Running on Tilt

Route to Fresh Pond

Another bridge, more comments

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Before running the 2006 NYC Marathon, I consulted a doctor who had run several marathons for advice on how NOT to end up in the medical tent after the race. Though nothing he told me saved me from that fate, he did have a general training recommendation that stuck: a good way to make time for running, he said, is to run home from work.

Since my wife and I recently moved from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Ridgewood, Queens, that run home from work has become slightly more challenging. From the financial district it used to take 35-40 minutes to run up the East River, over the Williamsburg Bridge, and on to Bedford Avenue. Now it takes about an hour if I follow that route and extend it to Grand and Metropolitan avenues and the optimistically named Fresh Pond Road.

The terrain from Williamsburg to Ridgewood is a little suspect. At the head of the stagnant Newton Creek, fouler even than the Gowanus Canal, is something called “English Kills,” the word ‘kil’ being Dutch for riverbed or channel. The nearby waste treatment plant, auto shops, and even a tortilla factory remind me, as I run this route, of the refrain in a Talking Heads song: “Air can hurt you too.”

I have started taking the Manhattan Bridge rather than the Williamsburg. Judging from googlemaps, it seems possible to cut through Brooklyn to Ridgewood while avoiding not only English Kills but also the cemeteries that guard Fresh Pond to the north, south, east, and west. Not that I have anything against cemeteries – at the Mt. Olivet cemetery, tombstones are visited by fireflies at night, and the air seems relatively clean, though what seeps from the gigantic Fresh Pond Crematory abutting the cemetery one can only imagine.   

The streets of Brooklyn are more confusing in 3-D than on a map, and each time I’ve crossed the Manhattan Bridge I’ve been pulled south, to Prospect Heights and Crown Heights in addition to Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. The runs have been interactive, featuring more comments from onlookers than I normally get. A man on Quincy Street said “Run crazy white boy.” Another said, “Why are you running so fast? Nobody’s chasing you.” And a girl, aged six or so, pumped her arms as I approached in utter exhaustion on the humid day and said “I’ll run with you.” Then I passed by and she said “Oh, you’re all wet!”