I love my city generally, but it’s the specific kind of love that really makes my heart twist with joy. Today, I was reminded how much I specifically love Central Park when it is dressed for the a Winter wedding, draped in acres of flouncy snow and bejeweled with sparkling icicles. In January I was lucky enough to run through the park during a heavy snowfall, and it nearly moved me to tears with its fleur-de-sel beauty. So Saturday night, as I tramped through the snow to get to a Greyboy Allstars concert at Irving Plaza in Union Square, I had already resolved that no matter what I was running the Central Park the next morning. Such a spectacle of fresh snow over Olmstead’s masterpiece comes but once or twice a year, and there was no way I was going to not get a glimpse.
And oh, Central Park was no blushing bride today, but rather the perfect hostess for her thousands of delighted and grateful guests. We walked into the park at West 86th Street, instantly swept up in a mass of sledders. They were each three feet of pure precious, with their pompom hats and overstuffed waterproof pants. The loop was plowed by the time we got there, around 11 AM. The sun, not to be outdone by the blizzard, was shining as if it had just won a cash award. I could not wait to circle the park and see her from all angles.
Runners riddled the street, we all got the memo! We’d entered a secret party, we were participants in a rare and unique New York moment. I didn’t even begrudge the tourists blocking my way past Bethesda Fountain and the Bandshell, because they had finally managed to pull themselves out of the plastic conveyor belt of Fifth Avenue and Times Square to have a story of something real to take home with them. Conversation was sporadic, it was just as pleasurable to run and hear our sneakers padding through the snow. As we moved clockwise around the park, up the back of Harlem Hill and then down Cat Hill, laughter and happy chatter would rise up to us whenever we passed a hill besieged by sledders. Doggies frolicked with their masters, snuffling in the fluff with concentration, or rolling around with unbridled glee. We stood at the top of the steps at the East 90th Street entrance to the reservoir to take pictures, and took in the view. The reservoir was textured with small choppy waves, the base of the steps was swarming with families, runners, and couples out for a frosty promenade. A yellow cab rolled down Fifth Avenue, brightly reminding us that yes, we were in New York City even though all the signs within Central Park would indicate otherwise.
The Upper Five-Mile Loop took 46:36 (it was actually 4.95 miles). Even though I was feeling a bit fatigued still after my race the day before, I didn’t want to stop and risk losing sight of some other tucked away bit of powdered landscape. Instead I memorized the point and gesture of the trees, the only dissenters to the unabashed whiteness of the park. For some reason, it felt like I’d just taken my first run of the year, my soul scoured clean by the night’s precipitation and carefully led out by the hand for its first tentative steps through the driven snow. Walking to the subway, I gave a few skids down the footpath, because that’s what you do when it snows. You play.