Running. I never thought I would ever enjoy running, in fact all through high school I ran track, cross country, I hated just about every minute of it. Run as fast as you could for a few miles and by the time you were getting the groove of it you were getting yelled at by your coach or passed by your buddies. Well you're not in high school anymore, You don't have to run for anyone but yourself and this city is a great place to pick it back up. There are plenty of people who will run your pace, you just need to find them. There is always someone slower than you, always someone faster than you, and there will always be many people who give up. On top of that you have some of the best people watching anywhere in the world.
New York is the the most diverse city in the world. I am not just being a sheep here - yes everyone says this, but it actually is. You can look at any metric you want and most of them you will find support this conclusion. Technically Queens, the second most populous borough of the five boroughs of New York City is the most ethnically diverse with a population of over 2 million, about half are foreign born, and include people from more than 100 different countries speaking 138 different languages. I could prove it to you in a million ways, but honestly a run through central park will empirically make the case for you. Today I ran 11 miles around central park (that almost two times in case you are wondering). I ran past Jesus (or at least a guy who looks like Jesus) except he was far more buff. We have seen him before in the park running laps, sweaty as anyone I have ever seen. There is an old man who runs in the park, he is so slouched over, it is amazing he doesn't trip over his own feet, but every time I past him I want to turn around and cheer him on. I hope I can still run when I am that old. There was a woman with one shoe longer than another, she was running on crutches. Often times there is a guy with killer forearms that pushes himself around the park with a stick on a longboard. There are couples just visiting, on rental bikes I wouldn't put my worst enemy on. There are old friends who have walked around this park long before I was born. There are dark skin, and light skin, lanky and rotund, long haired, short hair, half long haired, half short hair, half blue hair, half pink hair.
There is every mode of transportation imaginable, bikes of course, cross country skiers, row bikes, elliptical bikes, scooters, people dressed in full hiking gear, power walkers, pedi cabs, horses, golf carts, electric bikes, and tandem bikes. All of them weaving through each other, narrowly avoiding accidents. I think this is one of the best metaphors for the city, it is a place of near collision, and those near collisions are what define it. Things that shouldn't be brought together are forced to interact here. I have witnessed this first hand. I am a midwesterner, I had no desire to be placed in a concrete jungle, where my mechanical skills serve almost no purpose, where my Minnesota Nice has transformed into New Yorker tolerance. An so I leave you there. I have a lot more to tell you about running, diversity, collisions, and tolerance, but today I just wanted to tell you about how running in this city of all places can expose you to all of these.
Along those lines here is a great way to get started. If you are at all someone who values achievements (I am trying not to be that person as I search for my inner Zen, but for now I still pursue some of these more earthly endeavors) then you probably want to eventually run the New York City Marathon. It is not a small bit to bite off, but you can do it and there are easy ways and hard ways. One of the easiest ways that will both get you into running in the city and qualify you for the big race is the New York Road Runners Club. It runs about $100 a year to join as a member and races are between $15 and $50. They have a program where if you run any 9 races and volunteer at 1 event (9+1) you automatically qualify for the NYC Marathon for the following year. You can read more about it at their website here http://www.nyrr.org/.