Running Away from Home: Southern California

If there’s one thing I love, it’s warm weather running. As I’ve lamented numerous times on this humble blog, I am not a fan of cold temps and precipitation, which is why it’s so weird to think about all the time I spent not running when I lived in Los Angeles.

For ten years I had sunshine and warmth available to me on a daily basis, but as a casual runner, I didn’t take full advantage of my geography. In those days, running was something I did to burn a few calories and keep my legs in shape for basketball. Three miles was considered quite a haul back then and I must confess that a shameful amount of the mileage I did run was logged on a treadmill at the gym.


These lost Southern California running years were in the front of my mind during last month’s trek to the Golden State. In addition to realizing the missed opportunities during those bygone days, my wife and I also managed to do very little running during our trip. This is a bit ironic considering the main reason we were down there was to participate in the Wine Country Half Marathon. Sure, we had a lovely shake out run on the beach in Santa Barbara and, of course, we ran a beautiful 13.1 miles through the Santa Ynez Valley, but other than that… bupkis.

What can I say? After weeks of training which culminated in me metaphorically crapping the bed on race day, I guess I needed a break. I usually take the week after a long race off anyway, so not running wasn’t really that out of character for me. However, as we drove and ate our way across the Southland I found myself noticing all the places I wanted to run even though I was on a self-imposed hiatus.

Any Beach
Pick a beach. Any beach. Santa Barbara. Malibu. Santa Monica. Venice. Hermosa. Redondo. They’re all fantastic. Just wait for the tide to roll out and run. For the uninitiated, waiting for the tide is important. The last thing you want is a laborious outing through deep sand. Can’t wait for the tide? Simply jump on one of the many paved paths that meander along the Pacific. Make sure to find the pedestrian lane and keep your head on a swivel as cyclists, roller bladders, and skate boarders are always a clear and present danger.

Look out… cyclists and natural beauty ahead.

Griffith Park Trails 
Griffith Park is a large, mountainous recreational area that provides Angelenos with a variety of things to do, including a zoo, golfing, and one of the world’s most famous observatories. It also provides a crap ton of hiking and running trails. You could probably just drive into the park and pick one, but I recommend the trails up near the observatory. Parking there can be tight, but it’s worth it. Head up into the hills on these well maintained trails and enjoy great views of the Hollywood Sign,  downtown Los Angeles, smog, and, of course, sprawl as far as the eye can see.

Lake Hollywood Reservoir
I’m sure there are celebrities who regularly run the famous path that’s in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, but since I don’t read US Magazine I couldn’t tell you who these celebrities are. I’m guessing it’s a Kardashian. But forget about star sightings. Go to this peaceful oasis amongst the urban congestion and run its gloriously flat 3.5 mile loop over the Mulholland Dam and around Lake Hollywood. But hurry, if you don’t get down there soon drought might eliminate what’s left of the water.

Hooray for Hollywood… and large scale, municipal water supply projects!

Santa Monica – Palisades Park/San Vicente Blvd
This park on the bluff offers 1.5 miles of running, a scenic view of the beach and ocean below, and, if we’re being honest, a fair amount of homeless people. But the park’s there for everyone, right? You can continue your run inland by jogging along the tree-lined median of San Vicente Boulevard for an additional 2+ miles. And if you’re a tourist, by all means, run through the nearby neighborhood and the play the “if I won the lottery I’d buy that house” game.

(As a bonus, if you want to destroy your quads, check out the Santa Monica Stairs off Adelaide Drive a couple blocks from San Vicente. The stairs are a tremendously popular exercise destination and certain to make your legs hurt for days!)

If you run enough miles in CA… you get to reward yourself with In-N- Out Burger!

There’s no shortage of places to run in Southern California. Even if you find yourself far from the noteworthy locations mentioned above, get out and run anyway. Find any park or any street and just hit the road. If for no other reason, to take advantage of the sunshine and warmth you can’t get back home.

Plus, knocking out a few miles totally allows you to rationalize all that In-N-Out Burger you’re going to eat while you’re in town. Or maybe that’s just me thing.


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