Favorite NYC Running Routes

Thank goodness for weekends! I just slept for 8 1/2 hours and feel like a new woman. And after 5 days of no running (just a little strength training and stretching), I’m finally feeling re-charged and ready to get back on the roads. I’m headed out for a Brooklyn running adventure in a little bit, but first wanted to post about some of my favorite NYC area running routes. Even though this city is crammed with people (and cars and bikes) – it’s still an awesome place to train. No matter what time of day I head out to Central Park, I always have company on the roads. And the competition here is second to none – there’s always someone to push you to kick it in at the end of a race!

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Central Park – The Bridle Path

The most popular route in Manhattan 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. The main loop is great (tons of people watching opportunities!), but my favorite place to run is the dirt bridle path (yay soft surfaces!). Back in the day, horses used to travel this path, but now it’s mostly filled with saavy runners.

Riverside Park/West Side Highway

If you’re looking for flat, uninterrupted running, Riverside Park and the West Side Highway are where it’s at. The views of the Hudson River and New Jersey make up for the wind you may have to battle.

East River Path

This route is a favorite amongst Upper East Siders – it’s flat and straightforward, but can be a little shady after dark. Note: 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.

Van Cortlandt Park

If you’re willing to ride the 1 train into the Bronx, you’ll be rewarded with a run in Van Cortlandt Park. This urban oasis has hosted some big time cross-country meets (Footlocker Cross Country Regionals) and contains a mix of grass flats and tough hills. Throughout the summer and fall there are weekly cross-country meets hosted here – most open to the public.

Prospect Park

For many Brooklynites, Prospect Park is the go-to place to run. In a lot of ways, it’s a mini version of Central Park. The main loop is about 3.3 miles and there’s a dirt bridle path that runs alongside it. NYRR hosts a few races here throughout the year – my favorite is the Brooklyn 1/2 marathon.

I’m also a big fan of “Adventure Runs” – some of my favorites have been:

Brooklyn Bridge to Brighton Beach

3 Bridges, 3 Boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn)

Miscellaneous Questions – 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!

Where’s your favorite place to run in your city? I have some trips to D.C., Burlington VT, and Southwest Virginia coming up and would love suggestions!

  • I live in DC, but in the upper NW quadrant where it is SUPER hilly which sucks. At least it’s good training! Running around the Mall is always good if you’re in the mood for flat run, as is the C &O Canal. I like the Mt. Vernon trail from Georgetown to Alexandria, VA because it runs along the water and is pretty scenic. I also like the Capital Crescent trail which runs from Georgetown up to Bethesda, MD. It’s a very slight incline the whole way, which can be bad or good depending on your taste.

    I love Burlington! From what I recall, there is a nice trail that runs along the lake… the name escapes me, however.

  • Running want ads, what a great idea! I’m moving back to Houston at the end of April but coming back for the marathon in November. Feeling inspired to investigate and find some training buddies in TX…

    Here in New York, I love running from my Queens ‘hood (Astoria) to Central Park. My favorite weekend route has been to run from my apartment to Queensboro Plaza, across the bridge, up through the UES for one lap around the reservoir and then end right outside of Dylan’s Candy Bar at the last Manhattan stop on the NQR subway line. 🙂

  • Ah, I miss CP!

    When are you coming to Raleigh? I have LOTS of favorite places to run here =)

  • I want to run in NYC now! Great idea though, I should make a list of my fav runs in Philly. I do love doing the “Art Museum Loop” here, but I do it almost every Saturday, so it gets old. And I must agree with Shelby – lots of places to run in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill – highly recommend going down that way for a race/run if you ever get the chance!

  • Gavin

    I grew up in the DC area and when back in town I love just running the loop from the Capitol around the Lincoln and back (I head over the Memorial Bridge to add some distance and scenic views) I run EARLY when it’s not so crowded and Always pop into Tryst Coffee Shop for a muffin and coffee after.

  • Thanks! I’m going to be living in NYC this summer for a month, and I know this post will be helpful!

  • Mary

    In Burlington, you want to find a route that ends at Penny Cluse Cafe for breakfast. Yum!!

