Running Away From Home: Denver, CO

In recent years, running has become one of my favorite things to do when traveling. Logging a few miles is a great way to see parts of a city you might otherwise overlook. When I’m on a trip with my family, it’s relatively easy to wake up early and get my run on. However, when I’m on a trip with three college friends and we’re visiting a town that’s known for its craft brewing scene, the degree of difficulty rises significantly.

This past weekend I visited Denver, Colorado and am proud to report I was able to get in two training runs for my upcoming half marathon despite a plentiful amount of beer drinking and regretful dietary choices. The big advantage I gave myself on this trip was staying in Highland, a downtown adjacent neighborhood that gave me quick, easy access to the South Platte River and Cherry Creek trails. It should also be noted that this location also gave me quick, easy access to a large number of tasting rooms and tap houses.

The trail along the mighty South Platte River.

Saturday morning’s six-mile run started at Commons Park, a small urban greenspace at the northern end of the LoDo neighborhood. From there I ran south along the Cherry Creek Trail, a sort of urban trench that cuts through the city and boasts several murals along the paved trail. After crossing the creek on one of the many pedestrian bridges I headed north and picked up the South Platte River Trail. Heading southwest, I jogged past Elitch Gardens amusement park and Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the overly verbose home of the Denver Broncos.

The following morning’s much shorter run again started at Commons Park, but this time I ran in the opposite direction along the South Platte River Trail. After turning around at City of Cuernavaca Park, I ran into the heart of LoDo, which had yet to awaken on this sleepy Sunday morning.  During my run I passed plenty of new condo developments, took in Coors Field, and checked out Union Station, before finally crossing the Millennium Bridge and completing my loop.

All aboard… the train to running trails and microbrews.
Plenty of stairs to be run at Denver’s Millennium Bridge.

Much has been made of Denver’s thin air and the effect it has on athlete’s who train or play in it. I didn’t seem to suffer any letdown because of the elevation, though to be fair I didn’t run a terribly long distance or push my pace significantly. I assume I’d report very different results had I played a soccer match or run a half marathon at that altitude.

I’d like to tell you about the picturesque beauty of running in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, snow-capped peaks reaching longingly into the sky. Unfortunately, the weather did not allow me such aesthetic wonders. The skies were mostly overcast with little to no visibility. Despite all I’d heard about Denver’s famously high number of sunny days, I, in fact, didn’t see a single mountain the entire time I was in town.

What I did see plenty of during my trip were pints of beer. Colorado is renowned for their craft brewing scene, which, if I’m being honest, was the main reason my friends and I decided to travel to the Mile High City. We weren’t able to get to every brewery and beer garden, but of the ones we did patronize, I particularly enjoyed Epic Brewing, Falling Rock Tap House and Great Divide. We also managed to find enough time to embark on the Stranahan’s Whiskey distillery tour and knock back a couple of cocktails at Williams and Graham, a very cool bar with an old timey, speakeasy vibe.

This is only a fraction of the beers on tap at Falling Rock.

You could probably fill an entire weekend trip to Denver with nothing but running and drinking. However, I’d also encourage you to do some hiking (my buddies and I did a 3-miler up to the Royal Arch near Boulder) or perhaps visit Colorado’s beautifully ornate state capitol building.

Or you could just run and drink. And absolutely no one would blame you.

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