Great Runs in New York City: Manhattan

New York City is one of the most vibrant urban areas in the world. It is also surprisingly good for runners — and steadily improving. Running in Central Park is a must-do for any runner visiting the city. Other spectacular runs include along the West Side, pretty much along the entire length of Manhattan. There are also terrific paths along sections of the East River — not as seamless, but still worthwhile. Another worthwhile route is to incorporate one of the bridges — especially Brooklyn Bridge.

Manhattan is pretty flat. Hill options are mainly a couple of areas of Central Park.

The Iconic Routes

  1. Central Park — Perimeter
  2. Central Park — Reservoir
  3. The Hudson River Greenway
  4. The East River Greenway
  5. A “Bridge” Run (Notably Brooklyn Bridge)

The Routes

Central Park

Central Park, located in the heart of Manhattan, is one of the most iconic places to run in the world. There are numerous options — from a perimeter path to a reservoir route with great skyscraper views to woodsy sections to grand allees.

This woodsy getaway offers plenty to look at; from spring-blooming cherry blossoms and Manhattan skyscraper silhouette in the horizon, to sightings of world-class runners and movie celebrities. You will also see a huge number of other runners of all speeds along with tourists, dog-walkers, bikers, cars and horses. Thus, it is also useful to know Central Park runner etiquette. The innermost / left lane is for those running clockwise, the “middle” lane for those running counterclockwise and outside/right lane of the road is for cyclists, cars and horses. On pathways only for pedestrians, those running clockwise stay on left side and counterclockwise on the far right side.

There are two ‘icionic’ routes in Central Park: the ‘perimeter’ path, and a route incorporating the Reservoir. As the map shows, there are wonderful additional options — we recommend the Great Lawn and The Mall. Our routes generally start at the entrance to the Park in Columbus Circle, but clearly can be accessed from many spots.

Perimeter Path
The full loop in Central Park is 6.1 miles and it includes some climbing. Run counterclockwise and you will encounter two major hills on your way; Cedar Hill (a.k.a. Cat Hill) and Harlem Hill. The South part of the park is the most crowded area, with the most crowds. Notable attractions include views of the Essex House, NY Athletic Club, Central Park Carousel, Sailboat Pond and Loeb Boathouse. One highlight, located at the entrance to Reservoir on East 90th Street, is a statue of the late founder of the NYC Marathon and New York Road Runners club.which is.

There are multiple access points from both sides of the park. One good option is to start at Columbus Circle, located at the southwest corner of the park, where also USS Maine statue is located. Run down a short path of approximately 500ft to get to the main loop.

Reservoir Loop
One of the most popular places to run in Central Park, and indeed anywhere, is the well-maintained dirt path that circles around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Locals know this “loop” as Bridle Path. It was originally built for horses but is mainly used by walkers and runners. Along with knee-friendly surface and car/bike-free pathway, it offers picturesque lakefront views with Manhattan skyscrapers in the horizon.

There are markings labeling every 100 yards and the loop around is 1.6 miles. There are multiple access points from both sides of the park, the most direct being the Engineer’s Gate on East 90th Street. Run counterclockwise and stay on the right side of the pathway. If you want to have a bit longer “loop”, try Full Bridle Path Loop, which is 2.5 miles and extends beyond the Reservoir, further north to the North Meadow fields and across the 102nd Street Transverse. It eventually rejoins the main Reservoir loop around West 93rd.

Hudson River Greenway

The Hudson River Greenway , on the west side of Manhattan, maintains fabulous esplanades for walking, cycling and running with beautiful views of the river and New Jersey skyline. It is also perfect for seeing gorgeous sunset whilst running. The pathway stretches from the Bronx in the north all the way down to Battery Park at the south peak of Lower Manhattan, going mostly through Riverside Park and Hudson River Park. The most spectacular section is heading south toward Lower Manhattan, views of the river, the new Freedom Tower, and the Statue of Liberty. We have divided the Greenway into three sections. Access is from just about anywhere — but if you want to stay near the Greenway, try staying somewhere west of 8th St.

1. Battery Park-West 59th Street. ~6 miles one-way. Hudson River Park, the second biggest park in NYC after Central Park, extends from Battery Park in the south to West 59th Street in north. Hudson River Park offers fantastic points of interest, such as Statue of Liberty, Freedom Tower, Chelsea Piers and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. It can be busy and crowded, with bikers, bladers, walkers, and strollers. There are public restrooms and seasonal water fountains available along the route. The most spectacular views are headed south toward Lower Manhattan, and then at the tip at Battery Parl

2. West 59th-125th Street. 3.7 miles one way. Riverside Park, South located between West 59th Street and West 72nd Street is an extension of Riverside Park in to the north, mirroring its design. Riverside Park, in turn, stretches from West 72nd Street to 125th Street. This tends to be more tranquil, but greener than Hudson River Park. But it is perfect for a more peaceful run along the river with great views. Do this one way, or a loop of 7.4 miles running along the river one way and on the park pathways on the return. Loop here.

