Running California

On a run in Novato, CA.

On a run in Novato, CA.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about being a runner is the opportunity to see places on my feet when I travel. I have always found it interesting to be able to see new places on my feet, often experiencing places I wouldn’t if it weren’t for my running shoes.

I was recently in California for 10 days, and my legs and running shoes took me all over the Golden State. San Diego Mission Bay, Downtown San Diego, Venice beach, LA, Oakland, Golden Gate Park and Novato – sunrise, mid-day heat, and sunset. Beach-front, trails, cities, and suburbs – my legs took me all over. Just under 80 miles of running during my California trip, and never a dull moment.

The trails in Golden Gate Park and the path along the Pacific in Santa Monica/Venice Beach was probably my favorite – though its hard to choose. The trails in Golden Gate Park offer a nice soft surface, breathtaking views with every few steps, and the challenge of steep inclines and declines – though they never lasted too long. If I thought I had any real business as a trail runner, San Francisco would be at the top of my list for places to live and train. In Santa Monica and Venice, the smell of the Pacific, the sunshine kissing my shoulder blades, and the wind in my face on a mostly flat beach run brought back memories, as I trained for my first Ultra along that same beach a few years ago. In some way, it felt like home. 

On a run at the San Diego Marina.

On a run at the San Diego Marina.

Perhaps the most meaningful runs were the ones I had some company during. In San Diego Mission Bay, I ran with my cousin and her boyfriend, and they took me around beautiful paths along the water. Chatting while we ran, the miles clicked by on their last pre-marathon long run. In LA, I took my sister on a run where I ran almost daily (when not beach running), and the smell of flowers flooded our runs with such amazing smells. For some reason my sense of smell seems to be heightened when I run, especially on the west coast.

If you are traveling in the near future and interested in running while away, do some research on where to best run. Figure out safety, water and fueling, routes and mileage, and go have fun. I brought a camera with me on some of my runs. Make sure you pack your running gear. Even if you usually run with music, I suggest you leave your music at home. Go experience a new place with all of your senses. Also, unfamiliar routes may mean navigating traffic and crowds, which isn’t safe when you can’t hear. 

IMG_3263I should note that while in Oakland, I mapped a route and headed out from my hotel for a potential 10-15 miler. It became obvious within the first mile that the neighborhood was not nice. In fact, I was very much on edge the entire run. I’m sure not knowing my surroundings contributed to feeling uneasy, but it was also simply not a nice place. I cut the run short at 5 miles, and clocked an additional 5 miles later that day in Novato, CA. Safety should always be your first priority when out for a run – especially if you are alone and in a new place.

California is an amazing place to run. The varying options for where to train was extremely refreshing. While I love Central Park, and enjoy the Westside Highway, clocking those same routes day after day can make a high-mileage runner feel a little uninspired. I absolutely want to go back and run more in California. I am also very much intrigued to get out of my comfort zone and out of NYC to run. There are parks and trails outside of Manhattan, and I am excited to go on a few adventures and get in my Ultra training miles all over the NYC-area. I suppose the lesson I learned while out west was this: running is and can be what we make of it. It can make a trip to a new place and experience you never expected. You get to see things not on  your tourist list, or where your friends or family would necessarily take you. And that is very cool.

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