On the first Saturday on March, the nyc organization Shore Walkers hosts The Great Saunter. This is a 32-mile walk around the entire shoreline of Manhattan. This was the first year I participated. I really enjoyed it! Although my feet felt like they were on file by the end of it. And the last three miles was a real trudge. But it was also a great physical challenge for our bodies. And it was nice seeing an ultra-marathon event that people of all ages and fitness levels participated in.
For the most part, you don’t have to train for this. My background as a runner helped mostly just because I had the right gear to propel myself an ultra-marathon distance. I was still sore by the end of the Saunter and the following day. My body was also very exhausted. We finished the 32-mile Great Saunter in just under 12-hours; starting at 7:30a and finishing at 7:15p. Even for someone in shape, that is a long time to be moving.
Since this is an open walk, it’s certainly possible to do this not during the Great Saunter event. But I really enjoyed the company and camaraderie. Also, there are volunteers along the way with snacks, gatorade, and detour directions. At the start you get a hat and a map with specific directions along their route. This is to provide the most shoreline as possible; which is unfortunately difficult on the East side.
Even as part of the Great Saunter, I would not want to do this alone. There were parts where it was really boring. And parts where the pain & exhaustion were very prominent. Having a buddy as a distraction and motivator is really essential for this.
Here’s a short list of things to bring and wear with more details below:
What To Wear
- Hoodie with pockets
- Capris or pants
- Lots of layers
- Compression socks/sleeves
- Dry wicking socks
- Cushiony shoes
This was my exact outfit. I did not bring a backpack because I knew it would kill my shoulders. Instead, I stuffed a running hoodie with various items (see below). The hoodie is dry-wicking material and dries fast if it were to rain, plus has a hood. It also has many pockets, with and without zippers, which was perfect for stashing food & supplies. Since I was just walking, I wasn’t as concerned about things falling out.
I wore capris then compression sleeves on my calves and I really think those helped a lot. I wasn’t as sore as I could have been the following day. And by the second day, I was barely stiff. The compression sleeves helped to keep my blood flowing and my legs felt pretty good, considering, for the entire walk.
This walk always takes place in the beginning of may when the temperature is highly unpredictable. It was a high of 66 on May 2, 2015. So the morning started off chilly, then the afternoon I shedded my hoodie to a t-shirt. But by 5p, the sun was setting and it was very windy along the East River. It got very very cold at some points. We all put our hoods up over our head. It wasn’t very comfortable. Definitely dress in layers. The end is the hardest part so you want to be as comfortable as possible.
What To Bring
- Extra pair of socks
- Body Glide or Moleskin
- Light snacks
- 1 Water Bottle
- ID, Metrocard, Cash
- Menstrual-related Items
- Hat & sunglasses
- Friends or Headphones
You must bring an extra pair of socks! I stuffed a pair of dry-wicking socks in one of my pockets and switched them out at the half-way point in Inwood Park. Your feet and socks are so sweaty by that time, changing socks will not only help to reduce blisters in the second half, but it also feels very refreshing. Just putting on dry socks can help lift your spirits.
Moleskin, adhesive bandages to prevent blisters or to put over blisters to prevent pain, is one way to deal with blisters. And this is offered for free at the half-way point in Inwood Park. From my running background, I always have BodyGlide in the medicine cabinet so I used that. You can also use baby powder or vaseline. In the morning I put BodyGlide all over the tops & bottoms of my feet. I brought it with me in a pocket in my hoodie. Then when I switched socks, I re-applied a whole bunch. It will start to wear off so you want to bring it with you. Be sure to also use it on your underarms, nipples, or anywhere else that is prone to chafing on your body. Thankfully, I’ve learned all this the hard way with running.
Food is something I may do differently next time. You don’t really have access to deli’s and bodega’s along your walk; especially on the West side when you’re stuck by the river. I only brought one granola bar with me but really wish I brought more things. Though I was slightly limited by pocket space. Small packages of peanuts, raisins, and dried fruit would work best. There was one stop where they gave out clifbars but that wasn’t quite what I wanted. Also a pb sandiwch, bread, or pieces of cheese are good too. You do not want anything heavy. And you definitely do not want to sit down to eat anything. You have to keep moving!
