by Paul Thompson
After our sojourn to Boulder last weekend it was a case of back to reality. And no better place to be back than Central Park, New York City, where I cover the vast majority of my weekly mileage and compete in most of my races. The run was dogged with dogs and debt. More of that in a bit.
We live in Peekskill, Northern Westchester, a one hour commute to Grand Central Terminal (yes, ‘terminal’ since for regular trains this is the last stop, ‘station’ is reserved for the subway stop). Both Shamala and I work within a 10 minute walk of Grand Central. I voluntarily (!) commute a sixth day to Central Park to join fellow Warren Street clubmates for a long ‘easy’ run (I used to say ‘slow’ until someone pointed out our slow was not actually slow). Riding Metro North’s Hudson Line I get off one stop short of Grand Central at 125th St. Harlem and run the 8 or so minutes to enter Central Park at the north east corner (at 5th Ave. and 110th St.).
Today I stuck to my usual plan. I got off at 8:15am, ran for around 2′ 30″ (21 miles), and before boarding the 11:03am train home from the same station grabbed a coffee and bagel for $1.50 (who said New York has to be expensive) from a local deli (jointly run by folk from Honduras and Palestine – only in New York).
Back to the run, dogs and debt. Central Park has to be the world’s best urban running environment – by a mile. Over 800 acres of woodlands and meadows, gently undulating, with lots of roads and trails to run on, and countless other runners for company (except when its stinking hot or bitterly cold).
After entering the park I ran for another 35 minutes on the bridle path until I hooked up with clubmates Eitan, Robbie, Charlie, Fabio, Jim and Pascal at Engineers’ Gate, perhaps the most popular meeting spot for runners in the park. As usual conversation topics were wide-ranging – from dogs (bites, owners) through to debt (sovereign, personal, bailouts), Boulder (Kenyan runners, apartments) through to bonuses (excessive, value-based compensation) and Blighty, my home country (football aka soccer, drinking, verbal abuse). At times the debates got heated but as I stepped on the gas the responses petered out – I figured they all agreed to agree with me. Seems it was more they were beaten into submission, gasping for air. Whatever.
Last word on the dogs. I like dogs. Generally. I like dog owners. Generally. But Central Park has some irresponsible dog owners who let their unleashed dogs weave in and out of oncoming runners on the trails. When one complains they typically say something like “Billy does not bite, he’s only playing”. Usually I’m thinking, but not saying: “WTF. I am out for a run not out to play with your %@#* dog”. Today these sentiments burst out, or was it barked, spontaneously when one little snap happy dog started playing with my ankles. Having been bitten by a dog on a recent vacation in Krabi, Thailand and had emergency anti-Rabies injections I am in a more partisan mood.