If you’ve ever thought about or trained for a half marathon, full marathon, or ultra, you know all about the infamous “long run.” This once-weekly torturous event varies in distance and time, but is typically in the realm of double-digit miles and multiple hours on your feet. Fun, we know.
But while heading out for a long run is sure to be challenging, mentally and physically, choosing the right run route can make all the difference. And we’re here to help: These long run spots take advantage of all that San Diego has to offer to give you the best run for your money.
Balboa Park boasts an impressive number of marked trails that approximately total 65 miles, with terrain ranging from flat fire road to steep dirt-to-stone stairs. Each trail is numbered, and they vary in distance from less than two miles to almost seven miles each. We recommend checking out a trail map ahead of time and planning your route — and then having fun exploring the far corners of this fabulous park.
The Boardwalk Route
No good beach town is complete without a boardwalk, and San Diego has just that. Running from Palisades Park in North Pacific Beach to the jetty in South Mission Beach, the boardwalk is about 3.5 miles one-way. You’ll have unobstructed ocean views on one side and gorgeous beachfront houses and crazy bars full of vacationers on the other. Keep your eyes peeled for Slo-Mo — the local roller skating legend — as he rolls by in slow motion, and be sure to pause to watch people surf the artificial wave at the WaveHouse. Honestly, there’s plenty to keep you occupied while you run in the sun.
The Train Run
The Train Run actually does cost a little dough (around $4 to be exact). Here’s the gist: you park your car somewhere between Solana Beach and Oceanside; you buy a one-way train ticket on the Coaster to Oceanside; then you run back down the 101 to your car. You control the distance of the run based on where you park, and you give yourself the best ocean view to your right the whole run back.
This long run’s not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who aren’t comfortable getting a little dirty. If you manage to tackle all five peaks (North Fortuna, South Fortuna, Kwaay Paay, Cowles, and Pyles), you’ll hit around 17-19 miles and climb over 5000’. Fitt Tip: go early (Mission Trails gets hot and crowded) and make sure you bring plenty of water!
Los Peñasquitos Canyon
Meaning “little cliffs”, Los Peñasquitos is just about twenty minutes north of San Diego in the Sorrento Valley area. This well-groomed set of trails runs from east to west and is anchored by a wide, easy-to-follow main trail. But some of the best sights — large oak trees, a grove of sycamores, and A WATERFALL — are all seen best from some of the single track offshoots. Also keep your eyes peeled for some locals; bobcats, coyotes, and deer are all residents of the canyon preserve.
The Downtown Tourist Trap
You can give yourself a tour of downtown San Diego on foot and check off seeing many of the main tourist attractions all in one fell swoop. Start at Petco Park and then head to the waterfront to run a path that takes you past the Convention Center, Seaport Village, the famous kissing statue, the USS Midway, the tall ships (including the Star of India), and then turns along Harbor Drive. From there, either turn around (about five miles round-trip) and head back or keep going to run past the San Diego International Airport. Perhaps, on a good day, you’ll make it all the way to Liberty Station (closer to 12 miles round trip), where you should definitely end with a cold brew (coffee or beer — your choice) and a bite to eat.