When we moved from Washington Heights, we lost regular access to the Greenway, which has to be the best running and bike trail in all of New York City. It runs, unbroken, for around 12 miles from Inwood Park all the way to Battery, then continues around the southern tip of Manhattan up the East Side, until it is finally shattered by the U.N. at East 59th street. I gladly traded running in Central Park for the superior loop of Prospect Park, but nothing can replace the Greenway, especially the stretch north of 96th, which is where we ran regularly.
One of my new favorite stretches of pathway, however, is the pedestrian route leading over the Manhattan Bridge. It is wide, free from both car and bike traffic, as well as relatively free from other runners and walkers. The bridge arches majestically over the East River, reaching over a considerable swath of both China Town on the Manhattan side and DUMBO at the Brooklyn terminus. It spans a little over a mile, so one has a chance to settle into a long, unbroken pace, and the view is spectacular. As the bridge rises from the East end of Canal street, you climb up past the battered apartments of China Town and get a slowly elevating angle on the streets and alleys of one of New York City’s most vibrant and crowded neighborhoods. Then lower Manhattan unfolds to the south with its jostle of soaring towers, newer glass, classical bronze, and marble sketching a brief history of 20th century architecture and financial prowess. From the edge of the financial district the Brooklyn Bridge curves its own iconic silhouette across the river, touching down into the jumble of downtown Brooklyn and the industrial waterfront. Beyond the Brooklyn Bridge lie the other islands — Governor’s, Ellis, Staten – and below the choppy grey water. By day, you get this panorama in all its glorious urban grime, but at night it is truly breathtaking: China Town a glowing jungle of neon Mandarin and fluorescents, the dark edifices of Wall Street intermittently lit in patches of yellow and pale white.
My run the other day was fine: a great relief after nearly a week of not running, but not particularly exhilarating. I took in the view, relished the thought-void that accompanies runs, but my Achilles tendon started complaining a little after mile 3, so I cut my run from 6 down to 4 miles. Since I have no particular goal other than to enjoy my runs and get out as often as I can, I am definitely playing it safe with my ankle. So I slowed to a walk shortly after I crossed the borders of Bed-Stuy, then stopped into a health-food store to buy bread.