New York is one of the most runner-friendly cities in the country—if you know your way around.
With its packed sidewalks, teeming crowds, and general chaos, Manhattan can seem like a completely unmanageable area. But if you want to call New York a walkable city, you might as well call it walkable. During my time at NYU, I trained for two half marathons and can confidently say that running in lower Manhattan is both doable and enjoyable if you take the right steps to prepare. If you’re looking to run when the weather warms up, here’s a list of tips and tricks for running around Manhattan.
Get to know the network
Know where you are and what direction you are facing at all times. While it may seem obvious, I’ve found that visualizing my location on a map of New York City makes running around NYU a lot easier. I plan almost all of my runs around two parks in lower Manhattan: East River Park and Hudson River Park along the West Side Highway. These waterfront parks are hot spots for joggers, bikers and dog walkers. They’re great for cardio enthusiasts because once you get to the park, you don’t have to worry about navigating city streets.
Run on the streets, not the avenues
You have to travel to get to these parks either east or west depending on which one you want to visit. These destinations require running on streets rather than avenues, which is largely why I love running East River Park and West Side Highway. The avenues are packed with tourists and commercial shops, while the streets tend to be more residential. In my experience, the best places to run in the city are streets lined with residential buildings, my favorite being the brownstones in the West Village.
When running around town, I always follow the flow of traffic. Many streets in New York are one-way streets, so use this to your advantage. Cars usually travel from east to west on even streets, and vice versa on odd streets. Sometimes on empty one-way streets I run straight down the center facing the flow of traffic. That way I don’t bother people on the sidewalks and I can spot an oncoming car with enough time to move to a safe place. I’ve also tried running against traffic on bike lanes, but that lane can be dangerous because of the bike traffic. The more you run, the more you will understand the general flow of traffic and the city in general.
Always be aware of your surroundings
My first few months of running around town were spent without headphones to reduce sensory distraction. However, once I understood the flow and traffic in the area, I started running with headphones on, but I make sure the volume is low and I use transparent headphone settings. Whether I’m listening to music or not, I always take my phone with me when I run. One of my biggest running investments has been getting a running bag that holds my phone and other running essentials – I personally use SPIRIMEN. Another tip: a good way to keep your house key is to tie it on a shoelace.
Sometimes I run when it’s dark, but usually I try to avoid it. If I do run in the dark, I often avoid parks as they are often empty and poorly lit. My runs in the dark are shorter than my runs during the day, and sometimes I run along avenues instead of my favorite streets to be around more people. For night runs, I prefer Eighth and Tenth Avenues because they are separated from the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue, but they are still crowded.
I never run somewhere at night if I haven’t been there during the day. When running, whether it’s day or night, use your judgment as well as your street smarts. This means never running close to buildings when you’re running around a corner, and if you’re running parallel to someone, always run behind them.
Plan your runs wisely
Part of running in New York City is accepting that you’ll always be around other people, but if you know your neighborhood well, you can understand the ebb and flow of crowds. The East Village is a good place to run if it’s empty at 9am on a Saturday, but by 2pm it’s so crowded that you’re probably better off somewhere else. The more you explore your surroundings, the more you will know what times are good for running and what are not.
When I do run during a busy time of day, I try to follow a few rules. If I’m stuck in a crowd, I’ll stop running until I’m out of it. I never run a stop light and I always apologize if I bump someone’s shoulder by accident. You don’t have to doubt yourself while running in New York because no one is paying attention to what you’re doing.
When I run, I try to set an intention. Sometimes the purpose of my run is to feel energetic and fast, but other times my run is simply a way to release anxiety, deal with something that’s bothering me, or give my brain a break. Whatever the reason, running should be fun. Running has been a great way for me to explore Manhattan, and I hope these tips make running a way for you to explore the city this spring.
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