When it comes to New York City’s running paths, I’m a bit of a whore. Yes, I’ve been around the block – several times and more – and fortunately for you, I’m willing to share all of my secrets. In detail.
In short, I love New York City and all it has to offer, from the crowded streets to the waterside pathways to the bridges and beyond. No Garmin? No problem. I know when they’re crowded, where there’s dirt, and the approximate distance from the water fountain at the Central Park Reservoir to Prosperity Dumpling’s $1 meals in China Town.
Here are some of my favorite running routes from east to west, north to south, in New York City, aka the greatest city on earth.
**Note: I live around Grand Central Station, so my personal running routes start in that general area. Distance is approximate, and depends on street lights, etc.
Under construction! Details and new routes being added all the time.
Where: Bottom loop of Central Park and around the reservoir
Approximate Distance: 4 miles
To Know: Thirsty? Be sure to stop at the water fountain at the southern entrance of the reservoir. (This is also a great place to run laps since you essentially have a water station every 1.7 miles.)
Where: Across the Williamsburg Bridge (optional, and back)
Approximate Distance: 5 or 10 miles
To Know: This run combines the flat surfaces of the East River with the steady incline of the Williamsburg Bridge. Know that, once on the bridge, the pathway splits off for runners and bikers, making for a pleasant route void of dodging typical city foot-traffic. From Grand Central to Williamsburg, you’re looking at 5 miles. If you’re in training mode, skip the subway home and use your legs.
Where: Around Grand Central up to the 104th (approx) Street entrance of Central Park via Madison Avenue (generally pretty quiet above 60th Street, so a good route to take). Enter the park and weave through the Conservatory Garden, heading west. Cut across the park (avoiding Harlem Hill; add 1 mile if you actually continue northwest around this beast), and run the length of the park, exiting at Columbus Circle. Take an avenue of your choice (we chose 8th, but this is a bad idea if you’re not used to New York congestion) down to Union Square.
Approximate Distance: 10 miles
To Know: I had never stumbled upon the Conservatory Garden until this run, and I have to say, it was one of the most beautiful, zen places I’ve ever discovered in Manhattan. Run around here, and you may never want to run anywhere else ever again. Ever.
Where: From around Grand Central Station around the reservoir and back
Approximate Distance: 7 miles
To Know: On weekends, you may want to skip the Manhattan streets. They’re crowded! If you love running through New York City though, and don’t mind playing Frogger in your head, then I at least suggest taking Park Avenue. Because it’s mostly corporate and residential, with very little shopping, you’ll run into the least tourists here.
Where: From around Grand Central, up the east side of Central Park and around the reservoir (2 laps). Exit at 72nd Street, run cross town to the East River. Run to the top of Carl Schurz Park and back down the East River. Exit at the Bridge, and take 1st Ave. back downtown to around the U.N. and back to Grand Central.
Approximate Distance: 12.5 miles
To Know: Incorporating 2 major running areas — both Central Park and the East River — gives you room to be playful. Don’t be afraid to add an extra lap around the reservoir like I did, or to skip the northern most part of Carl Schurz Park if you’re getting tired. It’s up to you; just enjoy the beautiful park and water views!
Where: Down the East River from 34 St. to the Williamsburg Bridge and back
Approximate Distance: 5 miles
To Know: A great place for warmer summer runs. Enjoy a nice breeze off the East River as well as ample water fountains along the way. Knees need a break, or feel like extending your route? Check out the track about a half mile before the Williamsburg Bridge. Do I smell speed work?
Where: Start at 34th Street on the East River, and run south, around the tip of Manhattan, past Battery Park and up the West Side Highway.
Approximate Distance: 11 miles
To Know: One of my favorite parts about this course is the abundance of water fountains all along the East and West sides of New York City. While the breeze can be especially nice on a particularly hot day, neither side of the city offers much shade. Either wear sunscreen, or stick to the city streets, where you’ll find ample shade from the buildings, if you’re afraid of overheating.
Where: From around Grand Central around the bottom loop of Central Park. Enter at the 72nd Street entrance (the Inventor’s Gate), and exit at the park’s bottom.
Approximately Distance: 5 miles
To Know: Run down 5th Avenue because, while busy, these are the widest streets and it’s easiest to weave in and out of commuters. Best in the morning, before 8:30.
Where: From 34th Street to The High Line (entrance is around 30th St. and 10th Ave). Exit at the bottom of The High Line and head west toward the water. Run down the Hudson River to Battery Park. Exit around the Freedom Towers and weave your way through the streets back north.
Approximate Distance: 8.5 miles
To Know: Best in the morning. If running any time after the morning, it’s probably just best to run back north along the Hudson River to avoid commuters and foot traffic.
Where: Around Grand Central up to Central Park. Run toward the top along the Bridle Path (going counter clockwise), but cut the route before you get stuck climbing Harlem Hill. Loop all the way around to the bottom of Central Park and head back north, past Cat Hill, to the reservoir. Complete 1 loop of the reservoir and head back south from the 72nd Street exit to Grand Central.
Approximate Distance: 11.5 miles
To Know: Feel free to run the entire loop around Central Park, but know that if you don’t choose to cut west where I did, you’ll come face to face with (cue the dooming music) Harlem Hill. It’s really not a big deal, I’m just dramatic. But if you’re not in the mood for a long, slow incline, which I’m usually not, it can be a real ass-kicker.
Where: From around Grand Central Station up 3rd Ave. to 59th Street. Cross over to take the Queensboro Bridge entrance at 1st Ave. and 59th Street. Run across, and jump up and down declaring “I’ve made it to Queens!” Then run back, taking 1st Avenue to around 42nd Street instead of 3rd.
Approximate Distance: About 6.5 miles, depending on where you start and finish exactly.
To Know: You’re dealing with a bridge here, and one that’s known to break a lot of hearts come marathon day at that. If you’re not in the mood for a hill — especially with no water fountains in sight — then you might want to skip it for the day. Otherwise, the long, slow incline does wonders for you as a runner.
Where: From Grand Central area to The High Line and home.
Approximate Distance: Between 4 and 4.5 miles.
To know: Do not – I repeat do not – attempt this run any time after 9am. The High Line is a main tourist attraction in Manhattan, and while incredibly stunning when empty, it can be that much more frustrating when packed with strollers and an abundance of SLR cameras. You should be safe between 7 and 8 in the morning.
Where: Near Grand Central to Madison Square Park, Gramercy Park and home.
Approximate Distance: 3 miles
To know: Beware of crowds in Madison Square Park during rush hour and, when circling Gramercy Park, be even more aware of dog poo. Consider yourselves warned.