Saturday, 4 December 2010

New York City, Midtown/Central Park Running Route

Length:15 km (9.3 miles), terrain flat
(You can reduce the route to just 8 km by only running the Central Park section. Start at the 4-km mark, at the corner of 5th Ave. and 59th Street.)

New York Running Routes:
Downtown  
Greenwich Village  
Midtown and Central Park 

Riverside Park  
For other running routes, see Route List

NYC photos by www.bigfoto.com, Chris Hauser, Google StreetView, and myself

New York, New York, so good they named it twice. Well, I like New York, anyway. As dirty, loud and ugly as it often is, it's still a fun place to be, even if it is fairly anti-runner. There are very few quiet corners in Manhattan, almost every street is busy, and the long NYC shorelines are mainly lined by freeways and are no place for normal humans.

But there IS Central Park, and that makes up for a lot. Central Park is a varied, beautiful oasis stretching for 50 (!!) blocks through the heart of the island. And nowadays you can run there without first strapping on a kevlar vest and clipping in the ammo-cartridge of your own AK-47. I've even jogged there in the evenings and felt safe enough.

Along Broadway, photo by Chis Hauser
This route will take a loop through nearby Midtown, which borders Central Park on the south, head up through the park, and come back through the East Side. It's a fairly long route, but you could shorten it by 3 km by avoiding the Hell's Kitchen loop, or turn back earlier in Central Park. Or you could start right at Central Park itself: the loop through the park alone is just 8 kilometers.

Midtown is where most travelers stay and spend their evenings, with Times Square, Broadway, Rockefeller Center, Macy's, Bloomingdales, Tiffany's, Park Avenue, the Empire State Building, Madison Square Gardens, the United Nations: in short, most of the tourist stuff that everyone expects on a New York trip.

The Midtown NYC Running Route
We'll start out in Midtown's own small oasis, Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. This is the place to sit and drink a coffee and enjoy the Manhattan morning, so we can relax here when we're done. I confess that I have long been in love with this park, with its outdoor lending library (even a kids' one).
In Bryant Park, photo by K. Hauser
Head west on W. 40th Street the one block to Broadway, then turn right. In just 2 blocks you'll be right in Times Square, with its neon and theaters. This is New York's theater district, with Broadway theaters found in all the side streets.
Times Square in the evening, photo by Chris Hauser
Just at the north end of Times Square, turn left on 44th Street for a loop through a typical old-fashioned New York neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen. The area was once so poor that the buildings were spared redevelopment, and the streets have kept their 100-year-old character. Nowadays Hell's Kitchen has returned to life, and is home to a lot of actors from the nearby theaters, and is no longer run by the Westies Irish street gang.
In Hell's Kitchen (from Google StreetView)
Run straight to 10th Avenue, then turn right and run north for 4 blocks to 48th Street, to turn right and run back towards Broadway, to complete the Hell's Kitchen loop. Run straight across Broadway and keep going east until you cross 6th Avenue, where the Rockefeller Center complex rises to your left. Turn left into the little side street called Rockefeller Plaza. Just ahead, on the right, you'll see the famous spot where the ice-skating rink is set up each winter. These buildings are full of broadcast companies and studios, and it's possible to pick up tickets to a lot of shows here (reserve well in advance!).

Rockefeller Center
Turn right on 50th Street, and run the hundred meters to 5th Avenue, where St. Patrick's cathedral sits a bit out of place, in all its gothic glory. Now run north (left) on 5th Avenue the 9 blocks to Central Park.
(NOTE: When you come to 55th Street, if you want to make a 1-block detour to the left, you can see the famous LOVE sculpture.)
All you need is... photo by Chris Hauser
At 58th Street, you'll see the beautiful Plaza Hotel on the left, and the Apple store across the street. Run over to the hotel and then cross 59th Street to the park entrance.

NOTE: If you shorten the run to only do Central Park, this is the place to start!

You'll find some steps leading down onto the park's East Drive, where you can run northwards, with the Pond on the left. Central Park is a great mixture of rock outcroppings, park-like lawns, athletic fields, ponds, cafés and woods. We'll try to see a nice cross-section of it in this run. There are several cross-streets for cars that bisect the park from east to west, but the streets are set down in lowered channels, with stone bridges for the park visitors to move north/south above the cross-streets. The main walkways go up each side of the park, East Drive and West Drive.

