I’ve been running for 12 years, and during that time, I’ve only lived in two cities. Since runners (and myself in particular) are creatures of habit, I had my regular running routes in Medford Massachusetts and Manhattan from which I pretty much refused to deviate. As a poor graduate student runner without a gym membership, I was *that girl* running on the streets in the harsh Boston winters, skating my way along the ice and uneven sidewalks of Mass Ave, fighting the wind along the Charles, and desperately trying to find footing in the snow through Davis Square. I remember coming back to my dorm room after a rather chilly run (translation: frikkin freezing), and my legs got horribly itchy when the blood in my legs realized that it was safe to return to the surface. Ah, those were the days… the days without proper cold running gear.
After two years in Boston, I moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where Central Park became my default spot. There were plenty of rolling hills and enough people around in the early morning and after sunset so that my inner spidey sense didn’t go haywire. I circled my way around the park, coming up with all sorts of combinations of 4- 5- and 6- mile loops.
Then a few years later, I moved downtown to join the cool kids in the East Village. Fun fact: you know all those bridges that cross the East River? You can run them! After photobombing enough unsuspecting tourists, I stopped running the Brooklyn Bridge and instead opted for the much quieter Manhattan Bridge, and the always great-for-people-watching Williamsburg Bridge. I had my 8 mile loop around the southern tip of Manhattan, my 14- 16- and 20 mile loops that took me to Brooklyn and around (and around and around) my favorite park evar, Prospect Park. I had a 4 mile route used almost exclusively for tapering and a track less than a mile from my apartment (that I didn’t use nearly as much as I should). You had a distance and a terrain preference, I could give you a route.
Then, we moved. We moved a mere 9 miles away, but it may as well have been 90: now when I walk the sidewalks at night, I don’t hear drunk people screaming, or incessant police/ambulance sirens. I see stars and hear crickets. Holy crap. Nature! No more human poop next to our garbage cans (yep. Human), no drunk people weaving their way down the block.
All this sounds like we moved to the country. Hardly. We’re in Queens. Both my parents are from Queens and when I hear “Queens”, I think of endless blocks of houses that differ only in their paint colors. I think of my Grandma Anne’s house in Howard Beach that would shake whenever a plane took off at nearby JFK (a la the opening scene in Mary Poppins), or my Grandma Annie’s house in Bellerose, with her giant backyard and bakery-and-candy-store proximity. But beyond that, Queens was a mystery – the simple fact that you can have an 80th Road, 80th Avenue, and 80th Street will likely confuse the hell out of me for a very long time. But, I successfully navigated from the subway to our new apartment on my first try, so I consider that a win.
We moved a few weeks ago, and the timing pretty much perfectly lined up with some of my heaviest miles in this training cycle. In a good way, I’ve been forced to explore my new surroundings. I may be a creature of habit, but one can only do the 1.5 mile stretch in Forest Park so many times.
With Sam as my guide (and lead biker), I was pleasantly surprised at what we’ve seen: I’ve made the rolling hills of Forest Park and tree-lined paths of Cunningham Park and the Vanderbilt Parkway part of my regular route. I’ve run through Forest Hills Gardens, past a VELODROME (yep, a freaking velodrome) and the famous Lemon Ice King of Corona, around the oldest reservoir in NYC, noted the location of nearby ice cream and bakeries (ahem Eddie’s Sweet Shop), waved “hi” to Citi Field, and followed the street markings for the first ever NYCRUNS Queens Marathon.
I’ve circled the nearby public track, and managed to end up on highway on-ramps twice on the same run (you’re tricky, Astoria Blvd!). The best part is that it was done over dirt trails, paved bike paths, and sidewalks upended from the roots of towering century-old trees. And all that was in our first month here. We have yet to run Rockaway Beach or the path along the Cross Island. If all my runs in Queens are this awesome, I have a lot to look forward to.