Great Saunter 2007

New York, USA

Signing in

Walkers signing in at South Street Seaport, Great Saunter 2007

New York, NY, USA

Another year, another thirty-two miles.

The Great Saunter around Manhattan is a peculiarly masochistic pleasure. I will admit that I enjoy it more for the early stages, the brisk gallop up Hudson River Park and the easy stroll through the spring blossoms in Riverside Park, rather than the foot-dragging, knee-aching, stumble down the East River at the end of the day, when I’m generally too tired to take much in. I wonder if the organizers could be persuaded to run the route widdershins one year, to give a different perspective on things.

As usual, the day’s walking mixed the unexpected — fifteen hundred motorcycles and their police escort heading down the Henry Hudson Parkway — with more familiar sights. In other ways, the sights along the way seemed little changed from last year; the cruise liner Norwegian Spirit overtook me heading up the Hudson at exactly the same point in the walk, while the demolition site on 1st Avenue — which I had confidently predicted would be a luxury high-rise by now — was still a muddy pit with a conclave of orange excavators huddled in one corner. And then there were things that were harder to classify as either old or new, such as a chance encounter with an old friend last seen almost two years and thousands of miles away, now tied up at Pier 17.

As a yearly ritual, the Great Saunter is not a bad one and the mortification of the flesh is accompanied by the satisfaction that comes from recognizing the same stages and landmarks following in predictable order. I suppose something similar formed the basis of many successful pilgrimages, for which there seem to be a deep human appetite.

In Inwood Hill Park, a young man on a bicycle was unable to contain his disbelief. “Thirty-two miles? Around the whole island? Are you people nuts?” Well, yes. But also no.