The Long Run: Two Bridges — Brooklyn & Manhattan

After a couple of weeks of not running any bridges, this Saturday I was back at it and  checked two of the lowest hanging fruit– the Manhattan and the Brooklyn — off my list.  That’s seven down, eighty-four to go.

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Over the years, the Manhattan Bridge has been a staple of my running. I’ve run over it dozens of times as part of my running commute and on countless long runs.  Once, I did a back and forth on it it at nine o’clock at night to deliver a set of keys to E.  It’s my favorite of the “big four” East River bridges.*  To me, its the quintessential no nonsense New York City Bridge. Encased in fencing, it’s the ugly cousin of the majestic Brooklyn Bridge.  It doesn’t have the best views, or the nicest entrances, but if you want a no bullshit means of getting from Brooklyn to Manhattan, whether it be by train, car, bike or your own two feet, it can’t be beat.

Underneath all the Graffitti is the inscription that the Manhattan Bridge was built in 1901, making it the second youngest of the big four.

Underneath all the Graffiti is the inscription that the Manhattan Bridge was built in 1901, making it the second youngest of the big four.

For runners coming from Brooklyn, the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge is located near the corner of Jay and Sands Streets.  Take the stairs to your right, not the bike path to your left.  For runners entering from Manhattan, use the entrance on the south-east corner of Bowery and Canal.  Remember that the south walkway of the bridge is for pedestrians; the north walkway is for bikers.  Inevitably, when you’re on the bridge you’ll see someone doing this wrong – don’t be that person.

Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Manhattan on a perfect saturday afternoon.

Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Manhattan on a perfect saturday afternoon.

 

Saturday was such a gorgeous day, even the Manhattan was crowded with walkers, runners, and tourists setting up fancy cameras to take pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I cruised along, listening to Big Krit, and taking a couple of pictures.  I exited onto Canal Street and weaved my way down through Chinatown and the courthouse area to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

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If it’s a gorgeous day in New York, the worst place in the City to run is the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is bumper to bumper with thousands of tourists.  Frankly, no runner belongs there. I certainly didn’t, and I tried to get it over with as quickly as possible. I weaved between families on citibikes and tourists taking selfies.  I couldn’t even bring myself to stop to take a picture.

 

Brooklyn Bridge on a summer's day = shit ton of people.

Brooklyn Bridge on a summer’s day = shit ton of people.

The Brooklyn Bridge is majestic, with stunning views of the city and the statute of Liberty.  If you’re visiting New York, you really should go. But its better enjoyed as a leisurely stroll than on a run.  If your dead set on running the Brooklyn Bridge, I suggest you go early. Whether you’re walking, running or biking, entrance on the Manhattan side if from City Hall Park at Centre Street. You cannot miss it.  On the Brooklyn side the main entrance is at Tillary and Adams.  There is also a less obvious entrance closer to the water at Prospect and Camdan Plaza.

I exited at Tillary and headed back past the Manhattan toward the Navy Yards.  I wanted to add a couple more miles to the day so I overshot my house, and cruised up Washington to Eastern Parkway.  It was a perfect day to be out exploring, but it was getting late and my legs were tired.  I called it a day at nine miles, went home, and put the little dude to bed. Next week is a cut back week, and I don’t think they’ll be any bridges.  But the week after than, I plan to knock another couple off the list.

Love is Patient

Love is Patient

Slowly but surely I’ll get them all. I’m not in a rush, I’m not going anywhere.

 

*The “big four” being the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the Queensboro.  By the way, I just made up that designation.

The Long Run – The Park and the Bridge

I run for many reasons. To stay fit, to stay thin, to sleep at night, to have time to think, to work at the nearly impossible goal of becoming fast, and to explore.  Exploration can come in different forms. It can be exploring new trails and road, or seeing old roads in a new way.  This weekend’s long run included a bit of both new roads and time spent in familiar places.

Things began with two figure eight loops in Prospect Park.  The figure eight loop takes you down West Drive to Center Drive, across Center to East Drive, where you take a right, cruise past the lake, and up the West Drive hill, then a right back down Center Drive over the East Drive where you take a left and head up Zoo hill.  From my house and around the figure 8 is just over six miles, two of them is makes it just about ten.

The Grand Army Entrance on a perfect early spring day.

