This Sunday, the Big Apple plays host to the 48th annual New York City Marathon, which winds its way through the five boroughs along its 26.2-mile course. Even though over 50,000 runners will be competing on Sunday, it isn’t easy to land a spot in the prestigious race. If you’re not running this weekend, here are five less conventional places to pound the pavement, one in every borough.
Running in Staten Island: The Greenbelt
Marathoners may start in Staten Island, but they get out quick. That means they miss a lot of great running opportunities in the greenest of boroughs. The Greenbelt is the second largest park in New York City and the one with the most rural flavor. The Greenbelt has hiking trails you can legitimately get lost on – and that is part of its magic. If you yearn to get out of the urban jungle and are nostalgic for long, interconnecting forest trails, then this is a worthy day trip. The Greenbelt has parking and the S62 bus will take you straight there from the ferry terminal. From the parking lot, you can take the red trail loop to the yellow trail into High Rock Park and get your workout summiting some of the highest elevations in Staten Island.
Running in Brooklyn: Prospect Park
The still-peppy marathoner should be peeved that their route misses Prospect Park by just 5 blocks. Brooklyn’s backyard is home to a lot of serious runners and they all have very strong opinions about their routes. Some are full-loop purists, enjoying the hilly 3.35 miles that passes by the lake, the long meadow and the forest edge. Other folks like to mix it up with a series of paths inside the 100+ acres of native woodlands that can include ravine paths, stairs leading to Butterfly Meadow or the trails around the lake peninsula. For those in serious training mode, sprinting across the vast long meadow is a breath-taking experience – seriously. Whatever path you choose you can always end your run with some stretching by the lake shore where ducks and swans will inspire your cross-training regimen as they swim circles near you.
Running in Queens, Sort of: Roosevelt Island
The race continues up the eastern edge of Queens and then heads over the 59th Street Bridge crossing above Roosevelt Island. Where spent Gu packets fall is a rare residential mass of land that is only 787 feet at its widest point and is ideal for an ambler’s adventures. Although Roosevelt Island is technically part of Manhattan, it has only one bridge linking it to the city and it goes to Queens. Although residents are allowed to drive and park on the island, it still devotes much of its 147 acres to pedestrians only. It does take some time to get Roosevelt Island (assuming you aren’t one of the 12,000 inhabitants of the island), but once you’re there it’s easy to navigate. The 3.6-mile perimeter of the island is flat and you can’t get lost – features that make it perfect for joggers who like to zone out while logging the miles. With views of New York’s skyline in the distance and passing tugboats up close on the river, an urban Robinson Crusoe never had it this good.
Running in the Bronx: Van Cortlandt Park
They say the bridges into and out of the Bronx at miles 20 and 21 are when most people hit the wall, but the northern-most borough is a great place to run nonetheless. When cross-country athletes from across the five boroughs need to work on their endurance, it’s a safe bet they will be running trails in Van Cortlandt Park. New York’s third largest park is really more like a vast urban forest connecting our northern city boundaries to the more expansive forests of Westchester. Runners, be forewarned, there are some obstacles amid Van Cortlandt Parks’s 14 miles of dedicated running trails, including some of the city’s toughest hills and most fearless herds of deer. All of this is only a quick ride away on the 1 train.
Running in Manhattan: Randall’s Island
Back in Manhattan, marathoners are in the homestretch. Mile 24 in Central Park is where they dig in deep and go for their last surge. Although Central Park is Manhattan’s most famous park, there are many more green spaces to explore. Case in point: Randall’s Island.
Randall’s Island is a park that boasts 500 acres and over 8 miles of car-free pathways to run or bike on. The island is connected to Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx by pedestrian paths so you can easily begin your run by jogging over one of those scenic bridges. Follow the pedestrian route that wraps around three quarters of the perimeter, enjoying views from the true center of the city, and then cross into the middle of the park to explore its restored wetlands. There are water fountains and bathrooms throughout Randall’s Island Park that will make you wonder why you haven’t been running here all along. Make sure to stop on the southern tip and enjoy the views of Manhattan, Queens and Roosevelt Island as the East River flows on by.
26.2 miles is something to be proud of and a huge undertaking – so maybe save the marathon for next year. For now, go out and run easy, eyes wide open. In this city, there is a lot to see! Happy running, folks.