I’m excited to join Coach Eric this year as a co-coach and wanted to write my first blog post about something that you’re going to hear me harping about a lot this year—the importance of getting those weekly long runs and midweek runs in! Below I’ve tried to explain briefly why these runs are important—and why they are a staple for every successful distance runner. I've also listed a number of places in the area that I think are good places to run. This year, we’re going to have some optional, informal group meetups as well for those who would like to do their long runs in a group. Stay tuned for that.
The long run is a huge difference maker for distance runners—I can’t emphasize enough how much difference (in a good way) it will make if you get these runs in on a regular basis. These runs don’t need to be fast and please don’t go longer than prescribed. For most kids the long run will be 3-6 miles depending on age and experience. But the key is to do these runs consistently, week after week. When done consistently, the benefit is huge. Running will feel easier, you will be able to run and race faster, and you will be less likely to get injured when you do run fast (i.e., at practice or at a race). This all adds up to significant improvement over time and it simply makes running and racing more fun. Without delving too much into the science, long runs (and easy runs) build your cardiovascular system and strengthen the connective tissue in your legs and feet, both very good things for distance runners.
While I see on Strava that some people like to do these runs on a treadmill (which is totally fine and works great) I think it can be more enjoyable to get out and run outside, especially in a group. So below are a few places that I think would work well for that. This list is by no means exhaustive. Running on a soft surface like dirt or compacted gravel is preferable to running on the road or sidewalk, as it is easier on the legs. Most of the suggested routes have non-pavement options. Also, for most of the suggestions I’ve linked a Strava segment nearby, which will show the area on the map when you click on it (and in most cases, will have at least part of the recommended run route highlighted). Also, sign up for Strava if you haven’t! More on this later :).
In West Sacramento, there are a number of good spots to run. The levee near the boathouse where we do intervals is great and stretches for miles in either direction. You can also loop the lake or the swamp where we often do intervals. For newer runners not familiar with the area, here’s a Strava link: https://www.strava.com/segments/3963783.
You could also start your run over near Lock Hills (near the intersection of Locks Dr and Village Pkwy) and combine some loops through the Lock hills to get some hilly running in (a good thing on long runs) and then add mileage on the Clarksburg branch line trail, which is adjacent. Here’s a link to the segment. https://www.strava.com/segments/7205003
Another area that I personally run a lot in West Sacramento is the loop around the Barn over near the I Street bridge into Sacramento. It’s about 2km around the loop if you make a loop out of the riverfront trail and riverfront st. You can also add on to the loop and go around the baseball stadium too if you’d like. Here’s a map of one of the strava segments in the area: https://www.strava.com/segments/14277025
In Davis, there is an awesome green belt in North Davis that loops around Covell Park and Northstar park. Here is the Strava segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/5421434. There is also an overpass that goes south from the path into Community park where you can extend the loop if you’d like. Other safe, car-free options include running around the Cannery development (1.3 miles around) and you can easily link that with the Covell greenbelt loop to make it a 3.3 mile run. https://www.strava.com/segments/14489883. Another good option is Mace Ranch Park and there is easy parking in the Explorit Center lot nearby. https://www.strava.com/segments/10975675.
In Mace Ranch Park, there is a small loop in the park, but you can also run on the Greenbelt to the north, which will take you into the Wildhorse golf course development and you can easily make a 3-4 mile run entirely on the greenbelt without any interference from cars. The UC Davis Arboretum is also nice: https://www.strava.com/segments/10489218
There are many good places to run in Sacramento.
First are loops around the bigger city parks—Land park, Curtis Park, and Mckinley Park. For Land Park, if you do a loop on the decomposed granite path that goes around the golf course it is almost exactly two miles. There is easy free parking on the street or at fairy tale town. Here’s the Strava segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/2366909
You can also make the loop a full three miles by going all the way around the park. Much of that is still on the nice DG path. Here’s that Strava segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/8223408
Curtis park is just over one mile around also on a nice DG path, with good shade. Here’s the Strava segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/1534242
Mckinley Park is almost exactly one mile all the way around, again on a shaded DG path. https://www.strava.com/segments/1110674
And second is the American River Parkway. This is great place to run and an amazing outdoor recreation resource for the area, but it is better if you are in groups with an adult present. Also, if you run on the Parkway, everyone needs to take care to stay to the left side of the bike path while running and be careful to avoid bikes, especially on weekend mornings when it is crowded. In some areas there is a levee area above the bike path that has less bike traffic. There are also horse trails adjacent to the bike path that are good for running. I would also strongly recommend the area of the bike path east of Sacramento State, as opposed to west of it. It is safer and nicer. Easy parking and parkway access can be found at many places, but a couple favorites of mine are Oak Meadow Park, the Guy West Bridge, or Rio Americano High School. These are all off of American River Drive in the area of hwy 50 and Watt. Here’s a Strava segment in that area: https://www.strava.com/segments/1110674
The levee path in River Park (just downstream from the Guy West Bridge and Sac State) is also great, but unfortunately much of it is under construction at the moment.
Here are a couple great options that are a little further out that have some good hills.
Willow Hills/Folsom High School. We have several races here and it makes for a good safe contained place to get a long run if you’re willing to drive to Folsom. There are many loops within the park of varying distances and lots of hills, and all of the running is on dirt paths or grass. Here’s a strava segment that shows the area: https://www.strava.com/segments/30390293
Johnson-Springview Park Rocklin: This is another place with lots of great areas to run, and I personally run here a lot. There are flat sections, rolling sections, grass, dirt, and steep hills for repeats. It has it all. Here’s a strava segment: https://www.strava.com/segments/6017533 I’ll make sure to post on the chat if we have an optional meet up here.
Sunrise river parkway access in Gold River. This is a great place to access the parkway and get some good hilly running in. Again, groups and an adult present would be preferable here. There is easy parking at the Starbucks at 2095 Golden Centre Ln in Gold River and the bike path is next to the parking lot. The Nimbus Fish hatchery just upriver is also a great place to park and run from. Feel free to reach out if you’d like specific suggestions on where to run in these areas, as there are many different routes.
Sly Park/Jenkinson Lake. This is going to be the site of a meetup in September and there are lots of different run options, including a really cool trail over to a nice waterfall.
For the older, more experienced runners doing 6 mile long runs, the Johnny Cash loop in Folsom is tough but a great run. It’s a 6 mile loop with a big hill all on bike path/decomposed granite. https://www.strava.com/segments/16319924
I hope this helps and I’m looking forward to cross country practice starting up in a few weeks! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
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