The Grand Army Entrance on a perfect early spring day.

I’ve run thousands and thousands of miles in this park — 2,858 actually, according to my running ahead log.  I’ve run through all conditions. I’ve run alone and with friends.  This weekend, it was a prefect early spring day and I did the first loop with my Saturday run buddy, Joe.  We talked about life, love, work and kids.  We talked about running, rock climbing and how fat and old we have become.  It was a great way to spend an hour.

After Joe left, I did another figure 8 alone listening to a mad decent podcast.  The roads were packed with Brooklynites running, walking and cycling.  Kids were pushing scooters; hipsters were riding long boards.  It was all “tres Brooklyn” as, allegedly, the French say.

Two loops equals ten miles.  Three more to go.  I headed down Union street through the heart of strollerfied Park Slope all the way  to the Union Street Bridge and the majestic Gowanus Canal.

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The Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn’s New York’s finest superfund site has been described by the Environmental Protection Agency thus:

The Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn, New York, is bounded by several communities including Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Canal was once a major transportation route for the then separate cities of Brooklyn and New York City. Manufactured gas plants, mills, tanneries, and chemical plants are among the many facilities that operated along the canal.

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You can’t really read it, but there’s a sign in this photo that warns you, among other dangers, not to smoke near the water.

 As a result of years of discharges, storm water runoff, sewer outflows and industrial pollutants, the Gowanus Canal has become one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies. Contaminants include PCBs, coal tar wastes, heavy metals and volatile organics. The contamination poses a threat  to the nearby residents who use the canal for fishing and recreation.

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This gorgeous piece of waterway is crossed by five bridges. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to run them all.  In fact, inspired by Phil McCarthy’s excellent “Bridge of the Week series” I plan to spend a lot more time exploring the cities bridges. Some of theses bridges, like Union Street are old friends. Others will be new.  I’m looking forward to seeing them all.

After Union Street it was down Nevins to Dean. Its amazing how industrial Nevins still is in this area.  Seven years from now, the fabrication and demolition shops will be apartment buildings people by finance and advertising professionals, just you watch.  I’ll run the street again then, and it will be like exploring a new world.

 

The Long Run – Battle Hill

I haven’t run more than ten miles in over six months, so I knew today’s twelve miler was going to be a bit of a suffer fest.  It was – twelve miles in 2:15:40 is pathetic, but it’s a start.

My goal was pretty simple – run twelve easy miles and find the highest point in Brooklyn.  Done and done. Starting from home I ran through Prospect Park up Fort Hamilton Parkway to Greenwood cemetery then along the edge of the cemetery to 25th street, I entered the park to climb the highest point in Brooklyn – Battle Hill.

The 25th street entrance to the cemetery.

Greenwood is the massive cemetery in the center of Brooklyn seen by everyone who has ever driven down the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.  It covers 478 acres and is the final resting place of hundred of famous New Yorkers, including the founder of the New York Times, the inventor of Morse Code, and Leonard Bernstein.  Within it is Battle Hill.

It is a gorgeous place, recalling the gilded age past of the City.  Ornate memorials, and beautifully tended gardens – for a cemetery, it’s a very nice place to spend part of gorgeous fall day.  Being a cemetery, running is not allowed, so I had to walk to the top of Battle Hill, (this partially excuses my pathetic time). It is quite the view from up there – you can see the city, the Statue of Liberty and a whole lot of New Jersey.  There’s also a well-done memorial to the battle of Brooklyn, the largest battle of the Revolutionary War, which was fought on the slopes of this hill long before it became a cemetery.

Ok, maybe it isn’t the view from the top of Mont Blanc, but still!

I took some photos, and retraced my route back to the park and grinded out the final five miles at a snails pace.  I wish I had been faster today, but you cannot have it all.  It was a gorgeous day, I climbed the highest the point in Brooklyn, and I got in the miles.  I’m happy with that, the speed will come back with time.

Being a New Yorker, my first thought on getting to Battle Hill was “I wonder how much those condos behind me go for.”

Three Boroughs, Three Bridges and Some 9/11 Reflections

Like many New Yorkers, I tried to just go about my business this Sunday, September 11th, and my business on Sunday was to get my longest run of this training cycle done. The goal was 20 miles, I made it 19.25 before I called it a day. I feel pretty good about that.

