Sunday, 1 March 2015

Milan Naviglio Grande Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5 km (3.2 miles), terrain: flat

Milano running routes:
Milan Centro Storico old town loop
Milan Navigli canal route 

Milan Navigli Grande
For more running routes see the route list

I already wrote up a route taking you from the city center (Duomo) to the old harbor neighborhood called the Navigli. Here's an extension that takes you further out Naviglio Grande, the main canal linking Milan to the outside world.

The Navigli neighborhood has come into its own, as the coolest area for nightlife in town, and more hotels have opened up there. So if you're staying in the area, here's a simple route following the canal westwards.
Naviglio Grande in the early evening
The Naviglio Grande canal is more than 700 years old, connecting Milan with the Ticino river, 50 kilometers away. It's used for both irrigation and transport, but the last commercial barges to use the canal stopped running in 1979.
Courtyard along the Naviglio
But there is a movement afoot to reanimate the canal and the nearby Darsena harbor, and the city has been renovating the Darsena docks and Naviglio Grande around Porta Ticinese. Leonardo da Vinci invented the technique to flood- and clear the boat locks.

The Naviglio Grande Route
This route overlaps a bit of the Navigli route, starting at Darsena harbor at the beginning of the canal. Another canal, Naviglio Pavese, exits Darsena to the south.
Start of the run. Run along the right side.
Roads line each side of Naviglio Grande as it heads westwards. But the street lining the north side of the canal, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, is the quietest, with much less traffic. The south side road (Ripa di Porta Ticinese) is used by buses and lots of cars, so let's just run out-and-back along the north edge.

Standing there, with the harbor basin of Darsena behind you, and Alzaia Naviglio Grande stretching westwards next to the canal, start running.

The first 700-meter section of the canal is the most scenic, lined by the restaurants and bars that give the Navigli neighborhood its reputation for lively waterside evenings.

You'll run past two little foot-bridges that cross the canal. Then you'll come to a car-and-tram bridge at the 700-meter mark. There is a pedestrian path that goes under the bridge, but that was closed when I ran it last week due to the reconstruction of the canal's side-walls. In fact, the whole next kilometer of the canal was a construction site, with barriers narrowing the street for quite a while.

NOTE: The canal has been emptied of water during the reconstruction!
The canal, missing its water!
After the car bridge, Alzaia Naviglio Grande becomes a popular bicycle trail (but, as I mentioned the first 300 meters are very narrow at the moment.

The neighborhood becomes more industrial here. At about 1.4 kilometers, you'll come to a modern car bridge which passes overhead, followed by a steel railroad bridge. The first of several rowing clubs is located just before the railroad bridge.
Trail narrows along the construction
After the railroad bridge, you'll run past a scenic old church, St. Cristoforo sul Naviglio.

You'll probably notice a lot more runners around this area: it's a fairly popular running trail, due to the athletes from the rowing clubs located just ahead. On nice evenings, (and when there is water in the canal!) you'll pass club boats along the canal.
St. Christoforo during an evening run
In just a couple of blocks, you'll pass the Club Canottieri Olona, then a few blocks later the much bigger Canottieri Milano. This last club owns the whole section of the canal-front until our turn-around spot at the next bridge. Besides rowing, they offer a variety of sports in their various gyms.

You'll see another big freeway overpass ahead of you, with a couple of high-rise buildings to the left, at the 2.5-km mark. This is our turn-around spot. This is where we head back to the harbor. (Of course, there is nothing stopping you from continuing westwards along the same trail. Later, you'll come to some canal-side parkland, at Parco Pozzi, and there are even fields across the canal.)

Friday, 20 February 2015

Sydney Centennial Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.4 km (2.7 miles), terrain: fairly flat, 40-meter gain

Pictures courtesy of Google Maps StreetView. Thanks! 

Sydney Running Routes:
Central Businesss District (CBD)  
Harbour north shore  
South Head and Watsons Bay  

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Run
Manly Beach Run
Centennial Park Run 

If you look at a map of Sydney, you can't help noticing the big, green splotch four kilometers southeast of the Central Business District (CBD). For anyone looking for some extensive nature for a good run, Centennial Park looks very tempting. And indeed, it is a great spot for a run.

It opened as a park in 1888. And it even has some historic significance, as the site of the founding ceremony of the Australian Federation, back in 1901.
Vernon Pavilion
Vernon Pavilion in Centennial Park
Centennial Park is fairly huge, almost 200 hectares in size, and if you're staying in one of the many hotels in Paddington, it's right next door.

And even if you're not already in Paddington, it's easy to get there. Just take one of the buses that head out to Oxford Street from the CBD (for example, use the bus stops at the south end of Hyde Park to catch lines 352, 378, 380 or M40).
Along Parkes Drive
Centennial Park is actually part of an even bigger park landscape. It is flanked by Moore Park to the west and Queens Park to the east, and they can be added-on to provide a much bigger running route, if you prefer.

Queens Park, to the east, is basically a big lawn full of athletic fields. Moore Park, to the west, doesn't look or feel much like a park, though. It's a strange collection of stadiums, concert halls, a cinema, office buildings, sports fields and a big golf course.

So we'll concentrate on Centennial Park itself. It has the feel of a vast lawn, punctuated by trees and ponds. Some areas are carefully landscaped, others look fairly unplanned. It's not as beautiful as Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, but is much bigger, with lots of space to explore.

