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Where to Run Outdoors in NYC

by Sarah Enelow on August 23, 2014

There’s no reason to skip your run when visiting New York. However, visitors generally don’t have gym memberships, and jogging on the sidewalk is frustrating with the intersections and noisy crowds. Luckily, New York is rich in parks that treat their runners nicely.

Here are some of our favorites, with this caveat: for your safety, don’t run (or hang out) in NYC parks after dark.

The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway is a 32-mile path for runners and cyclists, following most of the perimeter of Manhattan. The west side is especially well-manicured, and you’ll be running next to the magnificent Hudson River with views of New Jersey across the way. If you head toward upper Manhattan on the west side, you’ll pass through three of the borough’s best green spaces: Riverside Park, Fort Washington Park (which contains the Little Red Lighthouse), and Fort Tryon Park (which contains the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art specializing in medieval Europe).

Central Park is a classic, and if you’re staying in Manhattan nearby, you’ve got to run here. It was the nation’s very first public park, and at 843 acres, you could explore a long time before you see all of its lovely hills, meadows, woods, bridges, ponds, flora, and fauna. It’s about six miles all the way around, though if you’d rather choose a small portion for your daily exercise, the 1.5-mile trail around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is serene. Keep in mind that Central Park is a very popular place to work out, so at any time of day, you could be accompanied by more runners, walkers, skaters, bicyclists, unicyclists, supermoms with strollers, and Olympic sprinters than you can count. Central Park contains several vehicular streets, but cars are not allowed on the weekends.

Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park—massive enough to get lost therein with trees, fields, and lakes as far as you can see. It’s about 3.5 miles around the periphery, and that road is great for both runners and cyclists (cars are not allowed on the weekends). Like Central Park, Prospect is popular among serious athletes. If you’re not a serious athlete yourself, or if you’re returning from a hiatus, don’t let those high achievers get you down! New York is just a very competitive, high-octane city all around.

McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has a well-kept outdoor track that spares your knees the impact of running on concrete. Four laps make a mile, and the scene here is less aggressive than at Central and Prospect Parks. It’s generally not too crowded, though there are always people picnicking around the edge, or playing soccer in the middle (watch out for flying soccer balls). This is actually one place where you can run at night, because there are huge flood lights illuminating the track. Just make sure they’re on and that there are numerous people around (perhaps a night game and/or huge party).

Where do you like to run in NYC?

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