Last year I cycled around the island of Manhattan, inspired by The Great Saunter, so this year I decided to do the real thing.
The Great Saunter is not a race or a contest, it’s a celebration of urban exploration. In 2014 over 1,187 people signed up to walk 32 miles around Manhattan. Starting at 8 AM, people start from Faunces Tavern near Battery Park, and then continue clockwise around the island, hugging the shore as much as possible. Up the West Side Running Path and through Riverside Park, up to the Northwest Overlook, and continuing into Inwood Hill Park, where many people decide to stop for lunch at the mid-way point. For those that continue on, the route changes, as it ventures into northern Manhattan island, the Harlem River Greenway, and then into Harlem, before it returns to the East River and the East Side Promenade, which takes people back to the Tavern.
Yes, that’s a long walk. But still, in 2014, 542 people, or nearly half of those who registered, finished the walk. It took us nearly 11 hours to finish, following a consistent pace to take us through familiar and unfamiliar parts of Manhattan, including some of the hidden gems along the route.
Like Manhattan itself, parts of the walk are beautiful, bordering the water, lined with trees, busy with runners, cyclists, and tourists, while other parts were nearly empty, in-between two roads, decrepit buildings, around construction sites or mounds of trash. But seeing all the different sides of Manhattan is part of the simple joy of a long, slow, observant walk around (literally) the city.
Finishing was a joy, but everyone who started the walk won.