I caught the running bug my sophomore year at NYU. A girl I was mildly interested in invited me to run the half-mile circumference of Washington Square Park. We did the half mile, congratulated ourselves, and vowed to do it again. I don’t think we ever did, but I must have continued doing laps, because when a girl I liked more suggested we run together, we’d jog as far as two miles.
Neither relationship went beyond those runs, but after spring semester ended and I returned to my mom’s house in South Jersey, where I never felt at home (not her fault, but the area’s), I kept up the running as a coping mechanism — and got hooked. Sometimes I’d go on two runs a day.
By the end of my senior year I was running the circumference of Central Park (six miles) with my friend AC, a tennis pro with the soul of a poet. We’d start at Columbus Circle, head up Central Park West to 110th Street, cross over to the East Side, then run down to 59th Street and finish where we began. AC always beat me, but he was an athlete so I wasn’t discouraged. I kept cajoling him into running Central Park until I moved to California.
That was nearly forty years ago. I was determined to find out whether I could still run that perimeter, so I brought my cold-weather running gear on my recent trip. I knew I could cover the distance; when I’m feeling good six miles is a workout, but not a killer workout. The question was whether I could handle the conditions: the crowds, the cars, the cold.
I gave it a try on Friday, November 2. I dressed for cold and rain, but the day turned out unusually warm and muggy. At home I barely break a sweat during the first mile, but by the time I reached the Museum of Natural History — the one-mile point of the Central Park run — I was dissolving into a puddle. I also hadn’t considered running surface. The borders of Central Park are covered by stony hexagonal pavers in varying states of repair. They proved murder on my legs. I reached 110th Street, crossed over to Fifth Avenue, and started down, but dehydration and muscle fatigue got the better of me and I had to stop.
Shaken by that failure, for my next run I switched to Hudson River Park, which lines the west side of Manhattan. I sighted the Freedom Tower and hoped to reach it. The day was cool, clear, and breezy. The surface was smooth and safe. Within minutes I was rolling, and my confidence returned. I cruised to the Freedom Tower.
It can’t be much farther to the Battery, I thought, so I continued to the bottom of Manhattan, weaving through crowds of tourists awaiting ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Then I triumphantly ran back to 14th Street, snapping photos as I went and feeling strong — strong enough to try Central Park again the next day.
This time I got all the way around. I even had enough left over to start a second circuit, something I never did in my early twenties. But I ended the victory lap at 66th Street. I’d proven my point: I’ve still got some kick! For which I am extremely grateful. Back in my early twenties, I never imagined reaching — much less running such a distance in — my sixties.