Spring is the perfect time to start running in the Sacramento region.
The weather is ideal – not so hot that you’ll sweat the minute you step outside, not so cold that you need to bundle up. The race calendar is stuffed full, providing ample opportunities to register for an event as motivation or sign up with friends to finish a 5K together. And starting now gives you enough time to build up to bigger races in the fall, whether it be 5Ks and 10Ks in Land Park, the Urban Cow Half Marathon or even the California International Marathon.
But even in ideal conditions, it’s never harder to get back into running than the first day you set foot out the door.
Before you start, there are standard things to consider. Check with your physician to make sure you’re ready to go. Find a good pair of shoes; if you don’t know what type of shoe is ideal for you, head to a good local running shoe store to get a professional recommendation.
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You may see runners with a load of gear attached to them. Backpacks, fuel belts, phone holster, headphones, technical clothing and more. But at its heart, running remains one of the simplest sports around, with little equipment or coordination needed. When you start, choose simplicity. You’ll know soon enough what creature comforts you may need.
One mistake runners make is wearing too many layers, especially on cooler days. Recognize that your body temperature will rise as you start your run, and it’s often better to err on the side of too few layers than too many.
I’ve found that running is easiest when it becomes habitual. Like any other habit, it requires commitment on the front end. There will be days when you’re perfectly healthy but find any number of excuses to avoid it. Those are the days it pays most to get out the door.
One mental trick that works for me: I tell myself I’ll run just a mile before deciding whether to throw in the towel. I almost always finish the workout.
To help get you started, we offer the following recommendations on tried and true running paths in the area. None involve mapping a route on roads, and they are generally free of motorized traffic.
Some of the suggestions involve the American River Parkway and Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, which is an urban runner’s paradise. You can travel from downtown Sacramento to Folsom Lake on a protected path with dirt shoulders, and many spots have side trails off the main bike path. The parkway affords so many great running options that a $50 annual parks pass would be a worthwhile investment and can be found at county parks offices, REI and the American River Parkway Foundation.
William Land Park
Jump on the decomposed granite trail that travels along the edge of the city’s largest park. A popular starting spot is Doc Oliver Field, across from the bathrooms and playground. A full trip around is about 5 kilometers.
Address: 1500 11th Avenue, Sacramento (Doc Oliver Field)
Positives: Decent shade, close to downtown, bathrooms and water fountains available.
Caution: Parking restrictions are enforced in different parts of the park, so be sure to read the signs.
Extra mileage: Head up Sutterville Boulevard on the paved path, cross Interstate 5 and run along the Sacramento River levee.
William B. Pond Recreation Area
Situated at roughly the midpoint of the American River Parkway, William B. Pond is a popular choice for runners and organized running groups. On weekend mornings in the spring and fall, parking lots fill as training groups convene in preparation for a goal race. It’s also where Eppie’s Great Race kicks off each July, and the starting line is denoted by a plaque honoring the event.
Directions: Turn south on Arden Way off of Fair Oaks Boulevard and follow Arden Way into the park.
Positives: Well-maintained and packed with cyclists, runners, anglers and other recreationists. Bathrooms and drinking fountains available.
Caution: This is one of the most popular sections of trail so beware of heavy traffic on weekend mornings.
Extra mileage: Virtually unlimited. Tack on a few miles in either direction if you wish.
Most of the park’s acreage is used for soccer fields. But just beyond the grassy expanse, a small parking lot with bathrooms and fitness stations is a handy starting spot for runners. From there, a trail heads down about a mile to the Sunrise recreation area, where a footbridge connects to the American River Parkway trail.
Address: 3820 Bannister Road, Fair Oaks
Positives: Free parking, excellent shade on trail down to the river.
Caution: You have to go down a short, but steep, hill to start the trail – and back up it when you finish.
Extra mileage: If you dare, head up Pennsylvania Avenue for a challenging incline long used by area runners and cyclists for hill repeats.
As many locals know, the lake is a portion of the American River between Nimbus Dam and Folsom Dam. A paved trail with dirt shoulders allows runners to loop around the lake in a roughly 11-mile route. But new runners do not have to complete the loop to have an enjoyable experience. A common starting point is the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, where the parking lot is full on weekends as cyclists and runners pile out of cars and onto the trail. A less congested trailhead is at the Nimbus Flat Day Use Area east of Hazel Avenue, but visitors are required to pay a state park entrance fee. Those trying to run on the north side of Lake Natoma will have to head up – and we do mean uphill – across the Hazel Avenue bridge.
Address: 1901 Hazel Avenue, Gold River
Positives: Shade, lake views, separate dirt trails off the main path.
Caution: Parking can be difficult on weekends. Beware of parking rules if using the fish hatchery; the lot closes at 3 p.m.
