As seen in the Los Angeles May 2014 issue of Locale Magazine.
LA is not a city that slacks off. LA likes to look good. We have the Kardashians. We have the Real Housewives. And then, in a swirl of yellow and purple, there’s the always-dapper Kobe. While some might rely on their wallets or their surgeons to get the look they’ve always wanted, others take a cue from our local athletes. Now, more than ever, Angelenos are lacing up their running shoes and hitting the trails with a vengeance. Due to our spectacular year-round weather, the sweaty gym is often bested for a run under the sun.
The expanding popularity of organized races like the LA Marathon (go ahead, put it on your bucket list), running groups like AREC in Long Beach and L.A. Leggers in Santa Monica as well as fun runs like the Warrior Dash and the Color Run, we have catapulted running into a social activity. One that health-conscious LA is guiltlessly eating up because this meal doesn’t come with empty calories, only a sense of accomplishment and a hot bod.
So you! The one on your couch! Put down that microbrew, turn off the “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” rerun, and join us as we run through some of the best spots in LA to burn some calories. Or if you really don’t want to put the beer down, there’s a running group for that too–The Hash House Harriers. You actually run with beer. Every week, all over LA and OC. It’s a real thing, I promise.
Long Beach Bike Path
DIFFICULTY: One-way: 6 miles. Round-trip: 12 miles.
Novice to difficult, depending on how hard you push.
The beauty of this run is that you can make it your own. If you’re training for that marathon or solving an elaborate math equation that needs time to mull over, perhaps you’ll be inclined to run the entire stretch. But if it’s offseason and you’ve been Hash House Harrier-ing a bit too much, feel free to stop for a distraction along the way. Take a walk down the pier, stop for a bite at Belmont Brewing Company, or create a sand angel on the shore. The terrain is flat, just make sure to stay in the pedestrian lane or you will find yourself face-first on the beach, and not just because you’re a tired sand angel.
PERK: During the summer months, hop on The AquaLink water taxi for five dollars from The Queen Mary, Belmont Pier, or the Aquarium of the Pacific and have the 68-foot catamaran ferry you back to Alamitos Bay, or vice versa. There’s no better way to cool off than to introduce your sweaty face to that brisk ocean breeze. Brrrr…
This long stretch of bike path weaves from Belmont Shore’s Alamitos Bay, or “Horny Corner” as the locals have called it for decades, to Downtown’s Shoreline Village Marina. The path has sand on both sides, so it’s easy to imagine you’re actually running through the middle of the beach… oh wait, you are.
You share the route with plenty of other runners, as well as bikers, skaters, and rollerbladers. There are public restrooms every half-mile, complete with water fountains to keep you hydrated.
As you trek along you see the windsurfers of Granada Beach, the hounds of Dog Beach, and the boats of Shoreline Village. You’ll pass plenty of beach volleyball courts where the locals are often quite happy to put you in the lineup! You trade off running on the pathway and the actual sand as a way to work those lazy butt muscles. And, as if that’s not enough, you find yourself sprinting up the many 60-step staircases that line the route, connecting it with Ocean Boulevard.
The path eventually veers south and you run parallel with The Queen Mary. You stop and enjoy the view, soak in the history of the legendary and well-traveled English ocean liner that retired in Long Beach in 1967, then take a deep breath, turn around, and run back.
If you want to add another two miles once back at Alamitos Bay, continue along the sidewalk until you get to a wooden walkway, which takes you to the end of the Long Beach Peninsula. Your feet will like the feel of the softer wood panels as you gaze at multi-million dollar mansions to your left, and beautiful ocean to your right.
Santa Monica to Venice Beach Coastal Trail
DIFFICULTY: One-Way: 3 miles. Round-trip: 6 miles.
This one contains all the ingredients for the most fun run ever! Have a good time with it. Start off by getting your heart rate up stat with a ride on the historic Santa Monica Roller Coaster on the pier. Things will only get zanier once you get to Venice. But heed caution, because not only does Venice have the bikers, skaters, and bladers of a typical beach path, it also has those people—with hardly any clothes on—that, without a doubt, really really need to talk to you.
