I was in New York City for business recently. Every time I head to Manhattan, I pack my running shoes because Central Park is one of my favorite places to run. There is something especially spectacular about that park. For starters, there is the joy of running a couple of blocks to get there on completely flat ground, which immediately puts me in a good mood. But then, from any direction, I can enter the park and become completely immersed in its splendor. Its sudden and out-of-place beauty always catches my attention and puts a lightness in my stride.  (I’m not being poetic—poetry is far from a strength. My stride really does get lighter.)

This time of year the trees, bushes and gardens are abloom, people are smiling at each other (true), and there is the hum of the city all around you. The beauty is so overwhelming that you forget you’re dead in the middle of the eighth largest city in the WORLD.  I am always amazed by the amount of nooks and crannies that exist in Central Park. Often I end up discovering a new spot, or new to me—a gem within a gem.

On this most recent trip I was on north side of the park, up by Harlem, in North Woods and Conservatory Gardens, and only one thought circled through my mind—who thinks of shit like this? I believe this is a valid question and one I could have answered with a quick tap of the Google app. But what fun would that have been? Instead I ran through this sparsely populated, wilder area of the park wondering who might have been strolling the streets of New York City a hundred or so years ago, in the heyday of European mass migration with the city doubling in size every ten years, and thought, “You know what would look good here? An 800-acre park. We’ll build a few castles. Have a couple hundred sheep graze about. And in a century or so, crazy people known as “joggers” will be able to manage their weight and mental wellbeing by running through it. Yup; that is truly a splendid idea.”

I succumbed to the call of the Google, but only after I had finished my run and wild flight of imagination. It turns out that the 19th Century New Yorkers who had the idea for the park put a bit more thought into it than I gave them credit for, but creating a runners haven wasn’t mentioned in any of the early plans. And that is exactly what Central Park is.

So next time you’re headed to New York City, bring the necessities: a bit of an attitude and a bottle of Purell. And don’t forget your running shoes.