Runners Pick Favorite Water Fountains for Beating Summer Heat

By Leslie Albrecht on July 10, 2012 7:02am 

DNAinfo New York polled serious runners for their picks on the city's best water fountains.
DNAinfo New York polled serious runners for their picks on the city's best water fountains.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

NEW YORK CITY — On long hot summer runs, marathoner Michael Ring finds himself obsessing about one thing — a water fountain in Prospect Park.

With sweat rolling off his body as he clocks multiple miles, Ring's mind races ahead to the sweet moment at the end of his run when he'll slake his thirst at the drinking fountain on a shaded path just inside the park near Grand Army Plaza.

The humble concrete fountain doesn't look particularly special. But Ring, who considers himself an expert on the best water fountains for runners, claims it's achieved global dominance.

"It's the best water fountain in the world," Ring said. "I run a lot and that's what we do when we run — we think about the best ones."

As training season for the New York City Marathon gets underway and hot weather makes staying hydrated a challenge, DNAinfo.com New York polled serious runners like Ring for their picks on the best water fountains, which generally aren't marked on traditional maps.

Here's what they said:

Ring, who has trained for 30 marathons and is vice president of the Prospect Park Track Club, has developed strict criteria for drinking fountains based on discussions with his running buddies. A runner's water fountain can't run warm, Ring said. It can't taste like metal. And it must have a strong, powerful stream.

Runners should seek out fountains fed by pipes buried deep in the ground, which makes their water extra frosty, Ring added. He also said old-fashioned push-button fountains like those in Prospect Park are better than newer pump-activated ones found in Riverside Park and Battery Park.

Long-distance runners take only tiny sips of water during runs, but when Ring finishes his jogging jaunts in Brooklyn, he slurps up liquid at his favorite fountain. It shouldn't be confused with another drinking fountain near Grand Army Plaza that's on the street and pumps water that  tastes like metal, Ring warned.

"Sometimes I'm thinking about this fountain for miles," Ring said of his favorite fountain, which can be found on a path between Prospect Park West and the park's East Drive.

"While you're running, you can only take sips, but when you're done you can drink as much as [you] want. I wait my turn and...drink until I feel my weight shift."

Michael Balbos, communications director for the Brooklyn Road Runners Club, said the drinking fountains at the East River Park track on East Sixth Street and FDR Drive in Manhattan deserve special mention.

Balbos, who's been running for 25 years, said drinking fountains are fairly plentiful on the West Side's Hudson River greenway. But the landscape dries up like the Sahara along Manhattan's East Side running routes, which makes the fountains at East River Park track a welcome respite for thirsty joggers.

"The one on [at East River Park track] is unique," Balbos said. "It's sort of an oasis in the desert. It's always cold and sweet."

The track has the added benefit of both outdoor and indoor fountains, as well as bathrooms.

In Brooklyn, Balbos pointed to a water fountain in Prospect Park on the Parkside Avenue side of the park. The fountain's convenient location on Prospect Park's loop road between the lake and the Parthenon-style structure called The Peristyle makes it one of the most heavily used in the area.

Though the ground beneath it can get muddy, Balbos said it's still worth stopping for a refreshing drink there because of its cold water and strong, high stream.

"It's probably the most-used water fountain in Brooklyn," Balbos said.

There are 150 drinking fountains in Central Park, according to the Central Park Conservancy, but a standout for New York Flyers running club secretary Shira Zamir is the one at Engineer's Gate on East 90th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The fountain is well known to runners because it's a popular meeting point before heading to the park's reservoir loop. It also has sentimental value because it's near a statue of New York City Marathon founder Fred Lebow. The statue gets moved to the marathon finish line every year.

Zamir looks forward to drinking from the fountain in the middle of long runs when she's parched.

"Some water fountains in Central Park have basically no volume, so you're sucking on the thing to try to get water, but that one is usually good," Zamir said.

Members of the Front Runners running club flock to a water fountain on the west side of the park at West 91st Street and Central Park West. The fountain, marked on this Central Park running map, was donated by a running club and has engraved lettering and decorations that some runners find motivational, Front Runners president Megan Coryat said.

"It's actually a really nice water fountain," she said. "It's not just one of the regular ones. It's definitely more inspirational, for all those people doing long training runs in the hot hot summer."

The Front Runners also look forward to a special set of water fountains that grace city streets just once a year, Coryat said. It happens during Summer Streets, three Saturdays in August when the city closes seven miles of streets to cars and allows runners, bikers and walkers to enjoy the space.

The route along Park Avenue between Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge is lined with "water troughs" where several runners can drink up simultaneously, Coryat said.

"It's cold. It's like it's right out of the fire hydrant," Coryat said. "We look forward to it every year. The water fountains there are awesome."

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