Technically speaking, San Diego is my home base for all things related to running, swimming, biking, and racing. It’s still amazing that some people live here and don’t have the desire to be active. Where I live, I can step out into the beautiful sunshine and head a few blocks West to run along some of the best stretches of coastline in the country. In another direction, I’ve got about 3-4 miles of lagoon trails at the end of my street. Here in San Diego you can run on just about any medium you’d like – dirt, sand, gravel, asphalt. Check out some of the top spots for running in San Diego. My advice to you: be smart and safe. Bring pepper spray, and always tell someone where you’ll be running.
Ranch Penasquitos Preserve: Located just east of the 5 off of Sorrento Valley Blvd, this reserve offers up over 12 miles of trails with plenty of hills, mountain biking paths, and a beautiful waterfall. There are a number of parking lots and entrances, but we always start at the westernmost lot off of Sorrento Valley Blvd. Once there, you can choose from a few different trails, and they all tend to cross over and meet up at various places. Make sure you follow signs for the waterfall to get a great view!
San Elijo Lagoon: Just a few miles of trails here, but definitely worth a mention. Entrances that I am familiar with include: the end of Rios Ave., the end of Holmswood Rd., and if you’re willing to jump the train tracks (illegal and ill-advised) you can get to the trail from the 101, just at the end of the Solana Beach “Rail Trail.” If you like to run in warm evenings, the trails closest to the lagoon are loaded with gnats, so watch out. Otherwise, it seems to be a pretty open and safe area. I’ve never encountered a large animal here, but in the summer, I imagine it to be a haven for transients, so just be aware of your surroundings and avoid running alone.
Carlsbad Course: (Half-Marathon) It’s not a flat course. There are several long uphills that make you hate anyone who ever said “flat” or “fast” in reference to the course. However, it’s a very fair course, and has gradual ups and downs from miles 6-9. The official course begins at the Westfield Mall, turns downs Jefferson, then makes a little detour down Laguna, State St. and then heads straight down Carlsbad Boulevard to the coast. You spend half of the race running along the 101, next to the beach, and you’ll find plenty of fellow runners along the way. Everyone should try the run along the coast at least once!
“Run With A View”: This is an excellent run in the heart of Encinitas. You can begin anywhere really, but you’ve got to head up the hill by D Street up to the library, then turn South. You’ll be glad you did when the trees and houses clear and you’ve got a beautiful view of the Pacific.
Balboa Park: This is a great place to run, but it can be a little dangerous. There are lots of ne’er do wells in this neck of the woods, and it’s home to many unpredictable transients. You hear some horror stories, so it’s always best to go with one of the hundreds of groups that meets for training runs in the evenings, or at least run during the day when there are plenty of people around. You can get a good 8 miles of trails in easily, and if you head East to the other side of the 163, there are places where you can jump trails through the streets and get a solid run of 12 miles or more.
Harbor Island: One of the best places to run in San Diego, it’s a shame it’s so short. From the split near the entrance, head right and follow the path around to the west end, then to the east end, and finally back to the entrance. That’s about 3.0 miles. I’m not much of one for looping if I can avoid it, but here it’s so pleasant that it doesn’t feel like your typical loop. In addition to the island, you can follow the sidewalk towards downtown and run along the harbor, past the “Kissing The War Goodbye” statue, through Seaport Village, and all the way to the convention center.
Mission Beach Jetty to Crystal Pier: It’s almost 3 miles one-way from the Mission Beach Jetty to Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, and it’s one of the most populated spots for outdoor activity in the county. Unlike many of the beaches in San Diego that have access only via steep cliffs, you can walk straight from the street to the beach in both Mission and Pacific.