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Reservoir Jogs

Running full circle.


When I was 30, my daughter was born, I stopped smoking, and my father died at 63. These seemed like good reasons to go along with my best friend Steve's idea that we start to run.

I lived on West 77th Street, and he lived on West 83rd. I'd pick him up, and we'd go. I'd never had any inclination to do anything athletic, and he didn't have much either, so it took us a few weeks of trying before we actually reached the reservoir, which opens, on East 90th Street in the park, like a sudden, startling glimpse of Lausanne.

But we got the rhythm—run so the coffee doesn't spill.

I remember getting to the reservoir for the first time and wanting to run around it. It didn't seem like a fitness thing so much as an aesthetic proposition. There was the ring of the skyline and the ring of the park and the ring of the fence and the track around the big artificial lake itself (all the nature I'll ever need) and the city reflected in it.

And I remember the first time we made it the whole way. The long haul up Fifth, the no-man's-land on the far side, coming round the far bulge, the endless CPW leg, and then home to the water station.

Every morning for a year and then two and then three and four, as my daughter grew and another daughter was born, Steve and I ran. You get to the point when you run, especially if you're running with a friend, if you keep chatting, that you can run as though without exertion—run forever. Another lap? Sure, another and another.

We ended up knowing the reservoir not impossibly as well as Thoreau knew Walden Pond. The surprising animals at the north end (turtles, raccoons, big birds), the seasonal water levels, the sky moving rapidly over midtown; the bankers at an early hour, the writers and mothers later in the day, the migratory celebrities (at the height of her fame, people would write notes on the track to Madonna—who was very fast).

Steve and I ran every morning for six years.

Then he got sick and we had to run slower, and after a while we stopped and walked, which was very nice, too. And then he couldn't go anymore, but we'd pretend. I'd arrive at his house all suited up, and we'd decide we would really get out there tomorrow.

That was twelve years ago—so it's eighteen years I've been running the reservoir. There's a great rock just off the track on the CPW side, and that's where Steve's ashes are scattered. I keep running by.


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