The sound of bagpipes and drums echoed in the background. Men and women wearing plastic green top hats, green feather boas and green beaded necklaces shouted to no on in particular, saying nothing of importance. Children, with their hair colored green, held Mom or Dad’s hand tightly as they worked their way through a crowd of people.

And I, along with thousands of other runners, bikers and skateboarders, quickly ran away from it all.

On Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, I celebrated my 38th birthday with one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received. While hundreds of thousands of people watched the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I went for a 6.2 mile jog around Central Park Drive.

On my 37th birthday, carrying almost 50 more pounds of body weight than I do today, I trudged through New York City. Walking seven or eight blocks to Central Park to watch the parade was a chore. By the end of the day my feet hurt, my legs were sore and my back ached. It was a pretty sad scene.

A year later, walking to Central Park was just a warm up.

I picked the course I ran because it was the start of the New York City Half Marathon, which was held Sunday. When I read the results Sunday afternoon, I laughed when I saw the men’s top finisher, Peter Kirul, finished the 13.1-mile race in 11 seconds less than it took me to run 6.2 (59 minutes, 39 seconds to 59:50).

Nevertheless, Saturday’s run around the park was a terrific gift and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Running along Central Park Drive, I was surrounded by thousands of runners with headphones jammed into their ears as their feet pounded the pavement.

As the noise of the parade and taxi cabs and hoards of people faded into the background, it was easy to forget I was still in the middle of New York City. The bright lights and video boards of Times Square were replaced by trees and fields and swimming pools. The rush of cars replaced by the whoosh of cyclists and the clomp of horse hooves.

It was truly strange, entering the park just a block from Columbus Circle, to get away from the madness so quickly, yet still be surrounded by so much activity. I crossed paths with — it seemed — thousands of people, yet don’t remember seeing more than three cars drive by.

It was also strange running with so many people. In a lot of ways, it felt like a road race. I was passed by many a runner and passed many as well. There were walkers, just enjoying the scene, and runners moving so fast it is hard to imagine they were able to see much of anything.

But as fun as it was to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, one of the coolest parts of my St. Patty’s Day jog was making my way back toward Columbus Circle. Looking ahead over that last couple of miles, I could see Trump Tower and a CNN time and temperature clock. The streets became more and more crowded as I passed Strawberry Fields and Tavern on the Green. In the final half mile, I saw a lot more of those green hats, a lot more of those kids with painted hair, and heard those drums and bagpipes.

I finished my run with a lap around Columbus Circle, dodging tourists, sidewalk salesmen, police officers and even a few fellow runners. When I finally stopped my the GPS app on my phone and ended my run, I quickly searched out the nearest hot dog vendor. I know, I know, I’m supposed to watch what I eat, but that New York City hot dog was my reward for a tackling my birthday 10k.

Even though the run was reward enough.

Scott Martin is the Executive Sports Editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Reach him at [email protected], @scottamartin on Twitter, or 621-5618


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.