59th Street Bridge Run

At 5:15am, about 24 hours after our red-eye flight landed in New York, my alarm sounded a call to run the 59th Street Bridge.

I had other running plans this trip, but the 59th street bridge was a few blocks away from my hotel.  If you know me at all, you know that I have a masochistic love of running hills and bridges, so I followed the route the universe put in my path.

59th Street Bridge by Day
59th Street Bridge by Day

Had I been traveling alone, I would have run across the bridge to Astoria made a left,  gone down to 39th and over to run to the Lighthouse Park at end of Roosevelt Island and then come back.  I wasn’t alone though.  My exhausted 16 year-old daughter with me.  That meant my desired 10+ mile run had to be abbreviated.   It was hard to leave her laying in her bed while I went off to run.  Was I being an irresponsible parent?  What if something happened to me along the way?   I took a serious assessment of the perils of early morning running in New York, then I plugged Simon & Garfunkel’s Live from New York City, 1967 into my ears and I took off into the rain-dampened first morning of fall.

The View from the 59th Street Bridge
The Pre-Sunrise View from the 59th Street Bridge

Before attempting the climb of the bridge I ran from down to 52nd street to put a mile to test my recovering calf.   I hadn’t run much in the prior six weeks and my legs felt strong and ate up the bridge climb like it was chocolate cake.

I had read a few blog posts about running the 59th Street Bridge and I was keenly aware that there was one lane for bicyclist and another for runner/walkers.  As I climbed the bridge, several cyclists descended at high-speeds in the runner/walker lane.   I was confused by this, but I decided to just go with the flow and I ran in the bike lane across the bridge.   Finally one cyclists looked at me and bowed his head in a way as if to say, “sorry that I am in your lane”.   I knew then that my confusion wasn’t about me, it was about them being on the side of the path that was more natural for them.   Never underestimate the power of knowing that the situational craziness is not about you.

IMG_0013I loved the downhill on the far side of the bridge and I pushed down it with everything I had.  I stopped for a breather and checked in on Foursquare.  I guess I expected to have Foursquare come back and tell me I was in Queens but instead it reported that I was in Long Island City.   I was a taken aback as I have for 40 years thought of Long Island City was being south of where I was; somewhere around the Midtown tunnel and the East River Ferry.  I never realized limits of that city extended this far.   I have ghosts in Long Island City so I said hello to them, said a prayer and started running back over the bridge.

As the sun started to rise, Simon and Garfunkel sang the 59th Street Bridge song, or as it’s better known, Feelin’ Groovy.   At that moment, while running across the bridge, I took a cue from Sesame Street and sang out loud and strong for any the passing bicyclists to hear.

On my left during the run back I saw the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building shining like beacons in the morning light.  On my right was Roosevelt Island and then eventually, Manhattan.   The bridge was oh so very short. If I had a magic genie, I would have wished for my guitar and more time to take in those precious few minutes.


I exited the running path and made a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to get an extra-large coffee and some  Munchkins (donut holes) for the Child.  The coffee was horrible and I longed for the coffee that my wife makes with love every morning.  As I walked back to my hotel, hot coffee in hand, I appreciated what a gift it was to be able to accomplish what I just did.

Back in the hotel room, the Child was sound asleep safely in her bed.  I showered and dressed for the very long day ahead.  I packed and then sat and read the paper for a while as the sun bounced off the bridge I just traversed.  Eventually I woke my child up; after all, she had a race to run.

To Be Continued…

59th Street Bridge Run

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