 

Inspired by long distance voyager, I’m on a mission to run the big bridges of the city, this Sunday’s run was geared toward hitting one of the big dawgs – the Queensboro (aka the 59th St Bridge). To do that, I left my place, headed through Bed Stuy, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint and on up to the Pulaski Bridge.

 

Manhattan as seen from the Pulaski Bridge

I hadn’t run on the Pulaski since I the New York Marathon in 2006. The Pulaski’s a small drawbridge nowhere near the size of the big east river bridges, but it has its charm. It crosses over the Newtown Creek in the heart of industrial Queens. Like much of New York, isn’t much to look at, but it gets the job done. There are no tourists, just a couple of bikers, some polish kids, and me. I love this bridge.

 

Queensboro

After the Pulaski was the bridge of a thousand broken dreams in the New York Marathon – the Queensboro. For me, this was where the wheels came off in my running of the New York Marathon and I wasn’t alone. Many a marathoner begin to feel the pain on the uphill section of the Queensboro. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come in my running that I cruised across this bad boy in no time, stopping only to take these pictures for you.

 

The View from the Queensboro

It was a grey day in the city. The ceremony honoring those who died in the World Trade Center was going on downtown, but as I cruised down the east side of Manhattan, it seems like any other Sunday and I thought about that day ten years ago. I was on the Q Train about to go over the Manhattan Bridge when the conductor said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. You could see it clear as day out the window of the train. A man in my car shouted “my mother works in that building” and rushed from our car. We were stuck on a bridge; he had nowhere to go, but he ran anyway. I thought it must have been an accident, and that surely that’d put the fire out soon.

 

From the Manhattan Bridge

By the time I got off the train at 14th street, the second plane had hit and everyone knew it was a terrorist attack. I didn’t know what to do, so I went to work. At the time I was working in a video editing studio, we had a hundred videos monitors in the place, but not a single television. We all went downstairs to the dinner below us and watched the coverage with hundreds of other people on a tiny TV they’d brought out from the back. People were streaming north from the financial district and would stop and watch some of the coverage. Some people were covered in dust, others looked dazed, almost no one spoke.

I remember the television broadcasting an interview with a man who said he was trapped above the fire in one of the towers. He was fine, he said, but they couldn’t get down. They just needed someone to come get them. Moments later, the tower collapsed.

Once the towers came down, I felt a need to get home. Now. It was a beautiful day, clear skies and warm. As we walked home, Brooklyn ahead of us looked so beautiful. Behind us, lower Manhattan had disappeared into a cloud of smoke.

On the Pulaski

I crossed the Manhattan Bridge again on Sunday at around mile 15 of the run, I was hurting by then and still had a ways to go. I weaved through downtown Brooklyn, back up through Bed Stuy and home, glad the long run, and the anniversary of that horrible day were behind me.

The Long Run: A Parkway and Two Bridges

The first in a series recounting my long run adventures.

I have run over 1600 miles in Prospect Park, much of it on the 3.3 mile main loop of the park. It has, as you might imagine, gotten a little boring. In an attempt to branch out, see more of the city by foot, and keep things interesting I’m going to try and stay out of the park more, especially on my long runs. This weekend’s course was developed with three things in mind – avoiding the park, staying in the shade, and running a work related errand.

 

Eastern Parkway

With these goals in mind I started out from my place and ran up to Eastern Parkway, the leafy promenade that runs from Prospect Park to the far edge of Crown Heights. Eastern Parkway was designed by Fredrick Olmstead, the genius who brought us both Central Park and Prospect Park. I love Olmstead and not just because he is a Connecticut Yankee like me. The concept of the parkway was to create a tree lined avenue which would take residents into the park. Originally there were to be four of these leading into Prospect Park from every direction, but only two were completed, Eastern and Ocean. I might run Ocean next weekend.

I love Eastern Parkway, running it from the park to Ralph Avenue takes you through the hipsters of Prospect Heights to the Chabad Hasidic Jews, Caribbean immigrants, and African Americans of Crown Heights. The Parkway continues past Ralph all the way to the Greenwood cemetery, but it isn’t nearly as nice (or as shaded) after Ralph, so I cut things off there today and turned around.

