Morning Running in Central Park

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

I finally did it. And it felt so good I’ve kept doing it once a week for the last three weeks. And I’m now determined not to stop. Running to work through Central Park at least once a week that is.

I’d been thinking about doing this for a long time. But it requires some planning. Clothes and shoes have to be left at work as well as anything else that wouldn’t fit in my little waist bag. Get it wrong and I could be working in my running clothes all day. And having to ignore all those looks.

This run starts with getting off the train at 125th Street Harlem Metro North station. When I lived in New York as a student in the 90s, Harlem was a dangerous place known for its drugs and shootings. But it’s a different place now. The worst you can expect is to be shot an odd look. The puzzled or disbelieving sort. The neighborhood around the station is dilapidated but before long you are  in possibly one of the world’s greatest city parks – Central Park.

I enter the park at the corner of 110th and 5th Avenue. I run along a path skirting the Harlem Meer. Early morning the park is serene, quite different to when Paul runs through in the evening. (He does a longer version of this run in reverse on the way home three times a week.) Just me and a few runners, walkers, dog walkers and  yoga practitioners.

Harlem Meer at the north end of Central Park.

I then run through my favorite part of the park – the Central Park Conservatory Gardens. This hidden sanctuary tucked in the noCrabapple trees in full blown in the Conservatory Gardens.rth-east corner of the park is made up of three gardens, each with its distinct style – English, Italian and French. At this point I often allow myself a brief stop to take some photos. I am tempted to sit on a bench and meditate but I have a job waiting.

The cherry blossoms make Spring one of the best times to run along the bridle path.

Coming out of the Conservatory Gardens a short but steep climb gets me back onto the main road circling Central Park. From here I pick up the trail that runs south to the Reservoir. You can run the perimeter path, made famous by numerous movies, or take the bridle path. I prefer the latter – fewer runners though less of a view.

In the last few weeks I’ve seen the cherry trees along the West side of the Reservoir have gone from buds, to full flower and then just leaves. By 8 a.m. the serious runners have come and gone. I am (unusually) one of the faster runners!

From the Reservoir I take the bridle path down the west side. This avoids the road filled with traffic and runners and takes in some old bridges and tunnels. The only downside are the occasional unleashed dogs as Paul discussed some months back.

San Remo's twin towers seen from the West side of the Central Park.

The Apple store along 5th Avenue.

Coming out of the park at 59th street and onto 5th Avenue green serenity yields to hustle and bustle. New Yorkers carrying their signature coffee cups rush to work. Tourists flock around the Plaza Hotel and iconic Apple store. But it’s still a lot less crowded than the same streets in the evening.

I usually end up on Park Avenue for most of the final stretch to the office. The sidewalks are wider and the foot traffic flows smoothly from Grand Central to nearby offices.  My run ends at the gym across the road from my office. A quick shower and I’m all set for the day ahead. The main difference is that I’ve experienced Central Park at a special time. Plus there’s that virtous feeling. It’s a great start to any day.

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