Whether you’re a world traveler running here for the first time or a lifelong San Diegan, you’re likely to share the view that San Diego truly is a runner’s paradise. From run centric paths along some of America’s best beaches and scenic bay fronts to the vibrant urban routes through the historical neighborhoods of downtown, it seems as though this city was built for us. If you’re more of a trail runner, don’t fret, because we can also boast about having some of the most renowned hillside and lakefront running trails around. California’s diverse landscape connects the mountains to the sea, so you can decide on a whim whether to run the ocean side trails of Torrey Pines or go a few minutes east and explore the exciting terrain of Cowles or Iron Mountain. Not to mention, with our year around sunny weather, there’s really no bad time to make the running trek to “America’s Finest City” and sight run the birthplace of California.
There’s so much to the San Diego running story and we would love to share our insights, experiences and advice with you any time. Email us at [email protected] for anything from our favorite local restaurant recommendations to the must run spots for your specific preferences. In the meantime, we’ve outlined a few key things to know about the local running scene to get you started;
- Sightrunning Tours
- Running Routes
- Running Races
- Running Clubs
- Running Shops
Sightrunning Tours in San Diego
First off, we’re pretty certain there’s no better way to see the city than sightrunning with our certified guides at Go! Running Tours. We are continuously mapping out custom routes across the county to show you the absolute best of San Diego while on foot. Check out our Go! Running Tours San Diego website to see our current most popular tours and distances. We have featured Balboa Park, Downtown San Diego and Coronado as some of our favorite ways to get a feel for the beauty and history of SD. Keep in mind, however, we love to run all over the city and have guided tours along the stunning Sunset Cliffs, through the fields of Torrey Pines, and around Mission bay and Belmont Park etc. There is no limit to what we can explore, so just let us know what you’re interested in. Our current favorite tour is the 10k Downtown Tour. We run through the urban streets that shaped San Diego, from the Gaslamp Quarter to Little Italy, along the waterfront overflowing with maritime history and even through the Padres unique Petco Park Stadium. You’ll get to see it all and learn our cities compelling history in a fun and refreshing 6-mile tour led at your perfect pace on your selected time and date.
San Diego Running Routes
Maybe you’re in town for one of the many awesome races held here, or just not able to catch a sightrunning tour this trip, so let me give you a nice warmup 6k adventure that I love. If you don’t happen to know about the epic race scene here in San Diego, I’ll share a little below, but also check out my Races blog here for a full picture. In regards to that fun 6k, try this: Take the Coronado Ferry from the Broadway Pier downtown for a super scenic 15-minute cruise across San Diego Bay. (Insider Tip: There are commuter ferries early in the morning and I love doing this as a sunrise run) Once you’re at the Coronado Ferry Landing on the other side, simply make your way to Orange Ave. and head straight across Coronado on a 1.5-mile jog through the heart of the island’s downtown scene. Follow the signs to the historic Hotel Del Coronado and enjoy your time running along a stretch of the world-renowned beach around the hotel. Take a minute to slow down and actually go into the welcoming Hotel Del and take a peek at one of San Diego’s gems. You’ll see why it was the inspiration for the Emerald City in Wizard of Oz and get a sense of the amount of history jammed into those walls. Once you’ve gotten your fill, make your way back up Orange Avenue, unless you feel like an extended excursion running underneath the Coronado Bridge. If that’s the case, email me and I’ll share a few more detailed secret route instructions. As you head back up Orange Avenue to the Ferry Landing, stop at Coronado Brewing Company and sample some local craft beer. Because after all, as much as San Diego is a city of health and fitness, it’s also a mecca of gastronomy and craft beverage culture. Hop on the ferry back across the bay and finish up with a cool down jog along the Harbor Dr. Embarcadero towards the USS Midway to the South, or head to Waterfront Park by the SD Maritime Museum to the North. You can’t lose either way and you’ll have tackled a good chunk of the waterfront hot spots.