Back down Eastern Parkway I took a right down Bedford Avenue running through Crown Heights into Bedford Stuyvesant. I ran a quick errand in Bed Stuy, checking out a building for work, taking photos in my sweaty running clothes and getting stares. It was fun. Then it was down Bedford through the Satmar Hasidic portion of Williamsburg and over the Williamsburg Bridge.

The View from the WillyB

 

Williamsburg, as you may know, is the epicenter of all that is hip in New York. The Williamsburg Bridge is a fashion show on a Saturday afternoon –  Rayban sunglasses, boat shoes, impractical bikes. I am not sure if the woman on the bike with the retro eighties halter sweatshirt top meant to show us all her breast, and she rode down the bridge, but show us all her breasts she did.

The Williamsburg drops you off in the center of the Lower East Side. Historically the LES was a ghetto for newly arrived immigrants, now it is a play land for dudes with beards in flannel shirts. At this point, I knew I was short on mileage, so instead of just heading down to the Manhattan as I originally planned, I headed up the East Side for a bit, dodging skaters and people who rarely ride their bicycles. Around 14th street I turned around and headed back down to the Manhattan, a much more proletarian bridge than the WillyB, the Manhattan is stocked with runners and Chinese and Mexican dudes on Huffys. No breasts were seen.

 

Looking at Brooklyn from the Manhattan Bridge

Off the Manhattan and onto Flatbush Avenue for the final push home. Once again surprised at how many tourists there are in downtown Brooklyn nowadays. Hot and hurting by the time I got to Flatbush and Atlantic and still needing a another mile, I went the long way home and clocked in at 17 miles in 2:54:57. Another one in the bag.

1:30:18

YES! Just got back from my long run, and it was ten miles in 1:30:18 without stopping the watch for lights. I’m so stoked. I know for most runners, a nine minute mile pace isn’t a big deal but for me, coming off an injury and on a run this long, it felt amazing. Seriously amazing. I felt so strong in the last couple of miles I probably could have pushed the pace a little harder. Getting faster feels so good.

Anyway, things I saw today on my long run:
1.    DC Police searching the bushes in Rock Creek park armed with dogs and shotguns. Fun.
2.    Two ridiculously fast dudes who make me realize how far I have to go to be any good.
3.    A memorial remembering the Tiananmen Square Massacre
4.    And lot of DCites and tourists enjoying a really gorgeous day in the Nation’s capital.

Long Run

I am in the middle of exams right now and had to squeeze my long run in from school. School is right near the National Mall, which I have run around roughly ten million times, so I decided to try out a slightly new route. Down the mall, around the Lincoln and then hang a right and head out through FDR park to East Potamac Park, looping around and heading past the Jefferson*, back to the mall and then back to school. East Potamac Park is amazing and I am sad I have never been out this way before. Within fifteen minutes of getting off the Mall, you leave all the tourists behind and the place turns into a real community park full of the Black, Latino and Asian families that make up most of the population of the city. There is a boardwalk of sorts that runs along the edge of the water with great views of the Potomac and which provided a much-needed breeze off the water on such a warm day. Of course because this park apparently serves Washingtonians more than it serves tourists and senators, the board walk is in awful repair, part of it were so slanted I could barely run on it. But, seeing all the families out for picnics and men fishing off the boardwalk made me appreciate the real city that D.C. can be when you get away from the monuments. I’ll definitely be using this route again.

Now, for the quality of the run itself – it was awful. Yesterday we pushed 90 degrees in D.C. and when I started my run at five o’clock I think the temp was in the high eighties. The fact that I wasn’t really ready for that kind of heat coupled with the awful allergies I have been having the last couple of days meant that by the time I got to around mile eight of the run my stomach was a mess. I had to walk the last half mile for fear that I was going to blow chunks all over the National Mall. Not a pretty scene. I have to figure out a way to get my hydration in order for these long runs cause it isn’t going to get any cooler in D.C. this summer.

The PF I have been fighting bothered me for maybe the first mile of the run and then disappeared, I iced it and massaged it last night and its feeling fine right now. Hopefully I nipped this in the bud and it won’t become a full-fledged injury.

* Walking to the Jefferson is a running joke in my family because of a trip we took to D.C. when I was a child. My mother insisted we walk from the Washington Monument to the Jefferson. Lazy children that we were, we protested. Mom, that’s only ¾ of a mile. I’m sorry I was lazy.