One of my absolute favorite runs in the area I live is across the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into New York. Every year, usually in peak marathon training time, I look forward to my first long run across the bridge, over state lines, and into New York City. No other run gives me as much opportunity to see such a diverse set of landscapes and amazing views.
Probably known more for cycling than running, the route over the bridge is an excellent way to get to see the city without having to worry about dodging cars and finding parking. I start in the park just under the bridge in Fort Lee, NJ. For a really long run, I’ve actually run around this park a bit, which actually connects all the way down to the riverfront walkway in Hoboken and Jersey City to the south, and under the bridge and up to the Palisades in the north. One time I ran down to the bottom only to take the endless switchbacks all the way back up the cliffs to the top, but I don’t really recommend this.
Another route heads up north from the bridge either above or down below the palisade cliffs on two paths that diverge from the park below the bridge. This can make for a nice run with some decent distance and elevation as desired and great views of the river and city while avoiding crowds. But, the real reason to hit the park is the great launch point for a run over the bridge and over into the city.
I’ll admit, the bridge isn’t the most runner friendly spot to run. When it’s less busy, it’s great with amazing views and plenty of space even as the cars whizz by. But when the bikers are there, running can feel like an intrusion to what seems like a segment of the Tour de France. Especially on the tight corners where there are turns around the pylons of the bridge supports, bikes come flying by regularly and furiously. Thankfully, there’s little elevation change and the open nature of the bridge grants some pretty sweet views of the city heading in.
Over the bridge there are two options to get down to my favorite section of the run, the waterfront park along the Hudson. The route I tend to take is less direct, but doesn’t require a steep descent down stairs. Heading back uptown and adding some distance, there’s a nice bike ramp down to the park from the heights that makes the slope down feel less intense. It also gives an opportunity to run under the huge bridge and past the little lighthouse underneath, one of New York’s curiosities.
On a spring or fall day, there’s no better place to run that the sheer perfection of the Hudson Riverside Park. With an actual paved running path, shady trees along much of the corridor, and a wide enough path to get by others and not get run over by electric unicycles and scooters, it’s one of my favorite places to run in the city. And it’s a good thing too because it comprises the majority of this run through the city. Along the way there is just a tiny bit of elevation change and maybe one or two tree roots that have cracked through the pavement enough to have to hop over, but it’s otherwise quite smooth. On warmer days it’s also quite nice to get the breeze off the river.
I always know it’s just about time to turn off from the river when I pass the pier and the old naval ships on the river. The little park that they sit at breaks up the straight line of the path with a nice little detour above the water. Shortly after, heading back under the trees, I like to turn off at 76th street, taking the ramp up if I remember in time, otherwise running like a heaving Rocky up the stairs. It’s a fairly quick jog across town past the only traffic lights and crowded sidewalks of this whole run over toward Central Park. Enjoy weaving around little dogs on ridiculously long leashes, double and triple wide strollers, and strange unidentifiable objects you definitely don’t want to get on your running shoes, and marvel that I somehow do this three days a week and haven’t gone (completely) insane.
Central Park is as iconic as New York itself. I can’t ever seem to go there without thinking about Home Alone 2, but that’s just me. The horse carriages, boulders, statues, and of course views of the largest skyscrapers all throughout the park can’t be missed. Unfortunately, none of these really make for great running. Avoiding carriages, roller bladers, and especially the mix of lost tourists on CitiBikes and local bikers out racing for a yellow jersey is a huge part of running in the park. The six mile loop is iconic and has to be done to be considered a New York Runner, but it can be challenging. “The hill” as it is known locally is no joke and somehow the entire circuit manages to feel mostly uphill. But complete the loop just once and you can tell everyone you’ve run the park.
It’s not usually a realistic option, but a great way to extend the run besides just running in circles around the park loop is to head over from the bottom end of the park to Park Avenue. In the summer, Park is shut down to traffic on weekend mornings, making for a great way to get all the way down to the tip of Manhattan. The full extent will actually take you right to the end of the Brooklyn Bridge which you can then run over if you’re willing to deal with selfie stick carrying tourists and more CitiBikes, and even continue into Brooklyn. Once, for a really long training run, I even extended this and ran to Prospect Park which is honestly a better park for running in my opinion.
One of the nice things about this run is that there are so many options to repeat segments for more distance or cut out parts for a shorter run. While there isn’t exactly an easy way to get back to NJ from the city other than looping back and retracing the route over the bridge, at least the subway helps to get close if needed. I usually get dropped off on the NJ side of the bridge and then meet up at the end for food in the city, a great way to get in some exercise and try out some new places.
I love this run for so many reasons. It’s a great way to break up a long tedious run with an exciting and dynamic route through some of the greatest city views in the world. There’s enough elevation change to be challenging, but nothing overly difficult. I don’t have to dodge cars for almost all of it, and only have to worry about bikes in tight sections. Plus, it allows me to run all the way from NJ to Brooklyn without really having to stop. This border crossing route is one of my favorite runs and certainly a worthy destination run for anyone wanted to experience NYC through running.