Some Thoughts on Central Park

If you can believe it, last night I took the subway to Central Park to run someplace different for a change of scene. Wait a minute – change of scene? Isn’t this where all New Yorkers go to run? Sometimes it seems that way. But if you’ve read my other posts, you probably know that I prefer to run in quiet and unique places to get away from the crowds we encounter every single day in the frenzy of New York City life. So while I love being in the company of other runners, I have to admit that I don’t make it to Central Park all that often.

But Central Park is legendary and every New York runner should visit every now and then. It might be missing a few trees these days, but it is still unparalleled as far as public parks go.

Now keep in mind that it’s as close to a backyard as most of the nearly 9 million residents of New York City will ever actually have, so crowded paths should be expected. Expect cyclists, dog walkers, baby strollers, in-line skaters, speed walkers, slow walkers, tourists, photographers, sunbathers, ultimate Frisbee players. Oh, and other runners too. I think you get the idea: lots of people. But despite the crowds (or maybe because of them, depending on your point of view), Central Park is a great place to run and shouldn’t be missed. If you’re visiting from out of town, make sure it’s one of your running destinations. If you live here and you’ve never been there, shame on you.

Since there’s already so much information on the park out there I’ll limit this to a few reasons why running in Central Park is a great experience:

1. Variety. There’s a good mix of flat stretches and some challenging hills. You also have the choice between road running on pavement or the softer, cinder trails of the bridle path and reservoir.

2. There are plenty of water fountains (functioning during the warmer months only) and several restrooms (but I will not vouch for cleanliness). If you are looking for locations check out this map.

3. It’s the perfect training ground for New York Road Runners races, most of which take place in the park.

4. You can easily figure out a route for almost any length of run. The circular design of the loop also makes it easy to start and stop in the same place.

5. You get incomparable views of the NYC skyline as buildings peek out between the trees in an incredible juxtaposition of nature and urban life.

6. You can practice crossing the Marathon finish line at Tavern on the Green.

This map from NYRR is a great resource for exploring routes of all lengths. Bored? Find ways to mix it up. If you want more information about the park including its history and upcoming events, visit


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sarah on August 31, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    Last week I did the reverse…. Central Park is my usual go-to running grounds, but I decided to switch it up and take the train out to Brooklyn for a run in Prospect Park. Haven’t spent as much time out there as I should and it was nice to have a change of scenery. I’m looking forward to the Nike Human Race out there in October!


    • Posted by SR on August 31, 2009 at 8:15 PM

      I’m with you on that – I rarely make it to Prospect Park because it’s a little out of the way for me but I have really enjoyed the runs I’ve had there. Usually if I’m going to travel that far I want the route to be a bit longer than the 3.35 miles of the Prospect Park loop. I suppose you could always double it, but who wants to see the same thing twice? And who wants to run twice up that long hill? One time is enough for me!


      • If you run the transverses and the trails, Prospect is never the same park twice. I just did 22 miles there on Sunday and never grew bored.

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