Central Park holds a special place to me. I run it a few times a week, 12 months a year. It's not only a place that I use as my personal track, it is also a place where I find piece of mind, meditation, and where I am alone to sort out my thoughts. Rain or snow, searing heat or blistering cold, I am there and I enjoy every season. I've thought about writing this little guide to the Central Park loop, and suddenly, something possessed me to actually do it today. So here it is:
"NYC Run: 6 Mile Loop Around Central Park":
Cat Hill is named after a statue of a cougar ready to pounce perched atop a rock 2/3rds of the way up the hill. Regardless of your fitness level, the hill will burn the reserves much like Harlem Hill. For me, it is usually at the end of the run and adds to the challenge. The statue mockingly stares, and I usually make a point to gesture towards it. Depending on the day, it can go from flipping him the bird in frustration, to a simple, more gentlemanly salute. Once the Cat has been conquered there is little left. There is .4 to go which is split between gentle down hill and a mild incline at the 5.8 mark (I call this Mini-Met Hill since it is behind the Met). It's not much of an incline at all, unless you are toast at this point, in which case it is a mild insult. A few more strides and you are back where you started at East 84th Street and Park Drive East.
All in all, the 6 mile loop is fairly challenging. If you are running it for the first time, expect a slower than average time, and if you are training on it, it should benefit your flat speed. The best thing about the loop though is that you get to enjoy seeing the seasons change in one of the most remarkable and beautiful parks in the world!