Finding a city’s secret spots can only really happen at human speed. In this series, World Running Guide, we’ll provide information to help you discover your next destination through the eyes (or rather, feet) of a runner.
The SXSW series of festivals begins a week from today. And though you’re likely heading to Austin, Texas, for reasons other than fitness, there’s no reason not to remain balanced while soaking in the latest music and films. For runners especially, the Lone Star State’s capital is a great place to stay in shape while crisscrossing this hopping college town through riverside skyscrapers, hills (yes, hills), parks, pools and music-saturated streets.
On Your Mark
Photo by Lars Plougmann, CC-BY-SA
You might be surprised to know that Austin holds its own among the running cities like Washington D.C. and Boston. Competitor.com says Texas’ capital is a five-star running town, and it rose to the top 5 for trail running in the U.S. by Men’s Fitness and the top 10 for Forbes. As a bonus, U.S. News ranked Austin as the #1 place in America to live.
No one messes with Texas, sure. But, really, no one should mess with the heat in Texas. Instead of booking your trip in the summer here, try visiting during either March or October. Many local events occur in these cooler months, including Rodeo Austin, the aforementioned SXSW and the Austin Film Festival.
Photo by Marcus Calderon, CC-BY-NC-ND
For urban dwellers and nature lovers, Austin offers the perfect marriage of both road and trail runs. One of the most popular routes is along the Ann and Roy Butler HIke-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake (a mouthful, I know). This 10-mile loop, named after a former Austin mayor and his wife, draws 1.5 million visits per year and added a boardwalk in 2014. A gem along the railings, only to be seen by travelers a pied, is artist Ken Little’s contribution to the pathway: 36 cast bronze belts bearing the lyrics of Texan singers and songwriters. With downtown’s skyscrapers framing the lake and scores of locals running on it every day, this route is hard to beat.
When in doubt of finding a good running route, ask the experts: the locals. Marissa, with the Austin Runners Club, recommends the Scenic 5 Miler. Located in the city’s northwestern quadrant, this hilly path guides you along the Colorado River as you weave through gorgeous Tarrytown residences. Don’t believe me? Take a virtual run yourself:
If you want to escape the concrete jungle completely, Barton Creek Greenbelt might suit your fancy. With almost eight miles of creeks, rocks and greenery, these 809 acres are your playground. Need a break from jogging? Park in front of some limestone and try one of the area’s 104 climbing routes.
Photo courtesy of Rogue Running’s Facebook page
“Get naked.” That’s one of the 6 qualifications of being “rogue” in the Rogue Running club. Okay, not quite, but this group does follow a no-nonsense code of pushing athletes to their fullest potential. They offer training programs for all levels, whether you want to run your first 5K or train for an Olympic trial. The club isn’t free, but you can count on these Texanas to give you the running adventure of a lifetime, exploring Austin and the world along the way.
The Austin Runners Club is another fun (and free) option. The nonprofit focuses on giving back to the community through education and charity, one of which being The Trail Foundation. The group meets several times a week for group runs and hosts three major races: the Austin Distance Challenge, the Decker Challenge Half Marathon and the Daisy 5K.
If “drink yourself fit” sounds like your kind of exercise philosophy, then the Austin Beer Run Club is probably for you. These Austinians have been running and drinking beer every Wednesday since March, 2012, and Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que became their new meeting and celebration hub in 2014. Whether you’re a hardcore athlete training for your next race or your main concern is to work off the beer, these folks have fun.
Austin prides itself on being a little weird. (If you don’t believe me, watch the largest urban bat colony in the world take off from underneath Congress Avenue bridge. Yeah.) If hills, beer, trails and a little bit of quirk fit into your equation of a perfect training regiment, then head over to Austin and never look back.
Keep Austin Weird Fest & 5k (to add to the “weird” theme)
Bold: Decker Challenge Course
Beast: Austin Marathon
Can’t Miss:The view from Mount Bonnell
Lead image: Photo by Lars Plougmann, CC-BY-SA; main image: photo by Kent Kanouse, CC-BY-NC
McGee Nall is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia. She was probably eating Nilla wafers and Nutella while writing this.