I’m so excited to be back on the Jaybird blog again! You may have read my previous post talking about food & running here. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jennifer Kyle – or JBird, as my family calls me. I live in Marin County, California, and I love to run and train for various races. I mostly do half and full marathons, though I’m getting excited to test my legs out on some shorter distances this year.
When I first started running, I spent a lot of time on the treadmill. This had a lot to do with safety for early morning runs – I didn’t want to run on dark roads. And I still believe that training on the treadmill can be a very effective tool. But I quickly learned that I had to reserve my long runs on the weekends for outside, so I could feel confident on race day.
All that said, I felt a bit sheepish after having lived in Marin for over a year – I didn’t quite know where to go to run 20 miles. So before we get into my favorite long distance runs in the Bay Area, I wanted to share my tips for finding your own routes in your area or even when traveling:
- Local running or biking store: Find your people! The folks who work at these stores usually do these sports themselves, and they can be a fantastic help when you are looking for a route. A track that is open to the public at 7am, a hilly route with water fountains, or the best route for views.
- Apps: MapMyRun, Strava, and even your phone’s maps app can be your friend. You can look for a route there, or even build your own by distance. One of my favorite things to do when in a new city is pick a landmark and run to it. Because photos ops – duh.
- Hotel concierges: Most concierges will have a recommendation of at least one or two loops or routes near the hotel. Don’t be afraid to put a copy of their map in your pocket. No shame.
- Internet search: Some of my favorite searches are “running bloggers ‘x’ city” or “running routes ‘x’ city.” This is also helpful when talking to a local running store or hotel concierge, because it gives them a place to start. For example, “What do you think of the Cherry Creek Trail?” Travel websites also have forums where you can search for keywords like “safety”, “10 miles”, etc.
Ok – now the really important part. The best long distance runs in the Bay Area! This area offers some of the most beautiful views and runs in the world. It is also known for its hills, so make sure you bring your climbing legs with you. If you get the chance, running here is a must! These are just a few of my favorites in the area. There are infinite possibilities and I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments below.
- Marin Headlands: This route is about 8.5 miles of some of the most spectacular views in the Bay Area. I especially like this run because it is easy to get to but feels like you’re so far removed from the city.
- Sausalito to AT&T Park: This was my favorite route when I trained for my first half marathon. You can start in Sausalito by taking the ferry there, or driving your car to the Vista Point viewing area on the North side of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, you run over the bridge and down into the city through the financial district and along the Embarcadero. When you’ve reached AT&T stadium, you can turn around and do it all over again. This can get you 14-16 miles, depending on where you turn around. You also have the option of taking the ferry back to Sausalito from the Embarcadero Ferry building.
- Dipsea: This is a famous route in Mill Valley, CA. It is 7.4 miles from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. A Dipsea Double would be doing the course out and back – clever name, I know. You can actually run the Dipsea Race if you are in the area the second Saturday in June. Known for its gnarly elevation gain, narrow trail and steep stairs – this route is quite a doozy.
- Mt. Tam: I’d be remiss to talk running in the Bay Area and not mention Tam – or Mount Tamalpais. If you park in the Pan Toll parking lot, you can do 15 miles of out and back trails with beautiful views of Stinson Beach & Point Reyes. Your legs will be jello when you are finished, but your heart will be full.
- Paradise Loop: I am ending on this route because it was the location of my first ever 20 miler, which is such a special day in any marathon training cycle – whether it be your first or 50th. I was so nervous, but this route took great care of me. The whole thing is actually 26 miles, but you can make it any distance you choose by doing an out and back, or utilizing the ferry boats in Tiburon. As unglamorous as this sounds, my favorite way to use this route is by parking near the Corte Madera shopping mall. I can run 10 miles to Tiburon, and there is a big hill about 12 miles in that you have to conquer. I felt that it really helped me to feel prepared for Heartbreak Hill in Boston!
Check out my playlist of the week:
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Keep in touch with Jennifer!