A Long Run Tale


…in which I remember there are summer routes and winter routes.

My training plan called for a 20-mile run this past weekend. I wanted a change, so I began mapping out different route options in parts of the city I don’t run often. There’s a particular route I’ve wanted to run for a long time and I decided this was the perfect weekend to do it.

I was wrong. It was not perfect.

The route is basically a loop divided by the East River: run across a bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan, up 1st Avenue to the 59th Street Bridge, cross into Queens, then run south back into Brooklyn and back to roughly where I started. It wasn’t too difficult to fit that into 20 miles, so I decided to do it. I checked the weather and figured leaving by 6:30 am would be perfectly fine, so that’s what I did.

I was wrong. It was not fine to leave by 6:30 am.

The first couple of hours were good. The temperature was even slightly cool as I ran across the Manhattan Bridge, which was where I had a little mishap. I drifted too far over and my sleeve got caught on part of the fence. Now my favorite Craft shirt has a hole. 🙁  By the time I reached the East River promenade, the cool temps were gone, the sun was high in the sky, and with no wind, the temperature and humidity were quickly climbing. I was grateful to reach 1st Avenue, where I could stay on the side of the street that was shaded.

No flags were flying at the United Nations

Unfortunately, this is when my feet started bothering me; my right arch had a hot spot and my left arch definitely had a blister. I bought a fancy schmancy blister kit a couple of weeks ago and it was safely at home. If I was close to finishing I might have just suffered through, but I knew there was no way I could run nine more miles with that pain, nor did I want to risk the blisters getting worse.

So I stopped and bought blister patches and band aids at a pharmacy. The 59th Street bridge was just a couple of blocks away and I figured rightly that there would be a place to sit down somewhere near the bridge. I parked myself on a bench and really went to work on my feet. I had the foresight to bring a spare pair of socks, not because I expected blisters, but because I had decided to try wearing a thinner pair of old socks I had recently come across. I thought there might be a point that I decided they weren’t comfortable, so I threw a pair of SmartWool socks in my pack—possibly one of my better running decisions ever.

I used a wet wipe to clean my feet off, then I dried them as well as I could. I put the blister patches on each spot and then covered them with multiple Band-Aid Tough-Strips. (These are my go-to bandages. They stick like crazy, even if your skin isn’t totally dry.) I pulled on my fresh socks and threw the others away. I felt like a woman with brand new feet as I finally headed toward the bridge.

Crossing the 59th Street Bridge
Crossing the 59th Street Bridge

The 59th Street Bridge (technically the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) is part of the NYC marathon route, so I ran across it from Queens to Manhattan back in 2010. But this was my first time to cross the bridge using the recreation path and IT IS A REALLY BIG BRIDGE. I’m used to the city’s southern bridges, which aren’t as high as this one. Plus pedestrians/runners and cyclists are all on the same side, which made for a few hairy moments as bikes veered out of their lanes, and you’re only separated from traffic in some places by a low fence. Here is a musical tribute to the bridge:

Then I was in Queens.

I’ve visited some very nice areas of Queens, but most of what I’ve seen in that regally-named borough has not impressed me. I should cut Queens a tiny bit of slack because I was already hot and tired when I came off the bridge, but miles of concrete and full sun along Jackson Avenue did nothing to make me feel good about running or life or anything. I was able to acclimate myself to the area by running past some subway stations I had previously only known by name. I also came across what appeared to be an old courthouse. I later learned it is, in fact, the Long Island City Courthouse. Go figure.

Still, I was thrilled to arrive at the Pulaski Bridge and see Brooklyn in the near distance…except that the Pulaski Bridge was ALL sun and concrete, now with LOTS OF TRAFFIC! Awesome. Luckily, it’s not a very long bridge. I arrived in Greenpoint pretty quickly and it was just a short jaunt to the west before I could once again run on a shady side of the street.

Mini soccer players at Bushwick Inlet Park
Mini soccer players at Bushwick Inlet Park

Due to the heat, I had gone through most of my water by the time I reached Kent Avenue. I stopped off at Bushwick Inlet Park to get a drink and then headed south toward Williamsburg. The last three miles weren’t great. My hands were pretty swollen (still haven’t sorted that out) and my legs were getting tired, plus I was hungry and just ready to be done. I finally finished in downtown Brooklyn, where I bought some chocolate milk and headed into the subway to ride the rest of the way home.

Banksy-esque graffiti in Williamsburg
Banksy-esque graffiti in Williamsburg

I’m glad I finally tried out that route, but it is not for summer. During a colder month it would probably be better, when being in full sun isn’t hot. If/when I run it again, I will probably run the route counter-clockwise and start earlier when there is potentially less traffic. It was heavily-trafficked in most places and I spent a good deal of time (about half an hour) waiting on traffic lights. That’s a lot, even for an NYC street runner. I would also say the route is 90% concrete, so cushioned shoes are a must. Overall, it’s not at the top of my list of great running routes, but in winter…maybe an option.

An aside: my Garmin psyched me out. I ended up with 21.3 miles, not 20.

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