Sunday, March 28, 2010

200,000 laps

Alberto Arroyo, an avid Central Park jogger who was dubbed the Mayor of Central Park, died the other day at the age of 94. Regardless of the weather, he went to Central Park every day to jog around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and to mingle with other running enthusiasts. He greeted visitors eagerly and was even known to provide free foot massages and to counsel troubled athletes. Without fail, over a 50 year period, until he was around 90, Mr. Arroyo ran the 1.6 miles of the reservoir ten times each day. According to his own estimate, this means he ran about 200,000 Central Park Reservoir laps over his lifetime. That's a lot of laps.

According to the New York Times, he lived in an inexpensive hotel room with a phone that could be used only to call 911. He got by on Social Security and a small pension from working as a clerk for Bethlehem Steel. Despite his modest income, he was a highly visible and much celebrated figure in New York City. He hobnobbed with movie stars and politicians and even got to know Mrs. Onassis personally. He was honored in 1985 by Senator Proxmire of Wisconsin for helping to draw attention to the modern fitness movement.

He was a wonderful example of an everyday New Yorker who was positive, upbeat, and stalwart and who gained notoriety by virtue of his persistence and simple good cheer. There are tens of thousands of such people in New York City. It is good to take the time to remember and appreciate one of them.

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