Best Places to Run in NYC

I often receive emails from readers asking me about running routes in New York City. While the Big Apple is best known for its gourmet restaurants, high-end stores, and skyscrapers – it also has an amazingly vibrant running scene. I’ve been living in Manhattan for 2 years now and have been able to train for 2 marathons and bunch of half-marathons without a problem – it just takes a little planning (and some tips from a local!)

Part 1: Where can I stash my stuff?

First of all, if you’re going to go for a run in the city, you’ll need to plan ahead. Since most New Yorkers don’t have cars, you can’t stash your work clothes and gym bag in the backseat of your ride. Also, if your apartment or hotel is not close to a park/pedestrian path, you’ll need to take the subway to somewhere run-able. There are a couple of things you can do:

1) Run with only the essentials. When I run from my apartment to work, I only bring my metrocard, keys, and a cell phone. I leave a change of work clothes at my desk the day before and change when I get to the office. If you’ll be taking the subway either to or from a run – make sure to bring a metro card and a couple of dollars for a gatorade or emergency snack.

2) If you have a gym membership, you can stash your stuff in a gym locker and then take to the roads (try to find a gym that has locations near Central Park or Prospect Park). The Westside YMCA is near Central Park and a ton of New York Sports Clubs around the city. Ask about a day pass if you’re just visiting!

3) Leave your bags in the cubbies at the New York Road Runners office on E. 89th st. The office is open until 7pm, so you can get a quick run in after work or during your lunch break. Just make sure to pack deodorant – no showers here!

4) The Niketown store on E. 57th st offers group runs 3 days per week and the last time I attended a run, they had a bag-check (similar to a coat check) and post-run refreshments. I’ve never had a problem, but I wouldn’t leave anything TOO valuable.

Part 2: Where should I go running?

1) The most popular choice is Central Park. The Park’s boundaries are 59th street on the Southern end, 110th street to the North, Central Park West (a.k.a 8th Avenue), and 5th Avenue. For suggested routes and mileage, check out NYRR’s Guide to Running in Central Park.

2) Another favorite running route is the 4-mile long Riverside Park. When Alma and I were training for the Boston marathon, we did a long run that went all the way down Riverside Park, into Battery Park at the bottom of the island, and then up the East River Path (check out the public track near E. 6th street!). However, be warned: The East River Park ends around 34th st and turns into the FDR. Apparently NYC cops frown upon highway running…We learned this the hard way.

3) A few weeks ago, Highline Park opened to the public. This elevated park is located along former railroad tracks in the Meatpacking district (from W. 34th  street to Gansevoort street). Exciting!

4) When I lived in Washington Heights, I used to love to run in Inwood Hill Park and under the George Washington Bridge. The NY Times roving runner recently paid a visit to Northern Manhattan and provided a very good recap of the neighborhood’s running options.

Part 3: What if I have to use the bathroom? Where can I buy running  gear? Where should I go to re-fuel and celebrate?

1) Best public restrooms for runners: My personal fav is on the second floor of the Time Warner Center Mall at Columbus Circle. It’s never very crowded and usually very clean. The boat house bathroom (E. 74th St), the Delacorte Theatre bathroom (W. 79th st), and the bathroom near the Harlem Meer ( Northeast corner, near 110th st) are good options if you’re running in Central Park. You can also pop into a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks location in an emergency.

2) Local running shops (many will even videotape you while you run and recommend a specific shoe – for free!):

3) My favorite places to eat after a long run or race:

4) If you’re looking for somebody to keep you company, check out these lists: local running clubs and running buddy want-ads!.

Happy running!

  • You make me want to move to NYC so bad! I want to live one of three places: NYC, Boston, LA. Whenever I visit one the aforementioned places, I want to live there. Obviously NYC is ideal because it’s only 40 minute from my hometown anyway. I was just on a Boston kick and then I went to Hoboken for a day with my parents and wanted to move to NYC

  • Lizzy

    I love all these tips! I’m not from NYC but i hope to one day vacation or maybe even life there! I would love to take a run around Central Park so bad! 🙂

    http://saladdiva.wordpress.com

  • oh my gosh, i love this! this only makes my desire to live in NYC (at least for awhile) even stronger!

    enjoy your weekend 🙂

  • Wow, so glad I don’t have the problem of running in a big city. Sounds like a real hassle. But good tips to know if I ever do move to a big city.

  • Laurie

    Great tips! I love running in Central Park because it’s conducive to almost any workout. In my opinion, few routes can top the waterfront promenades all over the city — my absolute favorite is the Shore Promenade, which runs under the Verrazano Bridge way down in Bay Ridge/Fort Hamilton/Dyker Heights in Brooklyn (and there are little parks across the Belt Pkwy, where a runner in need can find restrooms and water fountains!).

  • I would love to run in NYC some day, sounds fun and interesting, thanks for the future tips!

  • Even though I don’t live in or NEAR NYC, I looooved this post and can just imagine all these areas (with a few of my own little mental additions). I’ve only visited for about 6 days, but I did get to do a few great runs through Central Park (looove Jackie Onasis lake loop) and walked all around Manhattan and beyond. I imagine if I lived there, these would all be so relevant and helpful. Loved the idea of the bathroom recommendations and NY Road Runners office cubbies.

  • great post ! running in nyc is always exciting! 🙂 I am jealous you live right in the center of all this, the routes definitely aren’t as great in queens!

    http://ncl117.blogspot.com/

  • Thanks for the great running tips. My personal favorite route is to run east through central park, all the way to the East River, cross the pedestrian foot bridge to Randall’s island and run back.

    P.S- I’m starting a job at Levain Bakery soon, I’m good friends with the owners. I will inform them of your shout out!

  • Great tips! If you get off the East Side at 34th and run up 1st Ave to the 59th street bridge, you can get back on a running path and go up to 125th. For long runs, I do a loop from about 96th, down the East Side to Battery Park, and back up the West Side. I love being able to run so much of this city!