Under the GW Bridge (5.5 miles)

I’m not exactly sure what it is, but teaching is really stressing me out right now.  I’m very happy with my life at almost all times, except when I’m in front of my classes.  It’s probably a combination of the freshman being such an unruly class; the city, state, and nation wide anti-union and specifically anti-teacher static that seems to be constantly buzzing in the background; the fact that I seem to be asked to do more and more with less and less time in which to do it; and that I’ve been really, really missing one of my former students recently.  Or maybe I just want an excuse to run, so I tell myself I “need” to, who knows.  Anyway, by the end of 8th period, it was another “I need to run NOW” day, and luckily I had a run scheduled.  It also helped that the day was beautiful and that I can do 5 miles without any apparent strain on my heel.

I started out over the McComb’s Dam Bridge to Washington Heights, since I had to pick up a package that I had accidentally shipped to our old apartment. After swinging by 161st, I wanted to put in a few more miles, then swing by Malacon to get take-out, since their Dominican style rotisserie chicken is one of the things we miss most about living in Upper Manhattan.   That, and the fabulous running.  From 161st, its a short jog to Riverside Avenue, which connects to the Hudson Greenway at 158th street.  And once you are there, you are no longer in New York City.  Well, technically you are, but it feels like you’ve found your way not just to the edge of the city but out of it entirely.

To the south, the towers of Manhattan are a mere rumor in the distance; to the West, New Jersey looks like a green, verdant paradise; to the north are the wild hills of the Hudson, towered over by the monolithic edifices of the George Washington Bridge.  I headed north, along a path that is literally a few feet from the river and winds beneath trees and up the rocky slopes of the island.  Until I climbed back up into Washington Heights, I passed exactly one other runner, and was passed by only one bicyclist; had I been trail-running outside of Boulder, I would have seen more people.  Finding solitude in one of the largest cities in the world is always a transcendent experience.

Of course, the northern end of Manhattan is dominated by the George Washington Bridge.  The trail runs right up to its massive pylons and under the constant roar of traffic; running beneath it, the bridge seems more like a force of nature than a man-made structure, with the cars as eternal as the voice of the ocean.  (And for aficionados of children’s books, you can see the Little Red Light House as well).

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After you pass under the shadow of the bridge, you cross over a trellis that spans the tracks for AmTrak, then climb steeply up and over the West-Side Highway, only to continue climbing once you are back on the streets of Manhattan. The elevation graph for this run is great, since I started at sea-level on the East River, ran up and over Washington Heights, dropped back down to sea-level on the Hudson, then climbed back up to what is almost the highest point in Manhattan.  And with that second climb, I was out of the secluded wilderness and back into the urban jungle.  It was a few short blocks to Malecon, where I picked up our diner, then hopped on the A Train at 168th to head home.

Back in Brooklyn, I ran the last half mile from the train to home with a rotisserie chicken swinging awkwardly in a bag while the golden light of twilight washed the brownstones with amber tones of Spring.

Distance: 5.55 miles         Time: 53:44

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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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