Here on East Drive in the south end of the park, you will soon see the ice-skating rink on your left. Turn left there (this is the place to hang out in the winter) and run towards the baseball fields and playground. When you come to the ball-fields, just run right through them and check out any games going on. On the other side of the ball-fields, you will hit West Drive, where you turn right to head north again. Watch out for all the in-line skaters and bicyclists! I actually like to take one of the many smaller, less-used paths that run parallel to the larger drives.
At the Lake in Central Park, photo by K. Hauser
You will soon pass the Tavern on the Green, and then you'll run along the Lake, with the water to your right. (a possible detour is to keep left for 100 meters to go to the 72nd Street entrance, with the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, who was shot across the street). After the lake, turn right to run by the outdoor Shakespeare theater and you'll come to Belvedere Castle, a Victorian-era folly with a lookout deck over its pond.
View from Belvedere, photo by K. Hauser
Take one of the paths going north along the Great Lawn (more baseball fields), and you will now find yourself at New York's running Mecca, the Reservoir. You will now become one of about 10,000 runners circling the water. Run clockwise for almost a full lap. It has been made a bit nicer with the replacement of the old chain-link fences with more civilized wrought-iron ones.
Along the Central Park reservoir, photo by K. Hauser
When you get to the east side of the Reservoir (heading south), at the height of 90th Street, leave the park for a bit and cross 5th Avenue. Run south one block, and you will be looking at the fascinating spiral of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum.
The Guggenheim
Keep running south on 5th Avenue for a few blocks, and you'll see the classical facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, offset in Central Park on the right. Run past the museum. Just after the building ends, at 80th Street, you'll see a path leading to the right, back into the park. Follow the path until you are behind the museum, where you'll hit East Drive. Here you can turn left and run south till you get back to the place where you first entered the park, at the Pond.

We'll take a different way back to Bryant Park, now, though. Turn left on 59th Street and run east the four blocks to Bloomingdale's, on Lexington Avenue. Turn right here and run down Lexington to 42nd Street, going through typical Midtown highrises, running directly towards one of New York's landmark buildings, the Chrysler Building.
The Chrysler Building, as seen from Lexington
Turn right at the Chrysler Building, on 42nd Street, and in just a block, you'll see the classical form of Grand Central Station on your right. It's definitely worth it to detour through the station to see this amazing building from the inside, with its grand interior built at the height of the railroad era.

Continue up 42nd Street for just 2 blocks, and you'll find yourself back at the library and Bryant Park, ready to finally order a cappuccino, put your feet up, and simply watch the morning go by.

Amalfi, Italy Running Route

Click here for routemap
Length: 5.5 km (3.4 miles), terrain hilly

Article and photos by John Griffith, co-founder of the great UK running site, the Running Bug

John has a love of exotic routes. See John's Havana waterside run here: Running The Malecon; Havana, Cuba

View from town
Somebody once said to me "No wonder God was an Italian".  The implication is that the best things come from Italy: good wine, good food, good looks, good architecture and so on so given the choice that’s where you’d become flesh.   And if ever you are in pursuit of some of these fineries from Italy you could do worse than start your search on The Amalfi Coast.  When I went there I stayed in the luxurious Santa Caterina Hotel; pricey but one of the best in the area (the other being The Sirenuse in nearby Positano).  It was a short break for my partner and I with the intention of some relaxation but as she hit the Spa I put on my running shoes.

The Amalfi coast is pretty much vertical.  What I mean is the coastline doesn’t have a shore – it’s more of an escarpment.  For reasons best known to those that live there, everything is perched on an almost sheer drop.  Houses are etched into the hillsides and roads snake from promontory to promontory with the occasional gasp of a bridge or gloom of a tunnel.  Finding a route for a run that didn’t take in some stiff hills was just going to be impossible.  The scenery however is breathtaking from almost anywhere you stop.    

