The Miami Marathon returns to the Magic City this weekend for a remarkable 15th year. More than 25,000 spandex-clad participants will sprawl across the city, sprinting in troves up and down the Venetian and MacArthur Causeways while panting, aching, and utterly parched. Sounds fun, right?
Well, if you’re like most people who find a burst of inspiration after seeing these incredible athletes dash across Miami, you’ll need a few new running spots to begin your training for 2018’s marathon. Miami is home to a number of trails, paths, and runs where rookies and veterans alike can find their stride. Here are the top places to break in those new running shoes, according to experts Frankie Ruiz, cofounder of the Miami Marathon, and Eddie Suarez, assistant race director at Team Footworks.
1. Long Pine Key Trail, Everglades National Park
Traveling to Long Pine Key Trail in the Everglades can take a while, but it’s worth the journey. The connecting trails through the pinelands span seven miles, with paths carved through rocky forests from the campground to Pine Glades Lake. You’ll never believe you’re anywhere near the city. The quiet of the forest is disturbed only by the steady beat of running shoes on the unpaved road. Well, that and the buzzing of mosquitoes, so bring bug spray.
“This is my favorite destination run. It can take about an hour to get from downtown Miami, but the drive is worth every penny,” Ruiz says.
After passing through the entrance, you’ll stay on Old Ingraham Highway and follow the signs to Long Pine Key Campground, where you can park near the bathrooms and begin your run. The signs to the trail head are about a quarter-mile back toward the campground's entrance. For maps and information, visit nps.gov/ever.
2. Virginia Key Mountain Bike Trails
“For something completely different, try a trail run,” Suarez says. Trails located on the north end of Virginia Key are surrounded by stunning, diverse nature. Here, runners can challenge their stamina with uneven terrain.
“Trail running forces you to engage your brain while you run, making sure you manage the obstacles,” Suarez adds.
The trail is open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week. Head east on the Rickenbacker Causeway, and directly across from the parking lot for Miami Seaquarium, turn left into the Virginia Key Beach entrance. Drive up Arthur Lam Road, take the fork to the left, and there you’ll find the trails. For maps and information, visit miamigov.com/parks/mountainBikeTrail.html.
3. Venetian Causeway
To mirror the Miami Marathon experience, run along the Venetian Causeway, one of the stops on the marathon’s official route. To distract you from any exhaustion and keep you going, enjoy the 360-degree views from the bridges connecting the manmade islands. It makes the mileage fly by.
“The sights of the multimillion-dollar homes and the yachts driving by can certainly help the mind wander,” Ruiz says. “Be careful, though, because these sidewalks and bike lanes do get crowded at times due to their narrowness.”
The best-kept secret: Ruiz recommends taking a side route on De Lido Island (the largest of the island chain along the causeway) to see some of the most amazing and expensive homes along the water.
4. Tropical Park Track & Field Stadium and Hill
“This is the Central Park of the burbs,” Ruiz says. Tropical Park is the best place to get in your running on some cushiony grass while adding hill training, which in this city is a treat. The track-and-field complex has lights and, Ruiz notes, is the best Miami-Dade County public running facility. Go fast and cross the finish line like a bona fide Usain Bolt, or take it easy and jog.
Before you go, check the track schedule; the facility is occasionally closed for high-school football games. Visit miamidade.gov/parks/tropical.asp.
5. Tamiami Trail Levees
Ruiz heads here to get lost in the seemingly endless Everglades. Situated atop the levee, the gravel road is the best spot to decompress, get away from the city’s distractions, and lose your cares to running. It's an empty route, Ruiz says, "except for the occasional bird or even deer crossing your path."
The ground is fairly uneven, making for a challenging course, but you can set your individual pace on a scenic path. Park along the canal road, and you can run north for miles on end. Just keep in mind that bathrooms and water fountains are not one with nature, so be sure to clear the tank and bring some H2O.
6. The Underline
The area beneath Metrorail has long been a running hot spot for locals, but with the Underline's recent developments in transforming the space into a ten-mile linear park and urban trail, more runners than ever are excited to mark the enhanced territory with their footprints. Stretching from Brickell south along South Dixie Highway, the Underline is a good place for marathon trainers to get their mileage in. The trail sits almost entirely below the Metrorail tracks, offering a shady escape from the often blistering heat.
One unusual benefit, Suarez says: “Running it anytime during rush hour is fun because you get to race the drivers sitting in traffic and win.”
If you’re not ready to run all the way down and back, it’s easy to retreat to an air-conditioned Metrorail ride for just a few dollars. Or if you’re as ambitious as Frankie Ruiz, you can get some extra training onboard.
“Do a few stretches and some pushups in the comfort of the air-conditioned train," Ruiz says, "as the ride back will take you about 20 minutes." Sure, Frankie. We'll get right on that.
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