New York Challenged: A 32-Mile Race Around Manhattan with Insanity and a Five-Year-Old Goblin on a Tricycle


The path along the Hudson River provides a scenic view to runners, bikers and occasionally five-year-olds on tricycles. ( BOB DOWNING/AKRON BEACON JOURNAL/MCT)

I recently rode my bike 32 miles around the perimeter of Manhattan. It took me about three hours, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A lot of people asked me why I did it. I did it because: A) I wanted to challenge myself, B) I needed to do something interesting so I could write this column and C) I needed to restore my sanity. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t aware of reasons A and C until after I finished the ride.

Some people cherish alone time because it gives them time to think. Other people are afraid of being alone with their thoughts. I’m not really sure which I am, but in this instance, I turned my brain off completely, and it was soothing. Maybe I’m afraid of thoughts in general.

Because I turned my brain off, I gained a much more physical appreciation of New York. It was the equivalent of a geographical booty call. I ignored my brain and my thoughts and I really noticed how beautiful New York is in the fall.

I rode along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. I was in a daze for the first 20-something miles, sweating and grunting and stopping to take pictures whenever nature was being sexy. I rode south along the Hudson River, around the southern tip of the island and then up along the East River and the Harlem River around the top of the island. I passed old couples napping on benches by the Hudson, stupid tourists by the Seaport, hopeful fishermen by the East River and a mysterious patio built with Roman-esque columns. I had escaped the
walls of buildings and the mazes of the city and found serenity in my solitude. But then something terrifying interrupted my stupor.

I was riding down from 218th Street, along the Hudson River, and it was dark so I had a light on the front of my bike. The air was cool and sweet and the trees were darkly outlined against the reflection of New Jersey on the water. My tires buzzed as they rolled across the concrete, quickly approaching a dumpster on the side of the path.

Then I heard a gleeful cackle and a tiny child on a tiny tricycle appeared from behind the dumpster and pedaled after me, laughing quite crazily. I considered stopping and shooing him away, but something about his cackle and crazy eyes told me that this was a race. So I pedaled faster, and he pedaled faster after me.

As the tricycle goblin pursued me, I wondered what had become of his parents. Why weren’t they watching him? He probably had an arts and crafts project or chores to be doing. How could he afford to waste his time chasing me? He was so intent on catching me, I was afraid of what he would do to me if he caught me.

After a half mile of being chased by the demon baby, and after a half mile of being forced to have thoughts yet again, hot tears of frustration streaked back across my face. I knew that the feral child would either be separated from his family forever, or I would lose the race and perhaps be devoured by his tiny possessed soul.

I looked back one last time to plead with him, and ask him what he wanted from me. He had vanished. But now my brain had turned itself on again. Reality crept up on me, like a… small child on a tricycle. I quickly forgot about the child, but I started thinking about how stupid my 32-mile endeavor was, because I probably wasn’t going to be able to walk for a few days after this bike ride, and I could have done so much homework during the three hours. Why hadn’t anyone watched me? I couldn’t afford to waste time on a bicycle!

The race with the demon child wasn’t the terrifying thing that happened. The terrifying thing was that he made me realize how much time I was wasting, and stress consumed me. I realize the tricycle baby doesn’t seem relevant, but I’m sure there’s some stupid metaphor hidden in there.

As I rode between the trees, I began to get tired. It was windy and cold and uphill. I had wasted so much time. I had so much work to do at school. But then the path opened up, and I was out of the trees, and right along the water and the path had leveled out and the 32 miles were over. I felt like I had accomplished something. I finally got the point.

The point of this column: it’s a lot easier for me to cope with stuff I don’t want to do (study, go to class, be awake) when I also do things I’ve always wanted to try.