Taking a local footpaths map from the Hotel I headed out of the lobby onto the main road turning right down into Amalfi town centre on the inappropriately named Via Quasimodo.  There’s enough of a footpath to remain safe but keep your elbows in.  Enjoy the downhill because pretty soon you’re going up and I mean UP!!!
When we say up, we mean UP!
As you head into town, watch for the central road on your left that takes you up towards the Duomo.  This is Via del Duomo - a street or a street market depending on the time of day and it was full of wandering tourists the day I jogged through.  Watch for the absurd breast-fountain in the market square and take a drink if you’re thirsty.
Head on up the road about 1/2-km and watch on your left for Via Casamare – I think there was a police station there too – it’s a cul de sac, but head on up round the bends and at the end you will see the start of the 1,700 steps up to Pogerola.  I don’t think there is a sign but press on up the steps which snake back and forth up the mountainside past inquisitive goats and wild horses.

You arrive in the little hamlet of Pogerola with burning calves twenty minutes later, take a left on Via Papa Leone X and bless the downhill that lies ahead.  Stick on this road and you can get back down to the coast road again where a left will take you back towards the Hotel and Amalfi town.  For the brave, take one of the footpaths that weave through the netted lemon groves, heavy with the scent of citrus and steaming in the midday sun.
The sculptor had a sense of humour with this fountain
Amalfi is a small town with not much to offer except the architecture and some fine seafood, but while you’re there visit Ravello, Positano and spend a day on the Island of Capri.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sydney CBD Running Route

Length: 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain contains one hill

Sydney Running Routes:
Central Businesss District (CBD)  
Harbour north shore  
South Head and Watsons Bay   

Bondi to Coogee coastal run
Manly Beach Run  
Check the Routes by Country/City page for more routes

Pictures by Jessica Hauser and www.bigfoto.com  Thanks!

View of Bennelong Point, the CBD and the opera house
Sydney, the wonderful place that it is, even offers great running routes downtown, called the Central Business District, or CBD. There are great parks, the beautiful opera house, a dynamic business area, relaxed entertainment neighborhoods, and a scenic waterfront stretching for miles. And the impressive Harbour Bridge spans the bay, with its own pedestrian walkways, letting you run over the bridge and join into the North Shore run, described in another run description, Sydney North Shore, Australia.

This route will basically run AROUND the CBD, staying close to the water and parks, but the downtown skyscrapers are never more than a stone's throw away. Count yourself lucky to be able to lace up your running shoes for this route: we'll go by the opera house, through the botanical garden, see some of the oldest buildings in town, run through Hyde Park and then down to the Darling Harbour waterfront entertainment area before we head back through Sydney's oldest neighborhood, the Rocks, to our starting point.
At Circular Quay
The Central Sydney Route
We'll start the run in Sydney's spiritual heart: at Circular Quay (pronounced "key"). This is the spot where the first British settlement in Australia was built, the heart of the whole history of modern Australia. All the ferries start at this teeming spot, as well as most of the buses and trains, with the historic Rocks neighborhood to the left, the opera house and parks to the right, with a spectacular view of the Harbour Bridge and North Sydney straight ahead.
Panoramic collage from park above Circular Quay
So off we go, turning right and running along the water (water on your left side), past the clubs and restaurants lining Sydney Cove, straight towards the opera house. You can run straight up the steps and take a closer look at the several graceful roofs curving upwards. When you're up close you can see that the whole facade is made up of patterned tiles. This is, in my opinion, the most fascinating modern building around. Try to get tickets to a show in one of the various halls. Even the toilets are amazing.

Now we keep going towards the right (eastwards) along the waterfront on Farm Cove, into the park stretching before us. The park is part of a chain of parks that we'll now follow. The water curves around to the left out towards Bennelong Point, but when we get to the middle of the cove, take the path to the right, going along the ponds to the south.

Keep your eyes open for exotic wildlife: the giant white cockatoo parrots, water birds, lizards, turkeys. When you run past the café, the real botanical garden starts, with tropical jungles full of palms, bamboo, fern trees and banyans (strangler figs). Some of the trees are suffering badly from their treetop guests: thousands of giant bats, flying foxes, hang from the branches. If you are there in the evening, you will witness the spectacular sight of them swarming out to eat the figs and other fruit throughout the area. In the daytime, they're fairly inactive.
Flying foxes in the botanical gardens
I like to jog up and down the many paths here, and maybe go through the fern-tree garden.