3. West 125th-George Washington Bridge. 2.6 miles. This is another lovely section, very popular with bikers as well. Heading north from 125th St. there are wonderful water views most of the way, and plenty of green. The route ends at the George Washington Bridge, around 180th St.

TOTAL Distance from Battery Park to George Washington Bridge: 12.3 miles

East River Greenway

The East River Greenway is another car-free esplanade at waterfront at East side of Manhattan. It stretches from Battery Park in the south to 125th Street in north, with a 1.2 mile-long gap between 34th Street and 60th Street where busy First and Second Avenues are needed to get around United Nations headquarters. The gap is currently under development and it is expected to be fully completed by 2024.

We have divided the route into two sections, one is north from United Nations and the other to south. Maps below, running stores with markers.

1. Battery Park-East 34th Street. 4.4 miles. The main parts of this route are East River Waterfront and East River Park in south where you can enjoy great views of East River, Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge as well as Brooklyn on the other side of East River. In north, you run through Kips Bay, Stuyvesant Cove Park, and brick paved Captain Patrick J. Brown Walk.

2. East 34th Street-East 125th Street. 5.o miles. This part of East River Greenway consists of East Harlem, Carl Schurz Park and Upper East Side, and it tends to be less crowded than below East 34th Street. Enjoy spectacular views of the north end of Roosevelt Island and its lighthouse. You will also see western shoreline of Randall’s Island as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and the Willis Avenue Bridge. This route includes

It is possible to run over to Randall’s Island — which is nice in theory but there is quite a bit of construction.

Two Bridges

Incorporating one New York’s iconic bridges is an integral part of the running experience in New York City. Brooklyn Bridge is a ‘must do’, and does a nice job of accommodating pedestrians. There are numerous ways to incorporate bridges into a route involving the East River Greenway. This nearly 4-mile run features the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Suggested add-on would be Brooklyn Bridge Park out to Pier 5.

Further Afield

New York, of course, is a huge city, incorporating five boroughs and some islands off the coast of Manhattan. A few other suggestions for great runs:

  • Roosevelt Island. A fabulous run with water and skyline views. It’s about 4 miles around the perimeter, with parks on each end. To access the island by foot you have to cross the Queensboro Bridge over the island to Queens and then double back. It is also accessible via tram and subway.
  • Prospect Park. Another spectacular run in New York, in the heart of Brooklyn. Miles of paths. Here’s a link to a great running map.

Stay

There are of course hotels all over Manhattan, at various budget ranges. If you want to be within proximity to Central Park, look for hotels between 50th and 115th Streets (and in the 50s-70s to be close to Columbus Gate). For the West Side, try staying west of Broadway, and for the East Side, stay east of 5th Ave. You will be most ‘landlocked’, as in, not close to any of the iconic routes described here, if you are in mid-town.

Running stores

There are wide selection of running and athletic retailers from smaller specialist stores to multistory flagship stores of world’s largest sporting goods brands.

New York Running Company. Knowledgeable staff and treadmills for gait analysis. Located on Columbus Circle at Central Park southwest corner. Provides storage lockers for leaving your belongings if you go out for a run. Has group runs, too.

Nike Town. Nike flagship store located a few blocks from Central Park‘s’ southeast corner.

Multiple group runs every week.

Super Runners Shop. Several locations in Manhattan and one also in Brooklyn. Offers complimentary video gait analysis.

Jack Rabbit. Several running stores in New York City, including Union Sq., 72 St., East Side, Columbus Circle. Has group runs, gait analysis, bra fitting and nutrition advice.

Group runs: https://www.jackrabbit.com/info/events/2015/1

Community

City Running Tours NYC. Huge number of group runs, with various touristy and fun themes, for a fee. They can also be booked for customized individual and small group runs.

New York Road Runners (NYRR). Non-profit running organization, conducts over 100 events each year, including classes, clinics, and races.

The Reservoir Dogs. A midsize running club consisting of runners of all levels. Arranges several group runs each week in Central Park, some of them followed by food and drinks.

The Most Informal Running Club, Ever. NYC. As the name suggests, it is all about running and community. No fees, no other requirements.

Weather

New York City has humid subtropical climate, being the northernmost major city in North America with this categorization. Summers from June to August are typically warm to hot with some periods of high, uncomfortable humidity. Winters are cold and damp, averaging 25.8 inches of snowfall. Spring is unpredictable but autumn is gorgeous and lingers well into November.