Centennial Park can be divided into several areas: along the north edge, next to Oxford Street, are some fenced-off underground reservoirs, partially covered by athletic fields above. Then, south of them, come the rolling, open lawns and thickets in the center of the park. And south of them are the ponds of the Lachlan Swamp, once Sydney's main source of drinking water.

There are also lots of athletic fields in the park, for all sports imaginable. That's one thing that I love about Australia: the people are interested in about every sport there is, and they have no qualms about trying/watching any new ones that come along. You'll find yourself running by people playing soccer, rugby, cricket, tennis, field-hockey, lacrosse, softball, Aussie-rules football, basketball, horse-riding, biking, roller-blading, hiking, you name it.

And, of course, a lot of people will be just relaxing in their green oasis, barbequing, bird-watching, having weddings, eating at the cafés and generally having a great time hanging around.

One word of warning, though: the park isn't open around-the-clock. The park gates are generally open between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. But check this link for more detailed opening times: http://www.centennialparklands.com.au/plan_your_visit/gate_opening_times

The main -- and very simple -- route through Centennial Park is a loop around Grand Drive. This 3.5-km loop within the park has parallel paths for bikes, cars, runners and horses (a dirt bridal path). It's fairly quiet, staying away from the bigger streets along the park boundaries. There is an unmarked dirt trail just inside the white fence bordering the bridal trail, which is used by most runners.

The Centennial Park Route
This route will circle the park counter-clockwise, following Grand Drive in the north part of the park, and following the lake-shores in the south. This adds some waterside scenery and avoids the louder southern edge of the park.
Paddington Gates
Paddington Gates on Oxford Street
So, start at Oxford Street, heading south through the red sandstone Paddington Gates and onto Parkes Drive. Keep along the right side of the street, keeping to the right as the street branches twice. You're going downhill a bit.

The street crosses Grand Drive at the 0.5-km mark, at the Dining Area restaurant and park offices.

We'll now follow Grand Drive for a while. Notice the wide, ripped-up dirt bridal (horse) path with the white fence just inside Grand Drive. Run to the other side of the white fence and turn right onto the smaller dirt running path.
The running path where you join Grand Drive
Now just follow the fence as it curves southwards. You'll cross a little road, Dickens Drive, and continue towards the first pond, Busbys Pond.

The trail comes to the western tip of the pond just after the 1-km mark. Turn left to follow the palm-lined footpath along the pond's southern shore, going past a sports field and Fairlands Pavilion. Busbys Pond is the biggest lake in the park, with a few islands and birdlife, if you look around a bit.
Busbys Pond
Busbys Pond
When you reach the eastern tip of the pond, turn left before the next pond (Randwick) begins and run the few steps to the little stone picnic shelter called Vernon Pavilion.

You'll find yourself facing Parkes Drive again. Just cross the street and continue running eastwards, along the north shore of the Duck Pond, with its nature trail.
Crossing to the Duck Pond
At the far (eastern) end of the Duck Pond, turn right (south) to follow the shore. Continue until you get back to the white fence at the bridal path along Grand Drive again, at the 2.2-km mark.

Now turn left and continue following the fence and bridal path.
Grand Drive with Federation Pavilion
At about the 3.2-km mark, you'll see a small, round stone pavilion across the street on the lawn. This is the Federation Pavilion, the place where the British Australian colonies officially joined to become one country in 1901.

At the 3.8-km mark you'll come back to the Dining Area, where you turn right and head uphill along Parkes Drive back to the finish at Oxford Street.
The Dining Area, where you re-join Parkes Drive

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Best Copenhagen Running Routes and Trails

Top 4 Copenhagen Routes

copenhagen citadel
At the citadel
Copenhagen is a city with lots of character. Its skyline is punctuated by quirky spiraling towers. It lies along a sprawling waterfront, full of ancient-till-modern buildings, ships, warehouses, cranes, ferries and lots of maritime flair. It has palaces, parks, and a citadel reflecting its royal heritage. The streets are absolutely bursting with bicycles, making it one of the most bicycle-friendly places on earth. And it has a variety of lively neighborhoods, like the university area with its cafés, clubs and restaurants, the down-to-earth Vesterbro area around the train station, and the organized anarchy of Christiania, with its strange mix of house-occupying homesteaders and society-drop-outs. There are even suburbs on the north-side that have real beach-town atmosphere.

That provides a lot of variety for some great running. And if you come to Copenhagen, you should definitely bring your running gear.
Nyhavn
Nyhavn is lined with restaurants
The following routes will take you through some of the most interesting and scenic spots in town. Enjoy your time in Copenhagen.

The Best Copenhagen Routes
Old Town: This is the classic route to discover the main sights in the old town. It will take you from the city hall, past the old Nyhavn harbor, the palace, the citadel (and its Little Mermaid), through two parks and back through the university neighborhood.  
Copenhagen town hall
The town hall
Søerne: The Søerne is a chain of lakes bordering the west side of the town center, and is Copenhagen's most popular running route. If you want to join the running scene to circle this stretch of waterfront, head right off to this great route.

Christiania: This is one of the most famous and infamous neighborhoods in Europe, and a fascinating (but harmless) place to glimpse a world of anarchic charm. And this route also takes you past the parliament and other sights on the way there. 
Christiania street art
Street art in the making in Christiania
Klampenborg: If you want to get out into real Danish nature, you'll definitely want to head to the old royal hunting grounds of Klampenborg. It has vast stretches of woods and meadows, with roaming herds of deer. There is even a bit of beach-town atmosphere on this run, returning through Taarbaek and Belleview Beach.