Really Great Running Cities
We have been road tripping for the past 4+ months, traveling across the country and back. During this time, I have been maintaining my training schedule to the best of my abilities. Sometimes that means running on a treadmill in a hotel, sometimes that means running around and around and around a few square blocks, and sometimes we have been lucky enough to land near some pretty epic running paths.
Here is a list of the cities we've visited on this road trip that have provided us the most accessible running experiences without fear of being hit by a car, slipping on ice, or getting stuck at lots of street crossings:
Accessible to Trails:
Palm Springs, California
This city is underrated for running, in my opinion. Yes, it is extremely hot during the summer months and early morning running is necessary. But the greatest part about this place is that you can access trails from pretty much anywhere in the city. Mount Jacinto sits directly to the west of the city, spanning the entire western side of Palm Springs. You can access trails in these mountains from many blocks along the western side of the city just past the lively downtown streets with restaurants, shops, museums, and hotels. There are smaller hills and trails to the south of the city as well, also accessible via multiple streets. The city itself isn't so big that you need to drive in order to get to these trails. You can simply run to any of them within a few miles. The primary nuisance to running in Palm Springs is that there are a lot of street crossings.
Best of Both Worlds: Trails & Bike Paths:
St. George, Utah
St. George is rapidly developing and with that comes a slew of newly paved bike paths. They roll along rivers, climb up into the mountains, parallel some major roads, and are quite a luxury for the cyclist and runner alike. This is especially pleasant for those running with a jogging stroller who enjoy a nicely paved surface for a smooth ride.
This town is surrounded by mountains and vast canyons with miles and miles of trails as well. The cool part about the rapid development of this town is that a lot of the housing complexes back up to trails or wide open green space. The not so cool part about the rapid development is that it encroaches upon those canyons and mountains and wide open green spaces. There is nothing cooler than running to the end of the block and overlooking vast open space. To look out and see zero manmade structures is something incredible. I highly recommend getting here before it gets even further built up.
Easiest Cities for Speed Work:
Dallas, Texas & Raleigh, North Carolina
Both of these cities have extensive greenways and running trails, and the trails are largely quite flat. Starting with Raleigh: the American Tobacco Trail spans 23 miles from Apex to Durham, it is 10 feet wide, well-kept, tree-covered and shady, crushed aggregate and paved in sections, public restrooms and water fountains, and is very flat the whole way. It goes through many neighborhoods, wooded areas, over creeks, and marshy areas. It gives you a natural feeling of being far away while still being close and accessible. This area also has extensive greenways. We ran on the the White Oak Creek Greenway that connects to numerous neighborhoods for access points, connects to the American Tobacco Trail, and connects to many trails in the natural areas and state parks. The interconnectedness of these trails and paths allows unending combinations of routes.
Dallas also has many bike paths and running trails right within the city. We stayed right off the Katy Trail which was super flat and actually had sections made of track material. It was bouncy and comfortable to run on. The Katy Trail connected downtown and to the Trinity Skyline Trail, and to the University Crossings Trail to the north, which connects to the Ridgewood Trail to the northeast, then the SoPac trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the White Rock Trail, the list goes on. It is quite incredible how many miles you can string together connecting these trails.
Best Altitude Training:
Mammoth Lakes, California
Mammoth is mind-blowingly gorgeous. Every direction you look will stun you with nature's beauty. I seriously saw an owl swoop down in front of me on a run and catch a mouse. Unbelievable. The lowest points in Old Mammoth, sit at 7800 feet, and reaches altitudes over 11,000 feet at the top of Mammoth Mountain, with nearby peaks sitting at over 12,500ft. There are bike paths, connected sidewalks, many trails, and roads that are easy to run on without fear of being demolished by traffic. Although this is quite a small community, it packs a big punch. You can run from anywhere, to anywhere, climb, descend...the only thing that will be difficult to come by is anything that is flat.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
This city has an absolutely outrageous number of bike paths that connect all over. The Rio Grande river trails, every canal has a running/cycling path alongside it, you can run anywhere without having to run on a road. You can be completely separate from vehicle traffic and run all over this fairly large city. In addition to the extensive bike paths and running paths, the Sandia Mountains cuddle right up to Albuquerque providing some more natural trails in this high desert city. It also sits at 5300 feet. I'm honestly surprised more endurance athletes don't make this place home with the amazing bike paths, some altitude, not too expensive, and it has pretty phenomenal weather year round. ABQ gets a bad rap, but I think it's got a lot to offer!
The places we know are amazing for running:
The aforementioned were cities that I was somewhat surprised were so amazing for running. These other cities were also fantastic but most of us already know that:
Salt Lake City, Utah
San Diego, California
We still have more places to explore on our journey back west. Currently in San Antonio, Texas, which is proving to be pretty awesome, followed by Santa Fe, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Phoenix, Arizona; and the rest is TBD.