The loneliness of the long distance walker

15 Aug 2019 | 01:06

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE WALKER

By Jon Friedman

How has your summer been going? Hasn't it been hot and uncomfortable here in the city? I hope you got away to Canada or Alaska. Maybe you braved Paris, with historic 108-degree temperatures in the City of Light (and heat?).

I've been busy, myself. I have given myself a long overdue project: lose weight. So far, so good. I've lost between 30 and 35 pounds since mid-May, the official beginning of my summer vacation from teaching college students out on eastern Long Island. (And I taught a course in Manhattan, for the record).

I had a very simple but effective strategy. I walked around my home borough of Manhattan. I started out mastering the rule of taking 10,000 steps, or roughly four miles, a day. This regimen got boring because it was too easy for me. Four miles a day quickly gave way to five and then six and ... lately, I have been averaging 13 miles a day. And yes, the weight seems to flying off.

It’s a full-time job. I am not exactly a sprinter and I treat myself to generous water breaks in the city's awful heat.

Here are my trade secrets:

I try to start my walking by 7 a.m. I want to get in six miles during my first leg. I have found that it takes about 75 minutes for me to walk from my apartment at First Avenue and East 19th Street to a Starbucks on Second Avenue at East 94th Street. I chose this destination because it conveniently totals a little more than three miles, one way, or six miles, round trip. Mission accomplished!

Working out is supposed to be monotonous and tedious and repetitive. But I break up the sameness by taking two other early-morning routes. I walk along the East River, a route that features one of the most breathtaking sunrises in the city.

Or, I keep it really simple and walk around the block in my neighborhood in Stuyvesant Town. This trip equals one mile and takes me approximately 20-22 minutes, depending on how many baby carriages, people using walkers, pain-in-the-neck people who clog the street for no good reason and other people whose sole mission in my life appears to be to slow me down.

I am not a nice person when I am doing my walking. I have been cursed at (sometimes loudly!) by otherwise nice, sane New Yorkers because I give them a hard time when they get in my way. I mutter obscenities under my breath. I cajole. I push (I do NOT shove people). I am demanding.

I have come to appreciate the kind-hearted baristas at Starbucks, as well as the company's people-first culture. I usually order my tall skinny vanilla latte while crucially remembering to ask for a cup of ice water. But if I ask only for the water, they'll give it to me, too.

When I walk up First Avenue, my favorite attraction is the United Nations plaza. It’s cool to see so many people from foreign countries gaping and gawking at the seat of global power and influence. There are also plenty of places to sit.

The run-of-the-mill bodega on First Avenue and East 54th Street is many people’s favorite one around. The proprietor charges a sensible buck for Poland Spring water (NOT $1.25 or more!). He is a nice fellow to boot.

I have a healthy supply of albums and Elvis Costello bootleg concerts on my phone. My go-to music to help me reach the finish line is Bruce Springsteen's live in New York City collection from July 1, 2000, at Madison Square Garden (I was there). Costello's 1978 concerts were spectacular and they keep me moving. The Beatles and the The Rolling Stones are my old reliables. So is The Doors' fabulous song, “LA Woman.”

My personal best at walking is 15.2 miles, on Aug. 3, which demolished my previous record of 15.1 miles.

Of course, if I adhered to a more sensible daily diet I a) would not have gotten so overweight in the first place and b) wouldn't feel so desperate to walk all these miles because I wouldn't have to, in the second place. I am working on it, my next frontier.

Meanwhile, if you happen to recognize me while I am out and about on foot, stay out of my way. It’s every man and woman for himself and herself!