Running in New York City – Central Park

Earlier this week, my wife and I went into the city to see Billy Joel at the Garden. It was amazing. If you haven’t been to see him, you should try to catch a show before he ends his run in July 2024.

But this is a running blog, and not a music blog. So of course the real highlight of the trip was running in Central Park!

Let me share some of the travel details with you, as well as the running details.

Before the show at Madison Square Gardens, a view of the crowd and the empty stage.

Travel Details for My Quick Trip to New York City

We had tickets for a Monday night show at Madison Square Garden. While we could have stayed home and taken the train in from West Orange, I figured this was a good excuse to get away in the city for an evening.

I had a free night award available from my Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card. So I checked around for Marriott hotels in the city, and I settled on the Aloft Harlem. It was slightly above the 35,000 point cap for the free night award, but I was able to use a few extra Marriott points to top it off. For more on how I use credit card rewards to help pay for my running travel, check out this article.

The Aloft was great. As a Platinum Marriott member, I got free breakfast for my wife and I. There was a bar downstairs, although by the time we got back we had already partied enough. The room was stylish, and they had valet parking. Parking was a bit pricey ($55 with tax), and if we were there for a few nights I’d have looked around to find something cheaper nearby. But for one night, I just splurged on the convenience.

The location was the selling point. It was right by the 125th St subway stop to take the blue line down to MSG. It was also less than a mile to Central Park.

After we checked in, we meandered down the street to Bixi Harlem. They had a good happy hour. We enjoyed ourselves there for a bit, and then we hopped on the subway at 116 St. We got off at Penn Station and followed the crowds to MSG. Everything moved quickly, and before we new it we were heading to our seats. I stopped at a vendor and grabbed two drinks – $45, yikes! – and we sat down to enjoy the show.

Billy Joel performing at Madison Square Garden.

The show was awesome! The music and the singing were great, and he joked around on stage. He truly is “The Entertainer.” And the Piano Man. After they wrapped up, they came out for one encore. When the show was finally over, we filed out with the masses, found the nearest slice joint for some late night pizza (Bravo Pizza), and hopped on the subway back to our hotel to call it a night.

Running Through Central Park

The next morning, I did manage to wake up fairly early. It was going to be hot, so I didn’t want to sleep in too late. I had some coffee, hit the bathroom, and I was out.

It was slow going at first, after all the beer I had the night before. But as I jogged down the street, I loosened up and started to feel better. I just followed Frederick Douglass Blvd to the entrance at 110th Street – the Northwest Corner of Central Park.

The park is about three miles long, and it’s criss crossed by paths you can follow. The main loop, following the paved road, is about six miles. The roads are closed to vehicles, other than those working in the park, so it’s just three lanes of runners, walkers, dogs, and cyclists.

It was amazing. I had never seen so many people running together on a random Tuesday morning. You could have fooled me into thinking it was a Sunday – and that no one had to go to work. I just settled in to the running lane and cruised through the park. After about an hour, I was back at the northwest corner, and I made my way back to the hotel – zig zagging a couple blocks to make sure I hit a full eight miles.

The park is hiller than I expected. In retrospect, I had heard people talk about the hills, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. There were moderate rolling hills throughout – nothing crazy, but definitely not flat.

It’s also shady, which is great. There were a few spots where the sun peaked through the tree canopy, but the vast majority of my run was in the shade. On a hot, summer day, this really helps keep things more comfortable.

I passed by at least one bathroom that I saw that was open, and I saw people using some of the water fountains. I’m sure there were plenty of other bathrooms, as well. It was early, but by 8:00am some of the vendors were starting to open up, so it would have been possible to stop and buy some water or Gatorade.

Check out the maps from the Central Park Conservancy for a detailed running map of the park. It notes several different loops, so you can build whatever length run you want. It also marks off the year round and seasonal bathrooms that are available.

Central Park Running: Two Thumbs Up

Next time you’re in the city, you should definitely make your way to Central Park.

I’ve stayed downtown in the financial district before, and it never occurred to me to go that far north. I ended up going across the bridge into Brooklyn. It was nice – and the views on the bridge were nice. But running through the park, surrounded by so many other runners, was just so much better.

Of course, this works best if you stay in Manhattan. From Harlem, it’s a mile or less to the park. Most of midtown isn’t much more than a mile away, either. It’s only once you get downtown that it’s 2-3 miles up to the park.

But even if you’re staying too far away to run there, it’s worth a trip on the subway at least once. It really is an experience you’ll enjoy as a runner.

The next time we visit the city, I think we’ll end up at the same hotel – and I’ll end up jogging through Central Park in the morning.

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