Keep going straight southeast until you find yourself at the main south gate at Art Gallery Road. You'll see the big, classical red-stone art museum ahead, on the left. Cross the street and you'll run straight into the next park, the Domain. At the café, called Pavillion in the Park, turn your back to Art Gallery Road and run straight across the great lawn of the park, directly westwards, towards the CBD skyline. This will bring you to the back side of the old hospital, with its Victorian buildings. Run through the grounds to Macquarie Street on the other side.

Turn left on Macquarie to run south, past some of the oldest buildings in the city (or all of Australia), Government House and the old barracks, one of the first things the transported convicts had to build. Just past the barracks, you'll see the Catholic Cathedral, St. Marys, on the left, and Hyde Park straight ahead. Just run right down through the center of the park. We'll run through the northern half of the park, then turn right at Park Street to run 3 blocks to the old Town Hall at George Street.
St. Mary's from Hyde Park
To the right of the Town Hall is the Queen Victoria Building (or QVB), an elegant old indoor shopping gallery. On each side of the QVB you'll find bus stops for buses going about everywhere.

Turn left on George Street, and run past the St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral and you'll be in one of the night-life centers of town, full of cinemas, discos and packed pubs. When you get to Liverpool Street, where the monorail tracks cross the street, turn right, at the Three Monkeys pub and Sir John Young Hotel (most Australian pubs are called "hotels").
In Tumbalong Park
In just 3 blocks you will run straight into Tumbalong Park at the south end of Darling Harbour, after passing Chinatown on the left. Once in the park, follow the main path along the right, going northwest along the pond. On the left side is the Exhibition Centre. You'll then run under a maze of raised expressways connecting the CBD with everything south and west of here, with the IMAX cinema lodged between them. Somehow they don't disturb much way up there. Then, there you are, facing the water at Darling Harbour.

This is the most successful harbor redevelopment that I've ever seen. The outdoor restaurants and bars look inviting and are full of life, the little harbor marina is full of scenic yachts bobbing around, and the Victorian-era swiveling Pyrmont Bridge and the restaurant ship add a historic note, as do all the ships of the maritime museum further on. And then there are the aquarium and ferry landings, with the old light house, and the giant Australian flag waving over the whole scene. It's a wonderful spot, and is often used as the backdrop for big events with fireworks, water-ski shows and fashion shows.
At Darling Harbour
The right side is the nicer one, but we'll run along the left, to the South Steyne, the old restaurant ship, the ex-Manly Beach ferry. Run up to the bridge entrance and you'll see the ships of the maritime museum and the lighthouse on the other side. Now run across the bridge to the east. When you get to the other side, run down the stairs and turn north, with the water to your left, past the tour boats and the aquarium. Beyond the aquarium to the north, there is a new extension to Darling Harbour along the water, with more clubs and lots of tour boats docked up.

Keep running along the water for 3 blocks, past the last of the clubs at King Street Warf 5, then follow the walkway as it turns right, and goes back into the downtown. At the Sussex Hotel, take the steps up the hill straight ahead one more block to Kent Street, then turn left to go into the oldest part of Sydney, but going under the Freeway bridge (for the third time) first.

The colonial-era houses along northern Kent Street are typical for any older neighborhoods in Sydney, homey row-houses with ironwork balconies. At Argyle Place, you'll find one of the most historic pubs, the Lord Nelson, where we'll turn right and run past the historic homes on Argyle Street, with the hill to the right side crowned by the old observatory (worth checking-out sometime!). Keep running past the church, into the tunnel that goes under the ramp leading to the Harbour Bridge, coming out into the main part of the Rocks.

NOTE: Turning left at the church, on Lower Fort Street, would bring you to Sydney's oldest pub, the little stone building housing the Hero of Waterloo, one block on the left.
Restaurants (in winter) in the Rocks
As soon as you get through the tunnel, take the old stone stairs going up to the left to the Gloucester Walk path overlooking the Rocks, Sydney's old downtown and port, with its old warehouses turned into clubs and restaurants. From the walkway, you'll get a great view of the opera house just across Sydney Cove, and the Harbour Bridge just above you.

The path ends at George Street, where you turn right and run downhill past the Irish Pub (live music most nights) and some other interesting places. The street curves down to a small park on the left, next to Cadman's Cottage, Australia's oldest building, I believe.

Turn left here and run into the park bordering the cove, with the opera house across the way, and Circular Quay around to the right. At the water, turn right to run through the park for 200 meters and you'll be back where you began.