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Earlier this week I was at dinner with my old roomie (a longtime treadmill devotee), and she told me she'd recently started running through Central Park and was really enjoying it. Not only is it a better workout (the unexpected inclines and dips engage more muscle groups), but she told me she loved feeling like a part of the city during her workout. And really, what could be more quintessential than running the park?
I remember the first time I ever tried running through Central Park. This was right when I moved to the city, about five years ago, and I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I decided go out a bit before dusk - thinking that I was brilliant in avoiding the heat - mistake number one. Another amateur move, I didn't know any of the routes so I just ran - following whatever person was in front of me at the time. Eventually I made it to the top of the park, completely lost, in the dark, beyond exhausted, and just ready to be home. Mistake number three, all I brought with me was an iPod shuffle - no google maps, no money, no metro card. I had to run/walk home from 110th street without really knowing where I was going. It was a learning experience.
Now there are so many tools for runners, planning your route through Central Park is a sintch. You can run the reservoir (1.5 miles), the bridle paths (1-1.5 miles each), the middle loop (4 miles), the outer loop (6 miles), and so many more options. Here's my favorite interactive MAP for planning your next run through the park. If you've always been a gym-goer give the park a try one of these days. I think you'll be surprised at how much you like it - the scenery, the people watching, the overall New York-ness of it all can't be beat. Plus if you pick the hilly trails, you'll get a killer workout.