My Long-Term Running Relationship with Central Park is Evolving

Mina Samuels
4 min readJun 7
The Reservoir in Central Park in New York City

I have run in Central Park since 1993. I’ll let you do the math. When I first got here, I lived on 113th Street and came into the park at its northwest corner on 110th. Then, six months later, I moved to 85 thstreet and then to Riverside and 79th. So, for 28 years, I have run into and out of Central Park at the entrances on 81 stand 77 th. One result of the demise of my marriage is that I have gone full circle. I run into the park at its northwest 110 thStreet entrance again. Welcome home. The cycle of life.

Except two things-it doesn’t feel at all like home. Not yet. While I still carry inside me that 27-year-old, who learned how to be a runner in Central Park, I am not her. The clock has ticked. I turned 57 a few weeks ago. I am trying to find my new running groove. And it’s super awkward. Sometimes, as I pass my old entrance/exit, my feet are confused when I keep going. Sometimes when I run out of the park, my feet think I’m abandoning my run too soon. Too long. Too short.

Well, it is actually too short. There’s the mile that’s been stripped from every run, because now I’m only one block out of the park and not five long New York City crosstown blocks each way. I’m so tired so much of the time now as a result of the stress that it’s sort of okay that my runs are shorter. And the reduced distance makes me feel old and feeble. Sure, self-care suggests I should be easy on myself during this time. And self-care, for me, is not always doing less. Sometimes, it’s doing more, to remind myself that I’m alive and strong.

I am surprised by how disconcerting it is to enter and exit in a different spot. I almost didn’t want to write about it, because it felt like such a slight topic. Then I was inspired by the poet Maggie Smith’s piece about google-mapping the demise of her marriage. If I were on Strava, all my statistics would need to be recalibrated to account for my new starting line. The pure physical sensation is strange. For one, I’m starting in the middle of the most significant hill in Central Park. So, I’m either headed up or down. I don’t get to enjoy the full challenge of the ascent, nor the full liberation of the descent. Unless I make a conscious decision to overshoot in one direction. For two, the landmarks take on different meaning. Each one now represents…

Mina Samuels

Writer. Performer. Citizen. Traveler. Enthusiast. Author of Run Like a Girl 365 Days A Year and other books.