Lisa had to head down to LA for 6 days. Since my work is portable I decided I should leave the (not as cold as I would expect) Toronto winter for some running under the Los Angeles sun. While Lisa was cooped up working for most of the time I got a chance to run all over the city. I ran around Beverly Hills, Franklin Canyon, Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon, Santa Monica, and Redondo/Hermosa Beach. Below I’ve written about what I thought of each from best to worst.
We stayed in Redondo Beach on Saturday night. Lisa and I got up to run Sunday morning. I didn’t know much about the area, or what to expect, but it turned out to be great. From what I’ve heard rain is a rarity in these parts. Well, we must have been lucky, because it was wet and windy. Despite these less than ideal conditions it was still my favourite place to run. The beachside path seemed to span forever. There were a number of other runners out getting in their Sunday run too. Even on a sunny day I don’t think the path would be crowded. For most of the run it’s residential to the east and beach to the west as you run north/south along the path. The path is easy to follow, and most of it is straight and spacious enough to do some repeats. If I was in the LA area this is where I would want to come to run.
- Beautiful oceanside route
- Easy to follow
- Other runners on route
- Quite long, you can continue up to LAX along the beachside path
- Lots of bathrooms
- Flat route, no good if you want hills
It was pouring when we ran so I don’t have any photos from the run, but here’s a sunset picture from Redondo Beach
I tried to find information on Franklin Canyon before I left, but found almost nothing. If it wasn’t for the fact that this seemed like the closest spot to our hotel for uninterrupted running (no lights/stop signs), I likely wouldn’t have given it a second look. But it was, and so this is where I ran a couple times. There is a long run up through some very quite residential streets before you really get to the canyon. This route is a big hill. You go up most of the time until you reach the top, and then you’re running down to get home. Some sections are very steep, and burn the legs going up, and smash the quads coming down. The footing is good, most of the route is on pavement. There are a number of trails you can run, and I tried one, but I learned from this trip that I’m not a trail runner. Maybe it’s just that I lack the technical skills, but I found I had to run a lot slower on the trails, plus they just seemed like a great way to twist your ankle.
- Great hilly run
- Good surface, I didn’t have problems with slipping
- Trails, if you’re into that
- Quite route
- No good if you don’t want hills
- You can’t always trust Google Maps (common in LA), some of the roads are gated communities so you can’t get through. I found this route especially bad for this
- I ran this canyon 3 times and I only saw 1 other runner, and maybe 15 walkers/hikers, so if you like seeing people this isn’t for you
Santa Monica was a run I was really looking forward to. I love to run along the coast, I really enjoy watching the waves crash in as I go. Usually these routes attract a number of other runners, and Santa Monica was no different. We must have passed 200 people in LA Road Runner tshirts, maybe more. They were spread out in different pace groups. I love that they had some many people out running, but I didn’t think it was so great that some of their groups were so large that they took up the entire path. Santa Monica was about what I expected. This was the first run Lisa could join me on, we did an easy 12k. Early in the morning we had no trouble finding parking. I figured there would be a certain element of homelessness to these parts, but I wasn’t expecting as many ‘spaced out‘ people. We came across a handful of stumbling individuals who were in their own world, weaving all over the path. We didn’t see anyone who was confrontational, but I would still consider this a strike against running in this area. As we were finishing out run, just after 10AM on a Saturday, it was starting to get busy on the path. I wouldn’t run here if you weren’t going to be done by about 10:30ish because the path would be too congested with beach-goers, walkers, etc.
