NY, Mad for Long Walking, Ideal for Fans and Over 50

photos: Maria Teresa Cometto

This article originally appeared in the Italian newspaper La Stampa.  The translation, reproduced below is used with the permission of the authors along with their pictures. The original Italian text may be read in the newspaper La Stampa at the following link:  www.lastampa.it/2013/06/24/societa/ny-tutti-pazzi-per-il-long-walking-lideale-per-appassionati-e-over-EQ6ArUW2a9EFFTljb8yJDI/pagina.html

Athletes-tourists or tourists-athletes even better, I have a tip for you:  the Big Apple you can know and enjoy even without doing the marathon. Or after you have done it you can not be bothered to do an encore due to all the hard work that went in to it.

I talk to people like me, over the age 50-60 (full disclosure), or for all the amateur athletes, whatever the age.

I did my two marathons in New York, 6 and 7 years ago, finishing in about 4 and a half hours. I was about halfway down in the list of finishers published in the New York Times on Monday after the two races. Enormous satisfaction: who would deny; but at a cost disproportionate to the psychological and physical sporting results.

The minimum preparation for the marathon requires ten weeks of training three or four times per week running from one to three hours each time.  Once completing the feat of a full marathon, it took me four weeks to recover in full.  So, for all those who come after me on the New York Times list of finishers I have serious advice:  Forget the marathon and try some “long walking.” Here are my three personal favorite long walks:

1) The Great Bridges of Manhattan:

The path begins by crossing the George Washington Bridge, from New York to New Jersey and back, goes north to Harlem Heights, crosses the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, a bridge that connects Manhattan with the Bronx and Queens.  Walking south in Queens we cross into Brooklyn, finally, head north again with the finish line downtown at City Hall after about thirty miles, walking from 9:30am to 7:30pm. There were about twenty of us at the start, there were a limited number of (eh eh eh), dropouts. Shorewalkers (walkers along the coast), is a disparate group of metropolitan hikers, keeping near the water. Ten hours of “walking” are not, as it were, a walk, and it would be absurd to belittle the undertaking or fatigue. But the suffering of the rhythm of running in a marathon, after 20 miles, a much more intense effort, is a punishment to the body.  Although The Great Bridges of Manhattan tour is a path objectively harder, because there are many more ascents and descents, as well as more miles, recovery is surprisingly fast–only a few days. And there is no comparison in terms of spectacle and discovery:  the corners of Harlem and the Bronx, which no tourist guide shows. There are two The Great Bridges of Manhattan tours a year, one in February (I made the edition of 2012) and in June.

2) The Great Saunter

The Great Saunter takes place the first Saturday in May. It circumnavigates the entire island of Manhattan, starting at 7:30 am at the Southern tip of Manhattan.

Walk along the Hudson River, along the parks, that ring New York, from Battery Park in the south to Harlem in the North, descend to lower Manhattan along the East River.  Even on the East side there are miles and miles of parks on the water, down to the end of the island, where we find ourselves at the starting point. There are no bridges to climb, it is a 32-mile path smooth and easy, which offers views of the skylines of Jersey City on the Hudson, the Bronx, Queens, and then Brooklyn and the East River. I finished the walk at about 5pm (2013 edition) in less time than the Great Manhattan Bridge tour, but it was not comparable due to the elevation difference in walking over bridges. No coincidence that the participants were many more, some hundreds, maybe a thousand. And the volunteers gave a certificate of completion to all who finished.

3) The Hudson River Loop:

The Hudson River Loop is a circuit of the Hudson River scheduled in early June. A demonstration of the easy recovery of the effort of Long Walking compared to a marathon, I could do the walk Saturday, June 8, only a month after the Great Saunter. Departure from Jersey City, where you get from the World Trade Center with the Path train, a subway that connects the two states and the classic means of commuters who work on Wall Street. The organization running this walk is the FreeWalkers (free of charge), a group of volunteers from New Jersey who joined for the purpose of recreational walks towards supporting initiatives to preserve the coast, which was recently hit by Hurricane Sandy. You do not pay anything to join, but a contribution of five dollars is recommended, which is given at the start. There is the beautiful esplanade where Path lets us off; from them you can enjoy the most beautiful views of Manhattan, with the new solitary tower that has finally arrived, and is the largest skyscraper in America. Leaving at 8.30am, we went for a couple of hours north along a beautiful coast with almost a parade of tourist resorts and hotel complexes and condominiums, modern and well cared for. The first goal is clearly visible in front of us–the George Washington Bridge–through which you leave New Jersey to get to Manhattan, where the trail runs along the Hudson River from north to south, until you reach the Path train from where we had started. Even this route is some thirty miles, eight more than a marathon. I arrived a little after four in the afternoon, along with typical New Yorkers: an American painter born in Hong Kong, a Chinese lady, a middle-age person from Jersey City, a forty-year-old African American.

There is also this aspect in Long Walking: you can talk and get familiar with your walking companions if you please, or you can feel the rhythms of your body. There is no competitive goal time; we stop to take photos, but also to go to the bar for a snack or a mineral water. And it goes without saying, you can stop whenever you want and take the bus home. Two or three days later there is no more trace of effort and you can return to your normal sports bustle (because, of course, for a sedentary person there is neither a marathon nor long walking).

What are you waiting for? Join Us!

Enhance, enjoy and protect our New York Metro waterfront parks, promenades and paths.