Run the Central Park Loop

by Danilo Torres

So, weary running traveller, you ask about the loop of the park that is central. Many have whispered about its power, beauty, and angry bikers. I am here to tell you, it is all true…and so much more than you could have imagined. For native New Yorkers, this is probably old hat (that’s the saying, right?), for out-of-towners, I have to say this is probably the best running route in New York City.

Route Description:

Head west at 62nd St. on West Drive at a counterclockwise direction for the full loop around the Central Park.  


6.21 miles for the race; most other days, it’s just a shade over 6 miles. However, there are several variations you can employ vary the mileage in the park. There is also a 1.67 mile, 4 mile, and 5 mile variant to choose from. Here is a helpful map to review.


You betcha!

Rolling hills abound in Central Park.  I count 10 distinct rises of at least 50 feet or greater in Central Park.  Now, 50-80 foot climbs don’t sound too intimidating on paper, but when you are trying to run them in a race, it becomes significantly more challenging.  Unless, you are a Kenyan elite runner. In 2011, the Kenyan winner of the UAE Healthy Kidney 10k was queried about how he handled the hills in Central Park, replied with, “What hills?”

Hill Ratio:

10 hills for a ratio of 1.61.

Safe after dark?

I’d say Central Park is safe until about 10pm. It is open until 1am daily and despite the great strides New York has made in lowering its crime rate, it clears out around 10pm and there are some dark nooks around the park that would not be safe for individual runners. This is a link about runner safety by the New York Road Runners

Crowd Scene?

Central Park can get crowded.  On normal days, there are enough runners to keep you motivated, but not so many that you have to fight during your run.

Running Surface:


Changing Station?

Bathrooms abound in the Park and for many after-work runners, you can change at The New York Running Company at Columbus Circle which stays open until 9pm most weeknights. Lots of great running groups meet there also on various nights too.  If you are in town for a few days and want to get a run in with a group, check out this link.

Points of Interest:

Running around Central Park, you’ll get to see Tavern on the Green, The Lake, The Harlem Meer, The Resevoir (made famous in the great move, Marathon Man), and The Boathouse.

Good for Groups:

Great for group runs.  But you’ll still need to do your best to keep the group to two across on your run to allow for other groups and bikers to cross your path.

Safe from Cars:

Very safe as cars are no longer allowed in the park accept for official park vehicles.

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