Friday, November 13, 2009

The MRC invades NYC - Day 1

The MRC is all about running in the mountains, getting dirty and having a good time.  It isn't often that you'll see a post about running on the pavement on this blog, but if there were ever an exception this is it.  You see, fellow MRC'er Jay is going to be leaving his post in New York fairly soon and invited the rest of us out for a farewell tour in and through Manhattan.  We did what any good friends would and said YES, we're in!

On Thursday, November 5th, Erik, Peter, Greg and myself boarded a 727 in SLC bound for one of the biggest greatest cities in the world.  To say I was excited would be an understatement, besides Peter and Jay the rest of us had never been to New York City and we really had no idea what we were in for.  Arriving at JFK rather late we were a little tired, but there would be "no sleep till Brooklyn" (sorry I couldn't resist) where Jay shares an apartment with two incredibly gracious and stylish roommates, David and Stevan.

Friday morning started with fresh espressos before we hit the subway for a ride over to Manhattan.  After arriving at our stop we climbed the stairs from the subway to daylight and found ourselves standing in the middle of Times Square.  I have to admit, it was a bit overwhelming at first with the lights, video screens and cabs streaming through the streets but once we started running we just flowed along with everything else.
Peter took a lot of video along the way and put together this great compilation of day 1 you can see below.

Just getting started in Times Square

From Times Square we ran up 8th Ave. to the southwest corner of Central Park then worked our way over to Broadway.  I tried to get the guys to stop for Shrek the Musical but they weren't having it.  Somewhere through here my stomach started reminding me that I had skipped breakfast so we kept our eye out for something good to eat.  Just a few blocks up we found the world famous, Zagat rated H and H Bagels.  I was pretty excited since we're unable to get a "real" bagels in Salt Lake, all we have are the kind that are steamed, but I digress.  Sufficed to say the bagel hit the spot and made for good running fuel.

As we kept heading uptown on Broadway the temperature started to rise to a comfortable 50 with blue skies above.  We were cruising along quite nicely up around 114th street when all the sudden Jay made a quick right in between some buildings, of course we followed and soon found ourselves standing in the middle of the Columbia University campus (or part of the main campus).  It really seemed quite odd to be running through a college campus in the middle of the skyscrapers in the city.

Erik, Peter, Greg and Jay getting ready to dodge traffic and a Columbia University building.

Next, we ran a few blocks north before hanging a left on 120th street and looming over us was the Riverside Church.  Built in 1841 the Baptist Church is both massive and beautiful.  So naturally we couldn't resist a quick peek inside, simply incredible.

Riverside Church, outside and inside.

After our quick stop we were still headed north and looked over in the direction of the Hudson River giving a quick shout out to our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant (currently hanging out in Grant's Tomb).  At 125th street we took a right, before running through Harlem and past the legendary Apollo theater.

Most people might think that running through Manhattan would be hard with all the people and street crossings, but really it was quite smooth.  I found myself playing catch-up with the rest of the group on more than one occasion when I would stop to look at something then sprint back up.  Kind of like doing intervals.

After Harlem we turned right again so we were heading back downtown on Malcolm X Blvd and directly into the north side of Central Park.  What an amazing place.  Within a matter of minutes we were cruising some dirt trails in the North Woods, hopping logs and trying to find our trail legs.

Trail Running in Central Park

The trail dumped us back out on the road where we cut across the grass to the Central Park Reservoir (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir).

Again we were awestruck, standing there for a minute taking in the spectacular view before we decided to do a lap around and take in the view from all angles.

Views from the Central Park Reservoir

Once the loop of the reservoir was complete we ran down 5th avenue passing The Guggenheim and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We made a brief stop inside the Met where Peter had me run a quick lap in an attempt to have me thrown out.  It didn't work but someone nearly went down on the long set of steps as we were leaving, perhaps karma coming into play a bit.

Greg in front of the Guggenheim and the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Moving on from the museums we stopped at Rockefeller Plaza and the highlight of the day for me, Grand Central Station.  I was in complete awe as I stood there looking at the magnificent interior of the station.  I suppose I was expecting something a lot less spectacular and I was unaware of the massive restoration effort that was finished in 1998.

Picture Credit: Diliff, for full resolution go here.

Moving on from there we went inside the Empire State building in an attempt to run to the top, but sadly we were denied.  By this time everyone was getting a little hungry so Jay suggested we run through "the village" on Bleeker street to make our way over to China Town where we could grab some noodles from a street vendor.  Once we were in the Chinese district we ran up and down a few different streets looking for some vendors but there were none to be found.  Jay thought this was a bit strange and as we found out later they were all somewhere else...  With no street vendors in sight we ducked in to a little cafe for some hot tea, noodles and dumplings.

Consulting the itinerary - Greg enjoying some noodles and dumplings

Completely fueled but a little stiff from sitting down for so long we ran down towards City Hall.  The closer we got the more people we encountered and before we long we found it impossible to run.  It seems we had kind of forgot that the Yankees had just won the World Series on Wednesday and the ticker tape parade was going on right then.  This obviously threw a little wrinkle in our plans but despite the mayhem we were still able to get over to the financial district, see ground zero and marvel at the amount of paper on the ground.  It also became clear where all the street vendors had gone.

Downtown during the ticker tape parade.  The next morning it was spotless, really.

The only part of the plan we were unable to complete on day 1 was to run across the Brooklyn bridge back to Brooklyn.  For some odd reason we weren't allowed to the leave the city on the bridge but people could come into the controlled chaos.  So we ended up crossing the East River on the less than spectacular Manhattan Bridge and saved the Brooklyn Bridge for day 2.  We ended the 28 mile journey on day 1 by weaving our way through Brooklyn and Prospect Park on the way back to the apartment, where we enjoyed a warm shower and a few refreshments before dinner.

Later that night we met up with Peter's brother and fiance for some scrumptious Italian food at Noodle Pudding that really hit the spot.

Just when I thought I was done seeing everything I could handle, Peter's brother suggested a short walk around the corner to the Promenade to end the night with this incredible view of Manhattan.  Does it get any better?  Watch for Day 2 and find out...

You can see all of these photos and more in my Picasa Album, and here's a map of the run:

View Manhattan Day 1 in a larger map

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