PERK: If you feel your workout needs something more, pump some iron with the big boys at Muscle Beach Venice. A day pass will run you $10, a seven-day pass (doesn’t need to be consecutive) is $50, and a pass for the remainder of the year costs $200. You’ll undoubtedly have to deal with tourists stopping by to take photos, and your spotter will probably be a tanned, oiled up ex-Mr. Universe contestant. But hey, the attention keeps you going and you’re getting swoll at one of the most notorious gyms in the world.
You start jogging south on the boardwalk as you leave the Santa Monica Pier. A barefoot surfer will cross your path on his way to the water, a cheery blonde will bike past on a beach cruiser tooting her little horn, there won’t be trash on the ground, people will be wearing clothes—well, California’s version of clothes at least.
As you head towards Venice on the park-lined coastal trail you will weave through areas of golden sand, palm trees, green grass, and then, when life just seems too perfect, you will start seeing the signs for henna tattoos. The Segways will come next, then graffiti. Before you know it you will be right smack dab in the heart of Venice.
A skate park will divide you from the sea, you’ll meet lots of offers for “free” music, lots of recommendations for “the best ‘doctor’ in town,” and lots of places for cheap pizza. Stop and indulge. Reflect. It’s the land of Jim Morrison’s LA Woman and of the legendary Suicidal Tendencies. The land of countless lost souls across America who have come to LA for a new life and have found solace in the grittiness that is Venice.
Continue your run until you hit Washington Boulevard, have a snack at The Venice Whaler, and ponder over everything you just saw while you decide if you’ll be taking the same way back.
DIFFICULTY: Round-trip: 3.85 miles, with a 325-foot elevation gain.
Novice to intermediate, depending on how you choose to handle the stairs.
The steps are steep and seemingly never-ending, so be vigilant when descending and save some energy for the way back up. There’s lots of room for exploring once in the canyon and it’s easy to get lost, so make sure to head home before it gets dark. Mobile phones don’t get reception at the bottom, so unless you’re well-versed in smoke signals, be sure to employ the OBS (Old-school Buddy System).
PERK: While at the graffiti-covered shack, walk around to the backside where you’ll find the roof only about four feet off the ground. If you walk up the side hill, the roof is only a short hop, and up you go. Walk towards the edge of the building for a different perspective of the canyon. Then throw your camera to someone below, because this is definitely going to be your new profile pic, for sure.
As you drive through Pacific Palisades in the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ll take note of the gigantic houses surrounding you. This is definitely the swanky part of town. You’ll reflect back to childhood, about how these mansions kind of look like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air pad. And then, whilst keeping a partial eye out for Will Smith, you realize, oh! that one is the Fresh Prince of Bel Air pad! You’ll continue to weave up windy streets until you end at the intersection of Casale Road and Capri Drive. Feelin’ all pumped, feelin’ all Big Willie Style.
You’ll park your car on the residential street, and walk up Sullivan Ridge Fire Road towards the entrance of Topanga State Park. The pavement will lead to a wide dirt road with the occasional biker flying down, or inching up.
Exactly one mile from where you started is a run-down chain link fence. You find the gap in the railing and walk through where you are immediately met with an endless-looking staircase leading to who knows what. You decide to find out, and begin the descent into Rustic Canyon.
As you clamber down the 512 steps you think of the history of the canyon. Murphy’s Ranch was built in the 30’s as a refuge camp by Nazi sympathizers who spent more than $4 million on it. The ranch was envisioned to serve as a safe haven for the impending doom that was sure to happen when America fell to the Nazis. When that failed to happen U.S. authorities raided and closed the camp down, arresting the leaders for espionage.
Throughout the 60’s and 70’s however, artists redeemed the soul of the Ranch when they stumbled upon its ruins and transformed what was left into their own private colony. In mocking contrast to the original, sinister purpose of the valley, free love, art, and music prevailed until the Mandeville Canyon Fire of 1978.
Now the canyon is once again abandoned, with the exception of you and all the other workout nuts around, clamoring down the steps, ready to explore the graffiti-covered remnants, the graffiti-covered shelters, and yes, the graffiti-covered steps. Always. More. Steps.
Once you’ve made it down, you turn left to follow the wide dirt path where you run straight into the sort of history you didn’t read about in your 10th grade History book. A shack that used to house diesel fuel, a power station, machine shed, and a multitude of paths that used to serve as grounds for military drills, all in preparation for the ultimate Nazi take down of America.
