Fall is right around the corner, which means the best running weather of the year is approaching fast. I am really excited to be able to run again soon without sweating bullets! But as any NYC runner can attest, running in Manhattan is quite challenging… At every juncture you are interrupted by traffic, stoplights, and never-ending hoards of pedestrians, bikes, and tourists. There are, however, a bunch of places in Manhattan where runners can escape the cars, the horns, and the crowds.
These are some of the better options for running in Manhattan:
Central Park is probably the first place people think of when it comes to running in New York City. And plenty have praised the Park as a runner’s paradise. But it deserves another mention here because what it offers really cannot be overstated. Aside from the natural beauty and excitement of being in the Park, Central Park offers runners a virtually unlimited number of possible running route combinations. Runners can enjoy any of the more popular runs – including the outer loop (~6 miles) and the Central Park Reservoir (~1.5 miles) – or explore any number of the dozens of trails that meander throughout the entire Park. Just south of Belvedere Castle, for example, is the Ramble, a lush 38-acre woodland with a maze of trails that let you forget that you’re right in the middle of the largest city in the country.
Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway is one my personal favorite places to run in Manhattan. Running from the Battery all the way to the top of Manhattan, the Greenway offers the longest straight stretch of non-vehicular access running in Manhattan. Because the Greenway runs through a number of neighborhoods and parks, including Battery Park, Hudson River Park, and Riverside Park (see more below), it is easily accessible from almost anywhere in Manhattan. Along the route, runners can take in views of kayakers and paddle boarders on the Hudson River, beach volleyball, tennis, and basketball on the parks and piers, and sunbathers and picnickers blanketing the vast green space.
During the summer months, parts of the Greenway can get crowded, but the path is generally wide enough to accommodate the crowds and still give runners plenty of space to maintain their running pace. The main drawback may be the sun exposure, which can make the Greenway a hot run during the summer. Fortunately, however, there are a number of water fountains along the trail.
East River Greenway
Like the western edge of Manhattan, there is also a long stretch of largely uninterrupted running space along the eastern edge of Manhattan. The east side isn’t nearly as scenic as the west side, but it is still a great place to go for a run if you’re looking to avoid the New York City streets. And what the east side has that the west side doesn’t, are spectacular views of Brooklyn and Queens. On the southern side, runners can pass through East River Park, which runs right under the Williamsburg Bridge. East River Park also offers a track at East 6th Street for those looking to do track work.
Part of the larger Hudson River Greenway (see above), Riverside Park deserves independent mention. Spanning from 72nd Street to 158th Street, Riverside Park offers a nice flat run with views of the Hudson River. There’s also a 1/8 mile track at 73rd Street. The park continues north into Two Riverside Drives Park and Fort Washington Park – right under the George Washington Bridge and by the famous and historic Little Red Lighthouse – all the way up to Inwood Hill Park.
The High Line
Stretching from Gansevoort St. to W 34th St., the elevated and repurposed railroad tracks known as the High Line offer runners the opportunity to run amongst beautiful gardens while enjoying views of the Hudson River and Meatpacking District. At only 1.45 miles long (in one direction), the High Line is not long enough for a serious run. But with its close proximity to the Hudson River Greenway, Greenwich Village, and Chelsea, the High Line can easily be incorporated into a longer run. Be warned, however, that the High Line gets very crowded during certain times of day and, therefore, arguably doesn’t belong on this list. But because it is completely closed to traffic, it still deserves mention. Just be aware of the time of day before choosing to incorporate the High Line into a run.
Right next to the Harlem River in Washington Heights, Highbridge Park sits on almost 120 acres of quiet green space. Highbridge Park has a number of nice, quiet paths and extends directly into Harlem River Park to the North. Additionally, runners can easily venture into the Bronx over the historic High Bridge – New York City’s oldest bridge – which was recently reopened in 2015 after being closed for over 40 years.
Inwood Hill Park
With over 190 acres of refreshing green space at the very northern tip of Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park is a great opportunity to avoid the crowds and enjoy a solitary nature run in the largest remaining forest land in Manhattan. Inwood Hill Park is a great spot for runners looking to do hill-work, as portions of the park reach as high as 200 feet above the Hudson River.
With roughly 8 miles of non-vehicular access pathways, Randall’s Island is a great place for runners looking to escape the Manhattan streets. Sandwiched between the Harlem River and the East River, runners can choose from, or create, a variety of routes on the island including the Randall’s Island Loop (5 miles); the Northern Loop (3.1 miles); the Southern Loop (2.1 miles); the Wetlands Walk (2.6 miles); and the Bridge Tour (1.5 miles). Randall’s Island has several short walkways that connect the island to Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens.
Right between Manhattan and Queens, Roosevelt Island offers runners a nice escape from the busy streets and tourists. While the island’s 3.6-mile perimeter is not very long, Roosevelt Island offers fantastic views of Midtown Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge. Formerly known as Blackwell Island, home for decades to the New York Insane Asylum, Roosevelt Island is also a cool place to run for history buffs.
As always, be safe while running – be aware of your surroundings and wear appropriate clothing for the conditions (i.e. reflective gear at night). Happy running!
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