The Statewide Runner – Exploring What Florida Has to Offer by Foot
By Sheryl Rosen,
I haven’t lived in very many places in Florida, but I’ve traveled around our sunny peninsula enough to know Tallahassee is a runner’s paradise. With the St. Marks Trail to the Miccosukee Greenway to Phipps, the Tom Brown Park trails, and the FSU track, we have our choice of places in which to get in our regular workouts, long runs, or easy days.
But if we have it so good here, I wondered, are our counterparts around the state doomed to plod along on sidewalks breathing car exhaust, or do they just have fewer great places to run? I began by asking some of my fellow Gulf Wind’ers where they like to run within Florida but outside the Big Bend.
Not surprisingly, most of the handful of responses I received involved a beach – such as Ft. Lauderdale Beach (Judy Alexander), Crescent Beach (Tom Perkins), and Gulf Island National Seashore (Jeff Bryan) – or a road overlooking the beach – such as Miami’s Rickenbacker Causeway (Brian Corbin) or Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard (Lara Shaw). The shore, our state’s most obvious of assets beloved by hoteliers and sunbathers alike, is also obviously enjoyed by runners.
The rest of the responses I received either named a good race location, such as Lake Como (Jacque Myers) and downtown Jacksonville (Seeley Lovett), or a sentimental place like a college town (Tony Guillen: the UF campus where he began running and met his future wife).
Aside from these places, I still wondered where other runners around the state get in their miles. I turned to a book aptly titled Running in Florida by Mauricio Herreros of the Jacksonville area. The mid-sized book is a whirlwind tour of the state from Pensacola to Key West, including a listing of running clubs, popular annual races, and resources for each location.
While some of the races, courses, and online resources described are no longer correct due to changes since the book was published in 2003, it’s a handy manual worth considering for your next business trip or weekend away.
While reading about places like the Phillipi Estate Park in Sarasota and the Little Econ Greenway Trail in Orlando, I found that few areas have the many miles of trails we enjoy in Tallahassee, but most areas in Florida have at least a handful of parks, paths, and city routes to explore. Herreros describes each location or course in just enough detail without droning on. He gives helpful approximate lengths of the trails, turn by turn directions for metro loops, and even where to park and tips like whether you’d be prudent to bring insect repellent.
Herreros’ descriptions of annual local races add character to each area profiled. I even found some amusing race names like the Run with the Nuns in St. Petersburg. I don’t know if real nuns are involved, but the name alone makes me want to find out. Other gems include the Over the Hill and the Young & Restless Fall Fling 5K in Coconut Creek, Five-Mile Three-Island Run in Miami, and the I-Drive U-Run 5K in Kissimmee.
No matter the reason for running outside of the Big Bend, one thing is certain: We live in a beautiful state, and I can’t wait to explore some more.