I’m in the City only infrequently now and I’ve perhaps lost a bit of my edge in the hustle and bustle of the place. So I was a bit taken aback when a guy almost hit me as I descended the Harlem Hills heading south on the west side of Central Park with Paul Thompson.

A foot, maybe two above me came soaring a bird too large to be a pigeon. It was, indeed, a red-tail hawk, and it soared below us to a tree by the small pond at 102nd Street. As we passed, I made out the red in its tail. (That’s not a picture of this one; it’s from Tlinn.com.)

At that point I was in desperate straits. Paul, the top local Masters runner, had taken the train from his home in Peekskill. I had driven down. I’ve been meaning to join Warren Street for its Saturday run for a while, but was unsure of the logistics. Giving myself plenty of time to meet Paul at 8:15 at the northeast corner of Marcus Garvey Park — the park around which the marathon goes as it heads south on Fifth Avenue — I found that there was plenty of parking around the park. It took about 20 minutes for me to get there.

Now, Paul is much faster than I am and by the time we hit the Harlem Meer at the entrance to Central Park, I was winded. I could still speak, but I was winded. You know you’re in trouble when that happens in the first two miles. Fortunately the uphill gave me a chance to gather myself. Paul said it was likely that Jim Stemm would meet us as we made the turn south, but he was nowhere to be seen. This was bad for me because Jim, I hoped, would have gotten the pace a tad slower. But then, after the hawk incident, we met Fabio and things got a bit more relaxed.

From that point, we stuck to the bridle path. It had stretches of iciness which required care, but it was quite a pleasant course. We picked up folks along the way, including Pascal, who had just run the NYRR five-miler, and ended up as a pack of seven.

I never ran on the bridle path when I lived in the City. I was a road and reservoir man. But it is now a fairly popular place to run, and we passed loads of other folks, alone or in groups. Lots of pretty women.

It was chilly, perhaps 25, but I was a little warm in a long-sleeve shirt with short-sleeve t-shirt over it. Conversational pace. As we headed along the 103rd Street transverse, I bid everyone adieu and headed north. Out at the Meer and up to the south tip of Marcus Garvey Park. 1:20:20. Don’t know the mileage, but I’m putting it at 12 because I’m pretty confident we kept to a sub-7 pace throughout.

I had my trusty iPod with me. When we stopped to pick up Mike G at 90th and Fifth, this is what it saw on the bridle path, by the Reservoir. It was cold and windy. That’s Paul who keeps flitting about. Pascal is wearing the race number.