There are two types of reservoir-goers. Those who saunter and those who run. The saunterers are the foreigners, ranging from the irritating ones with chunky Nikons and red velvet berets who don’t know how to stay in a fucking single file line so I can get by, to the sweet old German couples who ask how to get to Madison Avenue but turn the opposite way that you pointed them in as they wave goodbye and nod “sank you, sank you”. Included in my definition of a foreigner is a person who lives in New York but has not yet mastered what it is to be a true New Yorker, typically detectable from their embarrassed usage of Google Maps or the “you are here” signs that are posted throughout Central Park. Us runners are a different breed. We arrive at our same spots at the same time every morning— or early evening if you’re a sleep-deprived seventeen year old like myself— click the “run hype” Spotify playlist, and embark on the same run that is essentially carved into our achilles tendons. Us runners build binding relationships through only the consistency in the time of day that we all come together, and connect through the reliability that we will see each other again tomorrow.
There’s one spot on 90th and 5th where I always start my runs around the reservoir. It’s the spot between my favorite slobber covered doggy water fountain and the little old shack without any obvious use or significance. Behind a twisted staircase on either side and trees surrounding it, there lies a majestic opening in the middle of the bridal path that opens up to the reservoir. I am unable to start my run anywhere else. If my run is serving as a detox from a strenuous day at school, my Spot is the closest point on the circular running path to my school’s entrance, so I probably start my runs from that point regardless of my routine. If I run from home, however, I voluntarily walk twenty two blocks to my incredibly inconvenient Spot on 90th and 5th to begin, run my Loop, end back in my Spot, and return another twenty two blocks home. To psychoanalyze why I do this would take unnecessary time and might force myself to acknowledge the freaky, calculated creature of habit that I am and probably always will be, so instead I will simplify this tendency to capture an aspect of my identity: my New Yorkness.
My dad, the quintessential New Yorker, is a marathon runner who has run the New York marathon and the curves of Central Park countless times. I want to make very clear to you that when I talk about my runs they do not exceed 2 miles at an upsettingly slow rate, so comparing my running to my dad’s could be considered criminal, but he raised me with the values of having Spots. He has a consistent spot where he his runs, one place where he eats breakfast each morning, a doorman that he waves to at 4 east 72nd street on his way to work every day, and so forth. In this sense, I was born and raised a spot girl, a girl who values consistency.
Having a Spot is what makes a New Yorker a New Yawkah (spoken like Dustin Hoffman or Woody Allen, you choose). It is the key difference between a saunterer and a runner, a foreigner, who, by my definition, could be a New York resident but not a New Yawkah, and a runner, a true New Yawkah with a list of their own personal Spots around the city; an NYC routine. You are not a New Yawkah until you master your own New York based routine, one so frequent that it desensitizes you from beauty of the city you live in. The New Yawkah in me should probably have some more sympathy for the previously described “saunterers” who are only trying to appreciate the intricacies of the city I take advantage of every day. These “saunterers” don’t have a spot, and they do not do an amazing job of hiding it. As someone with the privilege of having a Spot, I attribute the saunterers’ constantly confused eyes to their lack of a reference point. My spot starts and ends my runs. Everything I do on that run, and for the rest of my day for that matter, is in terms of that one spot. My spot is able to ground me in a city that would otherwise overwhelm and bully me. My New York is centered around My Spot. It is impossible to think of approaching life in a city full of variables without a constant, so running from My Spot to My Spot keeps me sane.
The connection I feel with my fellow reservoir runners—my fellow New Yawkahs— is an intense one, similar to the connection that I feel so potently at the end of a long plane ride or after watching a horror movie in a huge theater with only six other people. The shared common experience in each distant yet strongly bonded community is the reservoir runner effect, and it is the beauty of New York City. Our common ground as reservoir runners is not that we are in New York, or that we run, but that we all have our own Spot, making us New Yawkahs.