- Really pretty route
- Lots of other runners (at times too many, when a group of 60 LARR take up the whole path)
- Lots of bathrooms and water fountains
- Easy to follow
- Gets very busy, especially on the weekends (after 10AM on the weekends I wouldn’t even try to run here)
- Some parts feel a little seedy
- A number of people on the path in their own world, weaving all over the place, which creates a hazard
- Completely flat, if you want hills
Santa Monica Path
Post run on the pier
Griffith Park seems to be an iconic place for people in LA to workout. When Lisa and I road-tripped up to LA from San Diego last year we saw the sunset in Griffith Park and noticed a lot of active people around. I saw some people running up to a peak in Griffith Park, so I knew when I was coming to LA that I wanted to run up there. I came to Griffith Park on a weekday morning, and it was buzzing with people. Not overcrowded, but lots of people around. Some people hiking, others just taking pictures of the Hollywood sign, and a few running. I thought about running on the road up to the Observatory, and then taking a path to the top, but ultimately decided to take paths all the way to the top. As I’ve mentioned above, I’m not a trail runner. I likely had the wrong shoes for the path because in sections it was steep and I found I had to run very gingerly. There was a fine sand on top of the hard rock/stone trail, which was slippery at times. The path was so steep in some sections that it was more like stair climbing than running. The views are great from the top, and it’s a good spot to get in a workout; certain sections of Griffith Park would be great for hill repeats. But this isn’t really a place you can watch your pace as you run.
- Beautiful park
- Easy to find your way (the Observatory and Hollywood sign are landmarks you can see from a good chunk of where I was running to get your bearings)
- Other active people around to get you motivated to move
- Some parts are crowded
- Parts of the trail don’t have the best footing for normal running shoes
- Steep sections make it difficult to feel like you’re getting a good run in (slow going up and down)
A look down at the Observatory
I was really excited to run Runyon Canyon, but it ultimately turned out to be a bit of a let down. This could be partly my fault, and not knowing the route, but on my way down it was so steep that I was walking a good portion of it. There was even a steep staircase for a section of it. If I was to do it again, then the route that I took up I would also take down. Unfortunately, this means that only a very limited section of the canyon is actually runable.
- If you follow the route I took to the top you can get in a solid, long hill repeat
- Everyone in the park seemed to be moving, unlike Griffith Park who get a lot more people standing on the paths/trails taking pictures
- Some sections too steep to run down, with poor footing
- To get in a good run of over 5k you’d have to do laps or repeats
- Trails seemed very poorly marked to find my way to the top (again, it would be fair to put this on me)
Runyon Canyon from the top
You can see people coming down the steep bit
I don’t think Beverly Hills is necessarily known for it’s running, so I didn’t have high expectations of it, and it didn’t really deliver anything special. I think Franklin Canyon is technically in Beverly Hills, but we wont count it because it got it’s own section above. There aren’t weren’t really any parks around the area. This meant that any running was through either residential areas, or commercial streets. I will say when I was running for a couple km’s along Wilshire Blvd I seemed to hit a lot of consecutive green lights, which made running here a little better, but it’s not somewhere I’d choose to run unless it was my only option. The curbs are very high and as the km’s build you start to feel stepping off and back onto them in your run.
- If you want to see what Beverly Hills is about then running can be a good way to see it, I didn’t run into any problems with motorists or pedestrians
- All the running is in residential/commercial area, no uninterrupted stretches that I found
- Running up and down the high curbs can take a toll on your quads
LA Running Notes
- Transit in LA is brutal. I considered taking transit to some other far out places to run, like the Rose Bowl, but the public transit options were lousy. Even to get to Griffith Park from Beverly Hills took over an hour
- With that said, it does seem like Pasadena has some great running routes, and miles of running paths around the Rose Bowl
- Nike offers free group runs/workouts in LA, which could be worthwhile if you’re uneasy running on your own (LA Road Runners would also likely be a good bet, but that’s just a guess)
- When I was running in Beverly Hills a lot of drivers seemed distracted, and they rolled through stop signs, so make sure you’re aware and alert when you run
This isn’t an extensive list of everywhere to run in the LA area, and it’s not even a comprehensive guide to the 6 places I listed. This is my biased opinion of these spots based on my experience running them (many of them I only ran once). I typically run on paved, or hard-packed and relatively level paths. If you enjoy the steep, twisting undulations that trails can offer I’d disregard my opinion.