To leave the canyon either return the way you came, or take another set of stairs located next to the main shack. You take the latter, and hike the stairs until you reach the road coming down from Sullivan Ridge Fire Road. Turn left to follow the lane until you reach a stone gate that was once the grand entrance in its heyday. Climb through the crumbling stone wall and turn right to trudge the 1.6 miles back to the start, a little more cultured, a little more American, and a little more, dare we say, jiggy wit it?
DIFFICULTY: Hikes range from short to long.
Varies from Novice to Expert, depending on what hike you choose.
The Canyon’s 160 acres boasts room for quite a lot of different hikes to explore. Runyon Canyon Road is easy, the Star Trail is medium, and the Hero Trail is difficult. Try a new one every day. There’s probably a different celebrity on each one.
PERK: On the drive back down the hill, get lost in the streets off Mulholland Drive. You’ll run into driveways that look like they’re dropping into 90-degree angles, houses that look like they’re being held up by one brick, and if you can find them, the homes of Sylvester Stallone, Paris Hilton, and Mr. Timberlake. This could actually be fairly easy considering there’s a multitude of StarLine Tour buses to follow. They’ll lead the way to your favorite celeb, guaranteed, or your money back!
You park your car in the small parking lot at the Northern Entrance, 7300 Mulholland Drive. A white Lamborghini speeds past you going way too fast. A Range Rover carrying a family with children gets out. The mom is wearing Lululemon. The dad is ripped. The dogs are leash-less. You enter the gate and start hiking. People are running by you, walking by you, and some are already sprinting after dogs.
The conversations you overhear are typical to LA, and to LA only. There’s talk of failed auditions, of new pilots set to air, and lots and lots of sure-to-be-million-dollar ideas in the works. You swear the girl who just passed you is a model. You’re positive the guy doing shirtless jumping jacks has a role in Leo’s new movie. This is the Hollywood Hills, and one of Tinseltown’s favorite workout spots.
As you reach the tip of the trail you look out onto a spectacular view of Los Angeles, atop another trail is a view of the ocean, and atop another, you’re looking right smack into some pretty awesome rich-people backyards. Your dog is in seventh heaven as he hasn’t even come close to conquering the 90 acres of leash-free wandering to be had—roams complete with drinking bowls and poop bags. Dogs really do leave this place happier.
You silently thank Mr. Runyon who envisioned a paradise for the land when he acquired it in 1919. A place where his wife could ride her horses and he could go hunting unscathed by the tempting lures of LA. In the subsequent years the land passed through the hands of a number of owners who all had big and expensive plans to develop it, before a fire in 1972 sent those ideas up in flames. In 1984, the park was once again realized for what a great expanse of untouched land that it is, and purchased for use as a city park by the City of Los Angeles. Where it now lives on as the get-fit-epicenter for all our young Hollywood starlets, and their pups.
DIFFICULTY: 53 miles of trails to discover. This could take a while…
Ranges from Novice to Expert, depending on what hike you choose and how hard you exert yourself.
Run, jump, yoga… there is no limit on what you can do here. Hang from a tree. Lift rocks. Jump over a riverbank. What’s that I hear? The time is nigh for hill sprints!
PERK: After the run, stretch out your tired limbs on the perfectly manicured lawn in front of the Observatory. Fan out at the Hollywood sign in the distance and then take a walk through the exhibit. Admission is free, and there’s always something new to learn about space. Explain to me the Black Hole again?
Today you’ve decided to make a day of it. You park at the bottom of Fern Dell Drive off of Los Feliz. You start hiking up. There’s a wooden walkway, a rustic bridge, and massive and massive amounts of trails.
You stop by a little cabin restaurant in the woods called The Trails with lines out the door. The food, you’ve heard, is delicious and perfectly on par with the homey atmosphere that comes with being just off the beaten path. You’re only a few short minutes away from the hustle of the city and traffic, but it feels just enough to send your worries spiraling into the great void.
You find a picnic table in a shady area surrounded by trees and eat your healthy lunch. As you eat you listen to birds chirp and watch a steady stream of joggers getting their workout in. There are so many options—53 miles of trails to explore.