Extra mileage: Head down the American River Parkway by jumping on the trail just outside the hatchery.
UC Davis Arboretum
You could probably tell, but we don’t much like running on roads with cars. Davis has a wonderful greenbelt, but for sheer plant watching and an escape from urban daily life, the UC Davis Arboretum along Putah Creek is a great choice. The arboretum says the main path is a 3.5-mile loop.
Address: 448 La Rue Road, Davis (this is the arboretum headquarters, but you can pick up the trail almost anywhere nearby).
Positives: Shade, quiet, creek views, variety of plants keeps you entertained.
Caution: Be sure to check parking rules. The campus website says parking in unrestricted spaces is free on Saturday and Sunday, except during special events.
Extra mileage: Run through campus – but watch out for bikes!
Kevin Yamamura is a Bee assistant city editor and a runner training for the Boston Marathon in April. Call him at (916) 326-5548 or follow him on Twitter @kyamamura.
RUNNING PROGRAMS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED
Several running programs in the Sacramento region are specifically geared to help new or returning runners meet their goals. Contact the groups for more information.
SacFit (Friends in Training)
Phone: (916) 722-3481
Fleet Feet Sacramento
Phone: (916) 442-3690 x3
Runnin’ for Rhett
Phone: (916) 691-2311
Fleet Feet Fair Oaks/Roseville
Phone: (916) 965-8326
UPCOMING LOCAL RACES
SacTown Ten-Mile Run
What: 10- and 5-mile race; 1-mile walk/race for children. Awards for top finishers.
Date: April 12
Where: Capitol Mall & 8th Street, Sacramento
More info: http://sactown10.org/
What: 5K, 12K and half marathon. Free kids 1/4- and 1-mile race. Food and beverages provided to particpants after races.
Date: April 12
Where: Johnson Springview Park, 5480 5th St., Rocklin
More info: www.runrocklin.com
What: 5K walk/run and 10K run. Kid races for various age groups. Prizes for top finishers, and free entrance to zoo for particpants after race.
Date: April 19
Where: 15th Avenue and Land Park Drive, side of Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento
More info: www.sacramentozoozoom.com
Capital City Classic
What: 5K, 10K and 10-mile run. Free 1/2-mile run for children 13 and under. Post-race refreshments, music, vendor booths and kid’s area.
Date: April 26
Where: Crocker Park, near corner of 3rd and O streets, Sacramento
Race for the Stars
What: 5K run, and 1/4- and 1/2-mile fun runs for children. Awards for top finishers in various age groups.
Date: April 26
Where: Start at track at Rio Americano High School, 4540 American River Drive, Sacramento
More info: www.raceforthestars.com
Parkway 5K/Half Marathon
What: The American River Parkway Half Marathon offer one course for runners, and another just for walkers; both with aid/water stations each mile of the couse. Mariachi band at finsih, along with food for race participants.
Date: May 2
Where: William Pond Park, Sacramento
More info: www.parkwayhalf.com
Fair Oaks Sun Run
What: 5-mile run/walk, 3-mile egg chase and hunt for prizes, and 1/4-mile and 1/2-mile fun runs for kids. Awards, refreshments, music and festival after race.
Date: May 3
Where: Fair Oaks Community Clubhouse in the Old Fair Oaks Village, 7997 California Ave. Fair Oaks
More info: www.fairoaksfiestarun.com
Komen Race for the Cure
What: Susan G. Kormen Race for the Cure is series of races/funderraisers nationwide to fight breast cancer. 5K and 10K walk/run, as well as 1-mile walk.
Date: May 9
Where: Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento
More info: http://komensacramento.org
Love My Mom 5K
What: 5K run/walk, with post-race festival with refreshments, music and vendor booths.
Date: May 9
Where: Race starts and finishes in parking lot by Whole Foods in the Palladio Center, 270 Palladio Parkway, Folsom.
Folsom’s Run With Nature
What: 5K and 10K run, 5K walk, 1/2-mile kids run. Awards for top finishers various categories in runs. Post-race festival and resfreshments.
Date: May 16
Where: Folsom City Lions Park, 411 Stafford St., Folsom
More info: www.folsomrunwithnature.com
Girls on the Run
What: 5K race with street closures.
Date: May 16
Where: Inderkum High School, 2500 New Market Dr., Sacramento
More info: www.gotrsac.org
Wounded Veteran Run
What: 3K, 5K and 10K run walk, as well as kids fun run. Refreshments and vendor booths.
Date: May 25
More info: http://woundedveteranrun.org
Buzz Oates No Excuses 5K
What: 5K run and kids run.
Date: May 31
Where: William Land Park Village Green (corner of Freeport Boulevard and Sutterville Road)
More info: www.noexcuses5k.com