Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tour Tampa Bay's top 5K training trails

Here we are in November again. The temperatures are dropping, leaving your well-worn excuse of it being "too hot" to run moot.

Local race directors pack November through March with distance races nearly every weekend around Tampa Bay. Those planning to train for the big boys, the St. Pete Beach Classic and Gasparilla, had better lace up their sneaks this week if they hope to record personal bests.

Having the will to run (and a good pair of shoes) is only half the battle, though. Urbanites flinch at the thought of running on city streets, lest they end up on the evening news. Fortunately, this area offers plenty of low-traffic routes that are perfect for low-risk 5K training. There are dozens of routes, but some are very popular with good reason.

As with all street trails, safety first. Wear brightly colored clothing, carry water if you'll need it and always run counter to traffic (so you can see oncoming vehicles and they can see you.)

All of these routes have parking nearby and a couple are close to convenience stores in case you need to make a pit stop.

Vinoy Park

This 5K has been run thousands of times by official racers and weekend trainers alike. Most like the convenience of being able to park in the lots between Barwood Park and Vinoy Park. Once you're there, walk down Fifth Ave. N and start running east. You'll make your first left onto Bayshore Drive headed south and follow that road as it curves past the Mahaffey Theater and the Dalí Museum.

Follow the loop around the Dalí, and turn northward onto First Street SE. Make a right at First Avenue S and then a quick left onto Beach Drive NE and continue north. Make a right at 13th Avenue NE and another one block later at N Shore Drive NE. Follow the route back down to Barwood Park and strut back to your car after finishing your third mile.

Pinellas Trail

This run may not offer a lot in the way of scenic beauty, but it totally compensates for that with its ease of use and no-frills route. Park at the Pinellas Trail near Ulmerton Road (halfway between 113th and 119th streets). Start running south, crossing Walsingham Road. Turn around and head back when you reach the alleyway to your left that connects to 110th Avenue N. Run back to your car and stop for a victory smoothie on the way home.

Davis Islands

Find street parking on E Davis Boulevard in front of any of the businesses. Start running south and turn right when you reach S Davis Boulevard. Follow S Davis around the outskirts of the Peter O. Knight Airport and then turn right onto W Davis Boulevard. Run north past the stately homes until you reach E Davis Boulevard and turn right. Run back to your car and then grab some lunch to go from any of the restaurants in a four-block radius.

Temple Terrace

Tree-lined streets, low speed limits and underpasses at major streets make this community designed around a golf course an ideal running path. Park on the street near Temple Terrace Community Church and take off running down Riverhills Drive. The road will turn left. Make a left onto to Druid Hills Road and head west. Make your next left onto Bonnie Brae Boulevard headed south. At the second intersection, turn left at Forest Park Avenue. Make your first right at Inverness Avenue and follow the road south back to your car.

Once you've got your training underway, start looking for your first race. A fairly comprehensive calendar of upcoming events can be found at runtampa.com under the "Calendar" tab.

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