What once was an Ostrich farm owned and operated by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith in 1882 has become one of LA’s most popular attractions. Sometimes referred to as the Central Park of LA, you can get lost for days in the 4,310 acres of wilderness in the Los Feliz neighborhood. It’s home to the Greek Theatre, a 5,870 seat amphitheater that’s hosted everyone from Neil Diamond to Jack Johnson to Russell Brand in the movie, Get Him to the Greek. It’s also home to the Griffith Observatory, which sits at the top and offers unparalleled views of the Hollywood sign, the Pacific Ocean, and downtown LA.
You continue up and find a trail to take. You see someone doing pull-ups from a tree branch, squats on a dirt embankment, and yoga in a mound of woodchips.
You smile to yourself. This is beautiful weather. This is beautiful people. And this is healthy livin’.
This is the heart of LA… And you run this town.
***Clothes provided by Southern Californian companies, SPF Addict and NEVA.
SPF Addict engages cutting edge technology to create workout apparel that uses organic fibers to block the sun. When sunscreen isn’t enough or has been rubbed off by an extra grueling workout, these garments will provide protection from those super sneaky cancer waves. With a UPF protection level of 50, 98% of UV rays are blocked. Among the first of their kind, these fabrics will keep you safe and have you looking and feeling stylish as you get your daily dose of Vitamin D, compliments of California. www.spfaddict.com
The people behind NEVA want to see a change. The new company works with ladies in South Asia who hand embroider BE THE CHANGE on each NEVA garment. These seamstresses are then paid 10 times the amount of their typical wage, creating better lives for their entire families. Currently limited to a small but superb selection of fitness wear for active females, the line hopes to expand soon, spreading inspiration and change to both the women in South Asia, as well as the women here. www.nevawear.com
May 3, Claremont, Claremont Zombie Run, Kids run, 1 mile, 5K, 5 mile
Weave through mazes throughout the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden as you try to outrun the spooky zombies that are after you. Unlike other zombie runs where the course is pre-determined, it’s up to you to map your own way. One wrong turn and you’re done for! www.claremontzombierun.com
May 10, Pomona, Run or Dye LA, 5K
Prepare to dye! By the end of this run you will be sweating in colors. Dance through color stations lining the race where you will be shot with a rainbow of different dye. Afterwards stop by the Dye Festival, where you can throw your own pack of color into the air, splatter-ing everyone around you with even more brightness and fun. www.runordye.com
May 17, Calabasas, XTERRA Malibu Creek Trail Run, 6K, 22K
Join the adventures of the Malibu Adventure Games at Malibu Creek State Park. The trail runs are part of a series of challenges including mountain bike races and rock climbing. Conquer the infamous Bulldog trail while overlooking some of the best scenery in Malibu. But watch your footing, as trail runs aren’t for the newbie! www.malibuadventuregames.com
May 24, Temecula, Rock-N-Glow 5K, 5K
No need for a nightlight, this nighttime run will be bright enough. Runners covered in glow-in-the-dark loot run through a course lined with speakers blaring dance tunes. Once you’re done, dance the night away at the Glow Party, complete with local DJ’s, food and drink specials, and yes, glowing beach balls. www.rocknglow5k.com
May 26, Laguna Hills, Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon, Kids run, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon
With a run for every fitness level, this is a race the whole family will enjoy. The 16th annual event, whose partial proceeds benefit the Marine Corps Dark Horse Battalion, is a great and fun way to spend Memorial Day. Continue the patriotism by rounding the day out with a hamburger and good ol’ American Budweiser. www.lagunahillshalfmarathon.com
May 31, Camp Pendleton, World Famous Mud Run, 1K, 5K, 10K
See what you’re really made of by combating militaristic obstacles straight from the training grounds of real marines. Scale wooden barriers, crawl through tubes, climb planks, and of course, roll around to your heart’s desire in mud. Continue your soldierly training with your new comrades at the after party. And don’t even bother to change, the muddier you are, the more they like ya! www.worldfamousmudrun.com
*Note: The writer, a huge pizza fanatic, recently traveled to New York to participate in the New York Pizza Run where she sprinted two miles, demolished three gigantic New York slices of pizza in record time, and didn’t throw up. Needless to say, she didn’t eat pizza for a week. www.nycpizzarun.com