  • ohh how i miss the east side sketchiness. and prospect park runs! siiiigh. i will be more than happy to join you at popover cafe one of these days, though 😛

    have you run in fort tryon park? shit is crazy. steepest hills EVER.

  • Slk48

    I love the Capitol Crescent trail in DC. It goes along the Potomac and it’s pretty flat and never too crowded, but there are always plenty of people to watch and to push you to run faster. It’s also beautiful, very tree-sy and natural, because it’s a protected area. It’s my favorite place to do long runs.
    Also, running along the mall is obviously awesome. Especially with the cherry blossoms out. Just seeing the imposing museums and the Capitol building and the monuments is inspiring.

  • In Burlington, there is a bike path right along the lake that is really nice to run on. It’s shady in the sun, and you can peek through through the trees out to the lake.

  • NYC seems like an amazing place to run and live. Did you grow up there?

  • I lived in DC for 3 years and the Mount Vernon trail is great. It’s almost 18 miles long and it’s gorgeous.

  • Well I’m not a new yorker, nor an east-coaster, so those descriptions mean almost nothing to me…don’t know your city at all!

    I did live in DC for a bit, and the mall is very popular. A lot of dirt paths. You can start by the lincoln memorial and run up those steps, then down the mall all the way to the Capitol building. You will hit some lights though.

    DC has so much water, and where there is water (lakes/rivers), there is a great running path. It’s a wonderful running city

  • Love! I can’t wait until the bridle path looks just like that (i.e. not 25 degrees). The bridle path is by far my fav, but Riverside Park is right up there too (and there’s a bathroom around 70th street. key, obvs.).

  • Corey @ the runners cookie

    This makes me want to run next time I’m in NYC! Love that you also suggested your favorite places to eat!
    In Boston, my favorite running spots are around Boston Common, along the Charles River (which you can take a long way), and the Boston Marathon course of course 🙂

  • Vanessa

    Im from Southwest VA. Email me and let me know what part you are going to. I can fill u in on great places to go run and eat at.!

  • And for any intrepid NY-ers who don’t mind hopping on the LIRR for 45 mins, there are great trails at the Massapequa Preserve. From start to finish I think it’s about 7 miles so is perfect for an out-and-back long run. There are dirt trails and plenty of hills and occasionally some really fearless squirrels.

  • Anonymous

    What a great suggestion! Maybe I’ll venture there later this Spring 🙂

  • 🙂
    (i’m loving this new comment widget you’ve got here!)

  • Ali

    As a fellow NYC-er, I love this post! I had no idea about the bathroom at 110th Street and am SO glad you included that on your list. I sometimes fear heading all the way north in the park because then the Boathouse and Tavern bathrooms are so far away if needed. So good to know!

    Also, I really want to try the Bridle Path but I’m always too nervous to venture onto it because I’m not totally sure where it will lead me. I promise to try it out soon!

  • Anonymous

    @Ali – I will take you on a tour of the bridle path one of these days 🙂 My
    schedule is kind of crazy for the next two weeks, but then work stuff should
    calm down a bit (and hopefully the weather will be warmer!).

  • Anamarie

    I love adding in Roosevelt Island for a little bit of trail (http://www.nps.gov/this/index.htm); I also live in Rosslyn, so I run the Arlington/Key Bridge 4 mile loop. For longer distances, I’ve found success at Rock Creek Park — on the weekends they close some of the streets, too. So it’s just you and a windy long road with lots of trees and a creek. But I second Mt. Vernon — that’s the default for me.

  • Thanks for the great tips! This post couldn’t come at a better time for me, because I’m visiting NYC this week from Vermont and I’m planning to do a 17-mile training run in Central Park on Friday for the Vermont City Marathon. As for Burlington routes, definitely check out the bike path along Lake Champlain, starting at the Downtown Waterfront and heading north. It’s part of the marathon route! I’d strongly advise refueling with pizza and local microbrews at American Flatbread on St. Paul Street afterwards.

  • This is so helpful – I am looking for somewhere to do a long run in the city next weekend and luckily spotted this! Can’t wait to try out the suggestions. My favorite recent run is in Vermont with covered bridges and cows. http://runningacrossamerica.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/hello-vermont-running/