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Eleven places to run in NYC (that aren't Central Park)

By Will Sabel Courtney

If you told yourself you'd make the most of summer weather by getting in shape and then did a lot of laying at the beach drinking beer, you're not alone. So before it's too late, we put together a list of places in every borough where you can make like Tom Cruise and run like the wind (without spending all your time dodging cabs, Citibicyclists, and carriage horses).

East River Park (Manhattan)
Long, lean and a fixture of the Lower East Side, the John V. Lindsay East River Park is the fashion model of NYC's park system. The 57-acre park stretches a mile and a half from Montgomery Stat the south to 12th St, but if you need more room, the pedestrian pathways keep going in both directions along the river. The park's broad riverfront pathways, epic Brooklyn views and distance from the hectic FDR Drive make it a relaxing place to jog.

Manhattan Bridge (Manhattan-Brooklyn)
Trying to run across the Brooklyn Bridge sounds like a good idea, until you actually attempt it and realize it's more like a punishment in the sixth circle of Hell. So leave the Big B to the tourists and move one span to the north. Separate sides of the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians mean your risk of being clocked by a moron on a bike is immensely reduced, and its slightly confounding entrances mean most out-of-owners can't even find their way on. Plus, the view's even better than it is from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Riverside Park (Manhattan)
Okay, the southern end may occasionally be a little more heavily trafficked than the ideal running grounds (plus, we owe its existence to Donald Trump). But once you're north of 79th Street or so, the park turns into a peaceful runner's paradise all the way up into Harlem.The walkways up the center of the park tend to be the least crowded...but the sunsets from the path along the water make your run feel like a scene from a movie, which definitely helps distract you from your burning calves.

Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan)
If running in the woods is your thing, there's nowhere better in Manhattan than the park at its northern tip. Home of the last old growth trees and salt marshes in the borough, the park's 196 acres are rife with trails winding through thick, verdant forest. Its hills and valleys make for a great workout, and its views of the Palisades will take your breath away, but don't be afraid to stop and smell the metaphorical roses; you might stumble across some of the ancient Indian artifacts still being found there, or even spot a bald eagle—they've been seen in the park's skies from time to time.

High Bridge (Manhattan-The Bronx)
Sure, you could jog through the nearby park that shares its name, but all the cool kids these days are hustling across this historic bridge connecting Upper Manhattan and the north end of the South Bronx. Originally designed as an aqueduct/walkway in 1848, the bridge sat neglected and rotting for almost a century, reopening as a pedestrian bridge just this year. Sure, at a little more than a quarter-mile across, you'll have to do quite a few laps to get in your daily workout; thankfully, the view of the skyline from 140 feet above the Harlem River is the sort of thing it's hard to get enough of.

Van Cortland Park (The Bronx)
It's the third-largest park in NYC, and the one you've probably never visited—which means not too many other folks are likely to be clogging up its pathways, either. At more than a thousand acres in size, Van Cortland is filled with thick forests laced with trails to run on. Plus, if you prefer to run with friends (or want to make some new ones), the Van Cortland Track Club meets every Saturday morning for group runs through the park. 

Randalls Island (Manhattan-The Bronx-Queens)
Okay, technically this landmass is considered part of Manhattan. (It's also technically called Randalls and Wards Island, but that's a mouthful.) But considering it's pretty much equidistant from all three boroughs (and is home to the Triboro Bridge), we'd say runners from Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx can all claim it. With two separate city parks, there's plenty of room to run—and if the gorgeous views on all sides aren't inspiration enough, consider the fact that the island's Icahn Stadium is where Usain Bolt set a world record in the 100 meter dash (9.72 seconds!) back in 2008. 

Highland Park (Queens)
It may lack the cache of the Los Angeles neighborhood that shares its name, but this park along the Brooklyn-Queens border offers something those Californians only wish they had: a lot of water. The 101-acre park surrounds Ridgewood Reservoir (which has become a series of wetlands and ponds since its 1989 closure) and is in turn surrounded by several cemeteries, which means the peace and quiet here is only likely to be disturbed if the dead decide to rise up. In which case, you'll be glad you stayed in shape.

Fort Tilden (Queens)
Sure, it's a pain in the butt to get there, but once you make your way out to Fort Tilden, you'll be greeted by quiet trails amongst the dunes, sandy beaches to run along, and enormous battlements designed to protect New York City from a German invasion. It's the perfect place for clearing your head with some cardio and some solitude...or for pretending you're the last person left on an abandoned Earth. Plus, once you wrap up your run, you can hop right into the water to cool off—or finish up at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar for some BBQ and ice cream. (Hey, you earned it.)

Shore Park (Brooklyn)
Ocean breezes and sunset views are the name of the game along this park, which parallels the Belt Parkway for four and a half miles along the water. With million-dollar views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, especially around twilight, running along there reminds you why it's worth living all the way out by the end of the R train. Plus, if you time it right, you can wave to the passengers on the cruise ships as they leave the harbor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk (Staten Island)
Staten Island may be known as the Island of Car Owners, but that doesn't mean it lacks places to go for a run. The FDR Boardwalk parallels the island's east side for two and a half miles, stretching from the tip of Fort Wadsworth all the way to Miller Field. With a wide-open beach the only thing separating you from the Atlantic Ocean, a jog through the salty spray is sure to reinvigorate—and if the sea air isn't cooperating, there are plenty of sprinklers to run through instead. 


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