So, about those races! What can I say, but there’s a lot of them an they’re all pretty dang great. If you’re trying to decide which to run, my best advice is to start with the one that fits most naturally into your training schedule. Since the weather is always nice and there are a lot of races, half marathons especially, you can find a good run almost year around. From the incredibly beautiful ocean view Carlsbad Marathon in January to the incredibly fast downhill Holiday Half in December, it’s hard to go wrong. I guess one of the first misconceptions might be that San Diego races are all pretty flat. Having run most of them myself, I can attest that is not the case. Take the two I mentioned above. Carlsbad’s beachfront “rolling hills” can seem more like a mountain range on mile 19 of a Marathon. The other two races in their Half Marathon Triple Crown series, The La Jolla Half and America’s Finest City Half also have hefty hills to face, including a trek up Torrey pines and a last stretch from Downtown up to Balboa Park. I don’t say this to scare you away, because these are some of the greatest races around, just so you don’t come unprepared planning for a leisurely stroll along the beach! I am #triplecrownbound this year and highly suggest checking out this series if you’re interested in conquering multiple races in SD, and getting the bling to prove it. If you want a Half Marathon PR, however, come race the Holiday Half and sprint down a runner’s path along Hwy 56 from the mountains to the sea. Another scenic shot at a PR is the water front Silver Strand Half in Coronado which is a fast, flat and super fun race. If it’s a picturesque San Diego coastline, you can usually bet there’s a beautiful course along it, the Encinitas Half takes advantage of the ocean view during their late March race. To give you an even clearer idea of this city’s running chops, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series was born here and is always an awesome music fueled race along a rocking route. The San Diego Half Marathon is another killer course that takes you through the highlights of downtown and you actually cross the finish line in Padres stadium with your sweaty victorious image up on the Jumbotron!
For as many major races that there are in the San Diego area, there are even more fun runs and creative 5ks that everyone can enjoy. Highlighting the races from San Diego Running Co. alone is enough to briefly prove my point. They organize super fun swag filled races like the San Diego Leprechaun Run, Santa Run, Pacific Beach Fest, Craft (beer) Classic and the Corporate Dash to name a few. Imagine seeing over a thousand runners in short sleeved Santa Suits and beards bombing down Pacific Beach on a Sunny day in December. My personal favorite short race is the Los Muertos 5k to celebrate the Day of the Dead, where painted faces abound along the Seaport Village Embarcadero route and the post-race party resembles a colorful scene from the movie Coco. We also host all the new classic Color, Bubble and Zombie Escape Races you can imagine, but San Diego has always gone above and beyond your typical city to make sure fitness, fun and charity all collide in the best possible way. I’m so grateful to live in a place where the people take such pride in organizing and running in races to benefit so many great charitable causes and non-profits. Please hit us up for links to more information on local races of any kind. It’s not easy to relay all that San Diego has to offer in the way of running, but it is easy to introduce yourself to our avid local running community to find out more. Between the great running clubs and local shops, that feel more like a running community center, it is such an awesome and supportive group to help answer any questions and guide you along your San Diego running journey. Never hesitate, just ask!
If you stumbled upon this rambling runner’s blog looking for a fun local running club, check these out. Whether you’re looking to train for specific races or just meet and socialize with cool like-minded locals, you can’t go wrong with Black Flag Running Club or San Diego Track Club. If you’re not active on Instagram, I would strongly suggest you consider it. It’s a great way to get updates about local races, tips and perspectives from your favorite clubs and an easy way to share your running milestones and missteps with your new-found #instarunning buddies. Follow the well-established @SanDiegoTrackClub and the newish all-around awesome @BlackFlagRunningClub to start, but there is no shortage of great running groups in town with stellar reputations. I also love the crew at @MilestoneRunning and the movement at @NovemberProjectSD. It all really depends on what vibe you relate to and what you’re looking to accomplish. Even if you’re looking for a bunch of cool Ultra Mountain Runners with a hops and grapes issue try @Ultrabuds, or maybe you’re looking for breathtaking weekly trail runs there’s @SDTrailRunners Club. The best thing to do is just get out there, run with them all and see what shoe fits. In my experience, they’ll be happy to go for a run with you.
San Diego Running Shops
Speaking of shoes fitting, I have to mention a few local shops that will make sure yours do. I’ve been a VIP member at Road Runner Sports for years and they have always treated me and my feet very well. I also run in a lot of their R-Gear brand apparel and swear by their socks. They may be a big company now, but they are also family company started in a Del Mar garage and rooted here in SD for over 35 years. Their Perfect Fit Zone is a must and easy to do if you’re looking to get the right shoe for your specific stride and foot style. They also make affordable custom insoles that will comfortably help take your running to the next level. Just like the bevy of trusted local running clubs and races, our San Diego shops have a similar story. It’s all about fitting your vibe with the right crew. We are lucky to have some of the country’s best here and I can fully vouch for the following Rockstar shops. All of which are super actively involved in the running community and beyond, as well as have great run clubs or groups. Milestone Running, Just Run SD, and Fleet Feet San Diego all get a solid 5-Stars from me and my running buddies!
All in all, San Diego is home to some of the most wonderfully diverse and immersive running routes and scenic trails in the country. We have a lively running community that trains hard, plays hard and is actively involved in great causes and countless events. Our series of races are second to none and draw racers from all of the world to this runner’s paradise. It’s all too much to share in one general little blog, but I’m looking forward to digging into many runtasitc subjects in greater detail and answering any questions you may have along the way.