Finally, 1) I actually kept my promise to run all (most) of the bridges in New York City and 2) I ran over the Brooklyn Bridge.
But really, I should clarify here.
I’ve lived in New York 22 out of the 26 years of my life, growing up no more than a 45-minute drive from the bridge that connects Brooklyn to Manhattan. I’ve seen it hundreds — thousands? — of times, whether driving over or running under it. My cousin lived within walking distance from it for four years during law school. My mom grew up there in that hip outer borough.
And yet in the four years since I’ve graduated college in which I’ve actually lived in New York City, and in my entire life for that matter, I had yet to actually call myself one of the millions of pedestrians who crossed the iconic structure by foot. On Saturday, I finally did. And it was glorious.
Having run on the East River quite frequently since I first moved to Manhattan years ago, the Brooklyn Bridge has become a symbol. For me, it’s another potential pathway for running; it’s “that bridge” that’s typically too far to run to on any given day, being that by the time I’d get there and home I’d have logged more than 7 miles, and on most days, I just don’t have the time or energy for that.
That being said, it’s also an amazing feeling on those days when it is possible to run that far, bringing with it an enormous sense of accomplishment I’ve yet to find somewhere else. I can only liken it to the pride I feel after a 9.5 mile run around the entire perimeter of Central Park and home, and even then, I’m typically just pissed off that I had to subject myself to the horror of Harlem Hill. If I wanted to scale a mountain, I’d have taken the train north toward the trails.
It was only two months ago — nearly exactly two months to the date, actually, when I declared this summer the season of shaking up my runs and incorporating additional routes on the weekends (when I have time to be creative); that included conquering each bridge. Because of it’s proximity to my apartment, I’ve already run over the Queensboro Bridge multiple times on mornings when I have about 5-7 minutes extra to spare. Left on my list: the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
I checked off the first of the remaining bridges in early April on a crisp and still somewhat chilly spring morning; Noah and I ended that one just over the Williamsburg at a food festival known as Smorgasburg. It was the perfect way to end that morning run.
What made this Saturday’s big Brooklyn Bridge adventure even more fun was the fact that we hadn’t planned it at all. I had thrown the idea out there in a joking manner on Friday night while out with a friend, but by Saturday morning, that joke began to materialize. Brooklyn Bridge, here we come.
Of course, with such a fun run planned for the morning, I totally dressed the part.
Awesome sunglasses? Check.
New translucent purps Under Armour top? Check. Check. And what an appropriate time to wear my Under Armour tank; I received it as part of the brand’s “What’s Beautiful” campaign, an initiative that encourages athletes to embrace one epic goal and strive to reach it over time. For me, that goal was discovering — or re-discovering — my love of running again. Mornings like Saturday fully enabling me to rekindle that affection.
The plan was to run over the Brooklyn Bridge and take the subway home, given the state of my toe and the fact that a “smart” runner probably would have resolved to give it rest long ago. I can’t always call myself a smart runner; in fact, in this case, I’m being pretty damn stubborn. But knowing fully well that running over the Brooklyn Bridge would cause more pressure to be placed on my toe than I should have to begin with, we decided in advance to end it there. Clocking in at around 6.5 – 7 miles from door to, well, end of bridge, this is the longest I’ve run since my latest overuse injury. For those of you who don’t recall, it was an issue with my shin.
The other part of the goal was to pace ourselves. Ultimately, I was planning to run more than a mile further than my body was used to, and I was worried that I’d become fatigued if I overdid it too soon.
Before leaving our apartment, I grabbed headphones so I could zone out and enjoy the scenery.
“You’re listening to music?” Noah asked, with a why would you do that look of disgust on his face.
“You never talk to me on runs!” I whined back. “I get bored!”
With that, Noah promised to chat up a storm on Saturday’s run — a promise which he kept. And so, we were off from our apartment near Grand Central toward the East River.
While slightly muggy (as most summer days in New York City can be), the weather was as good as it could get for a 7-mile run. Overcast with a hint of sun; the temperature hovering just around 70; a slight breeze off the water.
I don’t know if it was the conditions, the conversation, or the fact that I had eaten an egg and chugged water right before, but I felt the strongest that I have in weeks over the course of Saturday’s run. In fact, there were several points during our big Brooklyn Bridge adventure when I told Noah we should slow down — pace ourselves, as we had discussed — to avoid me wanted to jump off the side at any point during that final push.
Each time we slowed down, I found that I’d lose myself in conversation not long after, suddenly realizing that we were cruising along the water once again. It’s a feeling I miss and one I hope to recapture as I continue to move forward on this quest to love running again.
Something I really appreciated about running over the Brooklyn Bridge was the fact that the entrance ramp sits pretty close to the water, as opposed to the Williamsburg Bridge, which is a solid number of blocks away from the East River and takes an equally solid effort to get to. If you’re planning on running the Williamsburg Bridge from the river, you’ll definitely want to account for the 5-10-minute run away from, and back over, the entrance ramp. The entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, on the other hand, was convenient and simple. And before I knew it, I was crossed over this beast of a bridge I’ve ogled from below for so, so long.
The incline on the Brooklyn Bridge was pretty steep, and to be honest, there were way too many pedestrians (tourists and locals alike) making the journey from one side to the other. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to hang out in the thick white line that separates the bike lane from the walking lane; if you can handle a few unruly cyclists yelling at you for even looking at their clear, people-free terf, then I highly suggest you utilize this non-lane. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up in a mosh of slow-moving walkers snapping photos and walking dogs.
It’s funny, because I expected to be exhausted after logging more miles than I had in months. But by the time we crossed over to the other side, I found myself more energized than I had since that last bridge run. Fortunately, the angel on my shoulder (his name his Noah, hi) encouraged me to stop. Probably for the better.
I loved every part of Saturday’s Brooklyn Bridge run, not only because the structure itself is so incredibly beautiful but because I stepped out of my comfort zone and explored another new area of the city I call home. It’s not often that you can live in an environment that’s so ripe for discovery even four seemingly short years later. But if you ask me, exploration — of the body, the mind, the setting in which you live — is an essential part of the equation for a successful run — and more.
What have you explored lately?