Before I left in the morning, I took some Advil. Then about every 4-hours we stopped to take some more. I took more when I got home. Then more the next day. Probably not the healthiest thing but I have to say that it all really helped.
The suggestion to take just one water bottle was one I found on a Great Saunter guide. I’m glad I took it. You really don’t need extra bottles to weigh you down. There are many water stops along the way. And volunteers hand out gatorade at points. I brought a large water bottle in a wrist holder (that I bought for long runs). This was attached to my wrist the whole time so my fingers never hurt carrying around a heavy bottle of water.
Last year my friend walked the Great Saunter and got her period unexpectedly. Having to find tampons then deal with that was not fun. Thanks to her recommendation I put my Diva Cup in before heading out. I was expecting my period within the week and figured all the movement would get it going. I was right. The bathroom situation is… okay… along the walk. On the map they tell you where bathrooms are. Some were locked, though. And at some points we had to use port-a-potties. I was glad to not have to deal with tampons for that. I can’t say that wearing the Diva Cup for a 32-mile walk was super comfortable, but it did mean fewer supplies to have to carry with me.
The Great Saunter Experience
We started the walk near Battery Park in FiDi at 7:30a. There is a late-registration point at 42nd street neat The Intrepid; this is about the 9-mile point. So you can cheat a little bit if you wake up late. This is around 9a. The walk goes up around the West side first. Going through Inwood Park really was beautiful. I’d love to get up there again. At the park there are medical supplies, snacks, bathrooms, water fountains, a little farmer’s market, and just outside the park some coffee shops and deli’s. I picked up a sandwich around there, which was delicious. There is also the 207th st A train subway station.
From there you start the miserable trek along the East side. This starts out along a really pretty walkway. But then quickly turns into a sidewalk along a highway. Then actual streets and neighborhoods as you zig zag your way back to the East river. These 100 blocks or so really were the worst. Around the 80’s you get back to the river until 60th st. Then you have to go around the United Nations Building. Then you finally get to head back to it.
For me, the last 3-miles were the worst. It was freezing along the East size once the sun had set. Under the bridges was dark, miserable, and cold. There were less saunterers. We were all tired and no one was talking. Our stretch breaks, which we had been taking throughout the entire walk, became more frequent. Our Advil stops became more frequent. We were trying to keep our pace our 3mph. At one point our group of 5 dropped down to 4. Then our 4 split into two groups of 2. Some faster some slower. We were trying to think of anything to distract ourselves. Make sure you really like the people you’re going with, because you have to talk to them for 12-hours.
My feet were burning the entire last 3-hours. But at least it was the final stretch and then we were back in FiDi again. We finish at Fraunces Tavern and upstairs there was a whole group to congratulate us! You receive a little certificate with your name stating you finished the Great Saunter! Then you can stay for a meal or head home and pass out like I did.
32-Mile Walk Recovery
During the walk I wore compression leg sleeves, which really helped. My calves were hardly sore after the walk. My feet hurt the most, just from over-use (no blisters). Then the top of my thighs, back of my thighs, and hip/butt were very tight. When I got home, I rolled golf balls under my feet – this felt amazing. I sat on the floor for a while stretching out my legs. Before bed, I used a massage stick to roll my calves, thigh, and butt muscles.
The next morning, I woke up around 6a with my hip really bothering me. I took some Advil then laid back in bed with my feet elevated on a pillow. In hindsight, I should have done that when I went to sleep because it really helped. When I woke up for real a few hours later, I felt much better. My legs were stiff but I felt fine walking around. On the day after, Sunday, I made sure to get out for a walk to help loosen up my tight muscles. By the end of the day I was feeling fairly normal. And by Monday, I was just a little stiff standing up from sitting at my desk for a while. But nothing out of the ordinary for me. Then Tuesday, three days after the walk, all my muscles are pain-free and feel great.
All in all it really was a fun experience. The physical challenge of it was great and it is for all fitness levels. I do have a base of running but I didn’t do any long walks to train for this. And I didn’t do this with any other runners. There were all ages participating. I really recommend doing this next year. I’ll be there for sure.