By Carla Zanoni
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — For Amy Cooper, there is no better place to train for a marathon than Upper Manhattan.
The hills and the parks make running anywhere else feel like a breeze.
Cooper should know — Sunday will mark her second New York City Marathon.
And it probably won’t be her last.
"The first time you run you just try to complete the race, now I am running for time," she said, explaining she is aiming for an 8:15 minute mile, or 3.25 hour total run.
The 27-year-old New Jersey native has been running the hills of Upper Manhattan since she made Hudson Heights her home five years ago.
Cooper, who also runs triathlons, plays soccer and swims, said running in Upper Manhattan may be the best kind of training for a marathon. The hills are steep and the faces are familiar, so that even when running alone there is a sense of camaraderie on the verdant paths of Fort Tryon Park.
But when Cooper began getting attention for her local blog, Runnin’ Around Uptown, she realized she could network online to build a stronger community of runners in Inwood and Washington Heights.
"Last year around this time I started following a few people on Twitter and The Daily Mile, which is kind of like Facebook for athletes, and realized that people were using this as a way to share work outs, work out ideas, and meet people to work out with," she said, realizing that there were countless other runners using social media to conenct and pump themselves up as well. "So then I realized, 'Man, I should find some people here.'"
Cooper had already been running with the Inwood Hill Runners, a neighborhood running group that was created as a safety provisions for runners uptown after the highly publicized death of Julliard student and runner Sarah Fox.
Through her online networking she was able to bring more people out to do the group runs.
"People started coming, because they heard about it through my blog or Twitter account," she said. "They would show up and say they knew me, but we had never met face-to-face."
The combination of the two networks helped, especially when she began training for this year’s marathon, just days after she got married to her boyfriend of seven years. She said training and working as a pediatric physical therapist was challenging and people online and off make her feel more supported.
"Now I have people to go running with, people who are encouraging, who are always asking how things are going," she said. "It helps, when you are having a crappy day, people are there to push you along."
Just days before the race, Cooper showed her gratitude for the support.
"Great final run with the #inwood crew. I heart those peeps, they rock my running world. :) So supportive and fun. I'm READY for 26.2!," she tweeted on Thursday night.