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When people think Phish on New Year's Eve, New York City immediately comes to mind. Thirteen of the twenty-four shows played on this date have been at Madison Square Garden. So when coming up with a way of trying to cleanse one's body from the smoke and pizza and spicy chicken sandwiches that are inevitably consumed during multiple nights in the Garden, one plan always comes to mind: a run across the Manhattan Bridge.
The Manhattan Bridge might not have the name recognition of the Brooklyn or George Washington, but it makes up with it with some important variables. Its walking trail is much less crowded than the Brooklyn's; by 10 AM on some New Year's Days, even a brisk walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is difficult, but the Manhattan is fine to run.
It is a short walk and subway trip from the hotels near Madison Square Garden to the impressive arch and colonnade on the Manhattan side of the structure. There are impressive views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge from the top of the arch. If you make good time, it's a short walk from there to either Kossar's Bialys or Donut Plant, and you have a perfectly great rationalization to consume even more carbs. Most importantly though for a New Year's run during a New Year's Run, this is a New Year's Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge opened to the public on December 31, 1909.
For these reasons, an out-and-back over the Manhattan Bridge is a perfect way to ring in a new year. If you want to start 2022 in this manner, the Mockingbird Foundation is offering an informal race challenge!
Where is the race?
The Mockingbird New Year's Challenge is designed to be run over the Manhattan Bridge. It is approximately 2.2 miles to Brooklyn and back via the walking path; what better length than that is appropriate for 2022? Having said that, the roots of this race come from a virtual run, so you still can choose a course of your own if you're not making it to the Garden this year. However, if you decide to explore the final suspension bridge built over the East River, there is a special rule for Manhattan Bridge runners.
When is the race?
As per the graphic, the race is to be run on the very cool date of 1/1/22. You may do it any time you want during the day. The path is too narrow for a very large group to all run at once, but definitely feel free to bring a group of friends. For the record, race organizer (and author of this handy dandy race information that you are reading right now) David "ZZYZX" Steinberg plans to run it sometime around 10 AM.
Isn't it likely to be awful weather? This is New York in early January!
For most of the past decade, Phish's New Year's ritual has led me to run across this bridge. There have been some days where it's been cold for sure, but more often than not, it's been reasonably clear. Usually, it's been just fine to traverse in a sweatshirt and a long sleeve running shirt. Sure, this could be the year where it snows, but that's why this is a challenge. If it were guaranteed to be sunny and 68, it would be the New Year's Everyone Can Do It.
How do I get to the Manhattan Bridge from Midtown?
From the MSG area, walk 1/3 of a mile to the 34 St - Herald Sq Subway Station. Be sure to give your regards to Broadway before getting on the B or D train to Grand Street. Exit there and take Chrystie Street for a few blocks south. At Canal, you'll see the entrance to the pedestrian path. Look both ways before crossing the street!
But I want to take the A Train! Phish never covered Take the D Train.
I mean you can go that way and then walk along Canal but it's a bit of a hike. Still, I'm not the boss of you! Feel free!
Wait! Way back there you mentioned a special rule? What's the special rule?
So here's the deal. After a few nights seeing Phish inside Madison Square Garden, I can't say that I was ever in peak running shape. So I'd run up the upslope of the bridge and stop at the top for a few to take photos of the view (pro tip, put the lens of your phone horizontally in the gap of the fence to get really good shots). Then I'd restart my watch, run down into Brooklyn, turn around, run back up the hill, stop again to take more photos, and then run back into Manhattan.
So if you use the Manhattan Bridge route for your run, you can get two free photo op stops. Pause your watch, take your photos, then restart. It does not count against your time!
Remember to wear your medal inside the Garden on 1/1 as a badge of honor. You woke up on New Year's Day and made it all the way to Brooklyn and back. That gives you bragging rights over everyone else who was just sleeping off their hangovers!
I'm a rules stickler. What exactly do I have to do to have finished this?
Just to be clear, there are two options for this race. The first is just to do a virtual option and walk/run/hop/skip/crawl 2.2 miles anywhere in the world. You can use a treadmill. You can walk laps around your living room. Find a long hill and roll down it if you want. Whatever works. The second option is to start on the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, run/walk/disco dance to the Brooklyn side, turn around somewhere on the far side, and make the return journey. As long as you went Manhattan > Brooklyn > Manhattan and the trip is 2.2 miles, you get the bragging rights. Just make sure that the movie producers filming your dance moves really are filming a sequel to Saturday Night Fever before you sign anything!
Hey! Last year we got these cool almost frameable certificates if we out-timed The Timer. Is that happening again?
Of course! Beat my time, and you get a reward. Moreover, unlike last year where I carefully plotted my route to maximize downhill and waited for a day with great weather, this time I'm in the mix with the rest of you. Usually by this time, the tour diet has caught up with me and record paces are nowhere to be found. Laugh when you pass me, say, "Please don't do that."
(Note: since this section has been written, I have come down with Covid related pneunomia. It's going to be a recovery period, but I vow that I will traverse the Manhattan Bridge on New Year's Day if I have to crawl across the span. Right now I'm expecting to be more of a challenger for the section below so this is your year to get that extra honor! )
What about the stuffed animal sloths for the slowest person? Are those back too?
Yes! This is a run for people of all abilities. If you bundle up and walk to Brooklyn in early January, you deserve a reward if you're out longer in it! There will be three sloths rewarded: the slowest virtual runner and the slowest person of each gender across the bridge. This is an honor system! No leaving your watch running while you stop at a Starbucks across the street from the bridge!
OK, this sounds like fun! What do we get for running this?
I'm glad you asked! Everyone loves merchandise! For signing up, you get a medal, a race bib, and - since this is a January race and it's likely to be cold cold cold cold, cooo-oold - a long sleeve hooded running shirt. Moreover there will be community to follow. The Mockingbird Virtual Run Twitter and Facebook groups will have new and exciting content. Last year it was a collection of favorite running songs. This year's content is still to be determined but hopefully it will not be an endless series of facts about the Manhattan Bridge.
Is my Registration Fee Tax Deductible?
The Mockingbird Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation, dedicated to improving access to music education for America’s youth. Each year, the Foundation awards grants to dozens of music education programs, and funds those grants through a combination of fundraising, publishing, and the curation of Phish.net, one of the earliest Internet fan communities. Therefore, the amount of your registration fee in excess of the fair market value of the participation prizes ($15) is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
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