Literally. Weather year round is beyond bearable, idealistic by most people’s standards. There are approximately 3.8 million(ish) routes you can crush if you’re willing to step outside of your usual routine. Don’t have a normal route? Meet up with friends or make them through one of several local free running groups. Here are our route recommendations, a few training tips, and some resources to hit up so you continue to have zero excuses for not running in San Diego.
Route Recommendations This is by no means an all inclusive list; it’s just our faves. For more routes, see our suggested links below. Easy-ish: Balboa Park – With 1,200 acres of grass, three miles of paved footpaths, and 4.5 miles of dirt trails, all shaded by pine and eucalyptus trees, you have a ton of route options here. Challenge yourself to find a new route every month. Find yourself running by the Organ Pavilion, over bridges, past gardens galore, and ducking under landing planes. Something for everyone here.
Pacific Beach Boardwalk – Especially beautiful at sunset, switch up your sidewalk and sand runs here. From Crystal Pier to Mission Beach Life Guard Station is about 2.75 miles. No shortage of people or rental home watching here. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot Slo Mo rollerblading down the boardwalk as well. Legends live and run here.
Lake Miramar – For our North County folks. If you’re working on building your mileage, this one is great not only because it’s paved and pretty, but also because it has mile markers around it’s 4.9 mile perimeter. Perhaps you’ve already grown accustomed to the ever present information strewn across your Garmin at all times, but if you’ve yet to commit or like to run “naked”, at least you’ve got those to gauge your distance. Park in the lot off Scripps Lake Drive.
If you run Cowles at sunrise, this could be your view.
Medium-ish: Mission Bay – Flat on flat on flat. Okay, there are a few bridges to get over those ‘lil water passageways, but you’ll get that beautiful vantage point which is well worth it. Depending on the mileage, you can make this easy or hard. The loop from start to finish beginning at Fiesta Island will get you 12 miles of pavement pounding. Great combination of runners, bikers, and tourists on this route.
Los Penasquitos Canyon: This forest preserve is a popular haven for runners and bikers alike. Located in Mira Mesa, just 12 miles north of downtown San Diego, this combination of narrow single track and fire roads can offer from five to 20 miles of quality running. Look for the waterfall three miles inland from the trailhead, and watch out for the mountain bikers on the fire roads.
Sunset Cliffs – By far the most picturesque route in Ocean Beach, you can log in a solid six miles from start to finish here. Rocky cliffs, breaking waves, the longest pier in San Diego, and puppies galore. Start from Dog Beach, head towards the pier and run up and down it if you please, then dream home gaze throughout Sunset Cliffs Dr before finally boosting that cardio a notch as you ascend up towards Sunset Cliffs Park. Then do it all over again on the way back.
Hard-ish: Cowles Mountain – Running Cowles (pronounced KOH-LS) is not for the faint of heart, but you will earn a metaphorical badge of honor when you slap that elevation signage at the top of the mountain. Hit the trails 45 min before sunrise to get the best reward of scoping the sunrise over America’s Finest City. It is considered difficult for hikers, so running this bad boy will definitely push your muscles and lungs to limit. Great for race training.
Get your plyometrics on by running stairs.
Convention Center Stairs – If you’re anything like us, you avoid stairs just as much as hills, if not more. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. But that discomfort is what causes change. According to Runner’s World, “The plyometric motion strengthens the same muscles as lunges and squats, and taxes your lungs and heart as you power to the top…climbing them accelerates your heart rate so rapidly and makes you breathe faster to take in more oxygen. This, in turn, improves your VO2 max—the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during intense exercise.” Our favorite circuit of stairs is the Convention Center because you can scope out the port on one side, the city on the other. Do as many repeats as you can until you collapse, then crawl back to your car or bike.
The Coaster Run – The perfect way to get your mileage in and take a day trip! You can make this a 3 – 15 mile route depending on which station you get off it. You can park your car at Solana Beach or Encinitas train station and take the Coaster up to Oceanside. Then run back to your vehicle all while taking in the glorious views of the coast.
Tips for Training
This is a whole nother article in itself, but as Mario Fraioli says, “You don’t have to run fast in training—unless you want to run faster in races.” If you want to get better at your next competitive race, mix up your long distance at a comfortable pace runs with some hill, stair, and speed work. There are many tracks around San Diego that you can run at for free, including Point Loma Nazarene and Mt. Carmel High School. To avoid injury, don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% every week and let your body be the judge of how much you push yourself.
Running With Others
Whether you’re new to San Diego or born and raised here, it’s in your best interest to run with others. Not only will you meet some amazing humans, you’ll improve your time by competing/pacing with others and see even more of San Diego than the above listed places. Some suggestions:
Come join November Project!
November Project SD – With 30 tribes across the world, this group’s got the fun, free fitness thang down! Running is a big part of this group’s Monday and Wednesday at 6:29am workout, but so is some body weight exercising, laughing, swearing, and most importantly, hugging. JUST SHOW UP.
Milestone Running Shop – Support a local running store and come on out on Wednesdays at 6:00pm to join others for a 3 or 5 mile run. Routes change every few months, as do the people there, the sponsors that come to sample products, and prizes given away in the raffles. Social and thirsty? Join in the post run brewski at a rotating location around North Park.
Running Meetup Groups – There are over 6,000 people in this group, so no matter where you live, what your distance or pace or goal for running is, you can find others interested in the same thing.
Regardless of who, what, or where you run in San Diego, you’re bound to have a good time. We’ve got it good here. So good, so good, so good!
Suggested Links for Other Routes That Aren’t Our Faves But Are Fantastic
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