Friday, May 1, 2009

Great Saunter

Walk Around Manhattan

Since 1985, a group called the Shorewalkers has been holding a walk around the shoreline of Manhattan every year, in recent years on the first Saturday in May. The Great Saunter is 32 miles, mostly flat, and always interesting.

I've done it three times, including last year. I was younger and in better shape for the first two times. But last year I had my fastest time, 11 hours. As I walked I met someone and then another couple of people and the four of us walked much of the way together. I was the slowest in the group but the gravitational pull of the others carried me along.

In the early years of the Great Saunter, a lot of it involved walking on city streets and along railroad tracks. Even that was fun. It goes through all sorts of neighborhoods and you'd see lots of interesting characters. Now most of the west side is on good paths close to the Hudson. The northern end takes you through parks and some city streets. Once you get back by the East River, again most of it is close to the shore.

In total, probably two-thirds of the route is on paths close to rivers and much of it is surprisingly beautiful. It's a great experience, starting off with 1,000 people and running into all sorts of people along the way. The Shorewalkers usually end at a bar and even if you're a teetotaler after 32 miles the medicinal effects of a beer are substantial.

The walk begins at the South Street Seaport and continues along the Battery passing the Staten Island Ferry and the Statue of Liberty. New paths take you through gardens in Battery Park City and by the Chelsea Piers. Along the way are views of Midtown Manhattan and the far reaches of New Jersey.

At the end of the walk the Brooklyn Bridge comes into view and no matter how tired and sore you are at that point you know you've just about made it. Of course, on any city walk, temptation lurks at every corner with buses, subways and taxis waiting to whisk you away. But even if you only make it part of the way, it's a fun event. It begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday May 2 at the South Street Seaport.

Shorewalkers -- Great Saunter