1. Running around Manhattan

    Posted February 7, 2018 in running  |  No Comments so far

    In April this year, I’m running the London Marathon on behalf of Starlight, a charity that brightens the lives of seriously and terminally ill children. Support me here!

    I’ve never run a marathon before. The longest I’ve ever run was 15 miles and that introduced me to a level of exhaustion I don’t think I’ll ever forget, so this is a big challenge for me. Each week I need to add more distance to build up my endurance, but if I push myself too hard I’ll pick up an injury and set myself back.

    This week’s long run was 15km and, as I’m currently in New York for work, I got the chance to run around Manhattan. This made a big change from the canals and marshes of east London that I usually frequent. I’ve run around Central Park a lot in the past, but this time I thought I’d go on more of a sightseeing run around the city and take some pictures along the way.

    When I started out, it was still dark, and bitterly cold. Here is the Solow Building, my favourite one in Manhattan, looking ominous.
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    From this starting point near the south-east corner of Central Park, I headed west along 59th Street until I got to the Hudson River, on the west coast of Manhattan.

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    It was still pretty dark at this point and it had been a cold night, so a lot of the surfaces I was running on were covered in thin, treacherous ice, so slippery that it was risky to walk on it, let alone run. After a while I gave up on the pavement and just ran on the deserted cycleway, which wasn’t icy at all.

    I didn’t have an internet-connected device with me so Google Maps wasn’t an option. Instead, I had memorised my planned route, which isn’t that hard in Manhattan where the numbered streets form an easily navigable grid. And on the Hudson side of the island, there are a series of piers which are also numbered, so I was keeping track of these piers as I ran south. This is one of them, Pier 94. My route involved travelling south as far as Pier 40, so there were a lot more of these piers to go.

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    There’s also an aircraft carrier moored along the Hudson – it’s the eponymous star attraction of the Intrepid Air & Space Museum. By now you’ll notice that the sky was starting to brighten.

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    As the day began I found my eyes drawn to the water and the buildings of New Jersey across the bay, which were staring to glitter as the low sun fell upon them. But I was curious about the bits of Manhattan I was passing too. I used to think of the place as being essentially covered in skyscrapers, but it isn’t – it’s more diverse than that. And of course, more skyscrapers are going up all the time.

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    But it’s nice to see buildings that don’t conform to the skyscraper stereotype, like this weird one:

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    I finally reached Pier 40 and turned left to cut across Manhattan, going eastwards along Houston Street. This took me into a part of the island that’s very different from the wealthier glitzy areas, and is much more like a place where normal people live, with shops that aren’t aimed at oligarchs, and playgrounds for kids.

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    Heartened by this encounter with a side of Manhattan I haven’t had much exposure to, I continued on and reached the other side of the island. Houston Street meets the East River at a place called the East River Park, and this was a high point of my run: the sun was now fully in in the sky, and now that I was on the east coast, the buildings of Manhattan were no longer getting in its way. I liked the look of the East River Park and the Williamsburg Bridge right behind it looked spectacular. And best of all, there was a working public toilet, which was just what I needed at that point in time! You don’t get things like this in London.

    After making use of this facility I began the northbound part of my run, heading up along the East River. The plan was to get up to 60th street and then go back into the city again until I made it back to my hotel. But Manhattan had other plans.

    The east side of the island is, it turns out, a lot worse for pedestrians and cyclists than the west side is. At first it seemed great, especially in the East River Park, and even when I left the park a lot of the pathways looked like this – not as luxurious as the routes on the west coast, but still perfectly fine:

    But before too long these pathways fell away, and I found myself thrown into the mess of gridlocked Manhattan rush hour roads: running along under bridges next to motorways, breathing in car fumes, crossing forecourts of petrol stations, waiting at traffic lights while jogging on the spot to keep my muscles from locking up. It wasn’t fun and I didn’t feel like taking any pictures. By the time I got to the United Nations building I wasn’t able to stick to the river at all and just had to re-enter the city, running up 1st Avenue dodging commuters and waiting at junctions.

    And, with that, the 15km target was reached and I stopped running. It had been good to see new areas of Manhattan and break out of my normal routine, but I’d learned a valuable lesson about the grimness of the eastern pedestrian experience. Next time I run in Manhattan I think I’ll stick to Central Park!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  2. A mix of envy, inferiority, and profound sympathy – watching the London Marathon

    Posted April 17, 2011 in ephemera, running  |  No Comments so far

    Today we went down to watch the London Marathon. One of Cathy’s colleagues, Pam, was running in it and it was a nice day so why not head down to lend some support?

    I’ve never run a marathon and I’ve never actually watched a long-distance race. I’ve run a 10K before, though, and while that’s not really in the same league as a marathon, I have at least an inkling of what it must feel like to run 26 miles.

    We walked down to the City and met the marathon route just where Dowgate Hill meets Upper Thames Street, south of Cannon Street. Quite quickly I settled into the routine of the well-wisher, shouting encouraging things at the people who ran by. You could add a personal touch by shouting their names as well, because most marathon runners have their names on their vests.

    Before running the 10K last year I would never have done that. I’d have thought people wanted their privacy, that they just wanted to get on with the run without the whoops and shouts of strangers. But I was proved wrong – despite being a pretty antisocial and introspective person, I found the encouragement of the crowd genuinely heartwarming and motivating, so I was determined to try to give some of that encouragement back today.

    Watching people run the marathon, I felt a kind of laziness. Why was I not running it? After doing the 10K last year I could have kept on training and might have been ready for this by now if I’d worked hard enough. So that was a pretty humbling feeling. I was almost envious of the runners.

    But at the same time I can’t deny that I felt glad I wasn’t running. I mean, you know – your rational mind can figure it out – that running 26 miles is going to be gruelling. But when you see the faces of normal people who are in the process of doing it, you get a clearer sense of just how hard it is. We even had a few people stop next to us and nearly collapse (but they all kept running in the end!). At those times I was glad that I was on the “civilian” side of the banner.

    The marathon represents something quite rare in British society in that it seems morally unambiguous. Almost everyone is running for charity, no-one can sneer at the enormity of the task, and the whole structure of class and privilege seems to have no place amidst the sea of runners. You see the odd person waving an England flag but all in all you don’t get the sense of this being about nations competing: it’s about human achievement plain and simple. Maybe I’ll try to do a marathon next year after all.