East River Promenade: Tired of Central Park? The UES is also a stone’s throw from another (flatter) running route, along the East River. Although parts are still under construction, you can still get in several miles running north from Gracie Mansion to 125th St. The path also extends south to the 59th St. bridge, as long as you pick it up on the 78th St. ramp. Feel like mixing it up? Run over the footbridge at 103rd St. and explore Randall’s Island by foot. There’s no shortage of area to cover when you’re coming from the UES.
- So Many Gyms: Since moving to the area, I’ve visited half a dozen gyms, from the neighborhood institution 92Y to the impressive Asphalt Green (pictured) to all
threetwo neighborhood New York Sports Clubs. I even once ponied up $100 to attend a four-week “yoga for runners” series at the east side Pure Yoga studio, a stretch-worthy indulgence I’d gladly do again.
- Food Options for Athletes: A food desert the neighborhood is not. There’s a Fairway and a Whole Foods right by 86th St, plus dozens of other groceries from Key Food to Gristedes. If you prefer your carbs ready-made, check out this marathon-runner’s favorite institution, H&H Midtown Bagels East on Second Avenue. The best place for food though is the Yorkville farmer’s market on 82nd St. and 1st Ave. I go every Saturday, except when the even-closer greenmarket in the 90s opens on Sundays in the summer. From fresh fruits and veggies to meats, cheeses, honey and breads, this place seriously has everything you need to eat cleanly and deliciously.
Why am I talking about this neighborhood like it’s about to disappear? Well, because it is — or rather, I’m about to disappear from within it. This weekend, my fiance and I finally make the big move out of Manhattan, and I’m going to have to discover new running routes and new farmers markets and new gyms to sustain me. I’m sure Queens has them, but if you have any recommendations — primarily in the Long Island City area — please send ’em my way!
Moving is never fun, as Keira can attest, but we’ll make it through. See you on the other side, folks!