Running through the South Bronx

  had been sidelined with a pesky injury for most of a month so it was great to finally get back to running! Well, not just running, we also saw some pretty flowers. But a couple of good things — running wise — happened this week. On Monday night my running partner Susan came back from a 10 day vacation in St. Petersburg, Russia. So Wednesday morning we did an easy 4 mile run in Central park ending with breakfast at the Boathouse Café. Good weather for running and good weather for watching the pond with a fire going in the fireplace as we spipped our coffee. Then on Saturday, I joined both Susan and Melissa for a run from Carl Schurz Park to the NY Botanical Garden to check out the Orchid Show.

I'm sorry that this run is only a bit shy of 9 miles. I've done many 20 milers and have documented them here, but sometimes you need to go a bit shorter, so save this run for one of those times, whether you're building up, or tapering off. Besides, this run ends with Orchids — something you don't get very often.

Ordinarily, we would have worked our way up along the East River to 125th Street and crossed to the Bronx on the Willis Avenue Bridge. Then we would have headed north on Willis Avenue, thence to 3rd Avenue and thence to Boston Road. When we got to around 170th Street we'd have our usual argument discussion on whether to run through Crotona Park (that's "Crotona", not "Corona") or around it, and then finally we would find our way to Southern Boulevard and thence to the Botanical Garden (important details omitted from this summary).

But today, when we got to the pedestrian bridge to Randall's Island, I innocently said, "Hey why don't we cross over, run around the island and then cross over to the Bronx on the walkway on the Triboro Bridge". So they said, "OK, whatever." Of course this obsoleted the maps we had taken for the route, mine, in my head (imperfectly remembered), and Susan's, on her iPhone (which, having upgraded itself, was uncooperative in displaying directions). And I do recommend you know the route if you do this run. The USATF map and the directions in the text should suffice. You don't want to get lost!

We took the shore path up around the west side of the island, across the foot bridge over the marsh, went around under the bridge to Manhattan and finally got onto the walkway of the Bronx part of the Triboro Bridge and crossed over to a fairly seedy area of the South Bronx.

Then we headed north at the first opportunity, which was on St. Ann's Avenue, intending to eventually intersect 3rd Avenue, at which point we could resume the original route. But unexpectedly, we first bumped into St Mary's Park — and when I see a park I always want to run through it (even if it doesn't quite get you to the right place) — so we ran through it. We asked a couple of people in the park how to get to Crotona Park and no one had heard of it, including a Parks Department worker. So we kept heading more-or-less north and when we got out of the park got onto Cauldwell Avenue. That kept us happy for about a mile. Then we met up with Boston Road and our troubles were over. Not!

I was still anxious to get to and cross through Crotona Park. I think one or two of my companions thought I was more interested in Crotona Park than in getting to the Botanical Garden. Nay, I say. I just prefer running through parks than along streets (not least streets in the South Bronx). In the end we found our way to Crotona Park and crossed it in a sort-of-northward direction, and finally succeeded in getting on Southern Boulevard and at last — 8.7 miles and many tired muscles from the start — got to the Botanical Garden.

The Orchid show and the Botanical Garden

e have run to the Orchid Show perhaps 3 or 4 times over the years and it's always spectacular. And the rest of the Botanical Garden is no less striking. We have spent literally hours hiking along the back woods trails and along the Bronx River and it's truly a treasure. An added benefit was that my work ID got us all in (my work is a corporate donor). I had always gotten in with myself and one guest, so today I asked if I could have two guests. The nice lady said you could have up to 5 guests! Wow, next time let's have a real party.

The beauty of the Orchids speaks for itself as a glance at the photos shows. Suffice it to say we spent more time in the Botanical Garden than we took to run there. We had a nice lunch at the café (including the totally unexpected availability of Magic Hat #9 Ale), and when we were done we took the tram (included in our free entry) back to the entrance to see how the tourists tour. And today was especially busy with tourists, given the beautiful weather and the Easter weekend. And the last mile walking to the subway was more than enough to put us into nap mode upon returning home — happy and tired. It's just too bad the tram doesn't go to the subway!

Postscript: readers of the NY Times “Well” Blog may have noticed a May 7th post by by Brian Fidelman: . This was about running within the Botanical Garden on some of the woodland paths and trails. To do this, he got a “community grounds pass” which offers early morning access (from 6 to 10 AM) to exercisers. I believe they prohibit running during regular hours.

In contrast, we have always run TO the Botanical Garden, not INSIDE of it. We’ve walked the paths and trails numerous times and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting a pass and running them. But if you are looking for a good trail run, you might find these rather tame. No rocks, no roots and no hills. Yes, going before the official opening time would allow you to run and avoid the tourists, but you would also miss the special flower shows and various amenities. If you have a yen to do both, perhaps you could arrive at 9, run for an hour, then stay for the flowers after the park officially opens. So take your choice, EARLY or LATE, TO the place or INSIDE the place — it’s all good.

Note: This report was adapted from a post
in my .
Check it out when you have a moment.