Saturday, 18 December 2010

Dublin, Georgian Heritage Running Route

Length: 5.5 km (3.4 miles), terrain flat

Dublin Running Routes:
Georgian Heritage  
River Liffey 

Phoenix Park
Dun Laoghaire coastal run 
City Centre loop  

Howth Cliff Walk trail
See the other running routes here!

Photos from, by various photographers. Thanks!

If you're in Dublin, and somehow want to take some time off from pub visits (it's tough, I know, but fitness needs its moments, too), then here's a nice, short jogging route that takes you past a lot of the most pleasant parts of town. We'll begin in Dublin's evening fun district, Temple Bar, and run a loop through the nicest Georgian-era and other old heritage buildings in the town center.
Ha'penny Bridge at sunset, photo by Tobias Kommeter
And if we're starting in Temple Bar, let's do it right, and start right there on the banks of the River Liffey, at the Ha'penny Bridge. This graceful old footbridge provides the perfect backdrop to head off through Dublin's historic center. Turning your back to the bridge, run straight ahead, eastwards, through the arched gateway into the alleyway. In just a block, you run into Temple Bar Street. Take a look to the right and straight ahead: this is where you have to come back when you finish the run, and then spend this evening in Dublin's main collection of pubs and restaurants.
In Temple Bar, photo by Campomalo
We'll turn left now, though, and run north for a block until you see the yellow Oliver St. John Gogarty's pub, where you'll find some traditional Irish music (they call it "trad" music here) most evenings. Turn right on Anglesea Street and head south through more pubs. In 2 blocks, the street ends at Dame Street, where we turn left and run towards Trinity College campus, which you'll see straight ahead, 2 blocks down. Just before you get there, you'll see the elegant old Bank of Ireland building on your left side.

The Irish must have a split personality when it comes to this heritage, though. For, if a building is old and large in Ireland, it was built by the English. So preserving the grand old buildings means keeping alive this dark time of their history.

Cross busy College Street, and you'll run right into the front entrance to the college, a wooden door through a massive classical facade. The Trinity College campus is open to the public, and you can run straight through and out the back way. Just run through the first grassy courtyard, towards the tower of the chapel, then keep towards the right side, running past the old library (home to Ireland's great cultural treasure, the Book of Kells).

After the second courtyard, you'll come to a bigger open area, with the rugby grounds on the left and a larger cricket oval on the right. At the end of the open area, turn right and continue with the cricket oval on your right side. At the cricket clubhouse, turn left and run the last 100 meters to the back exit at Lincoln Place.

Turn left when you leave the campus, and run the one block to Merrion Street, where you turn right and run one more block to Merrion Square, Dublin's most beautiful Georgian-era square. The houses bordering all 4 sides are elegant, and the park itself is worth running through.

NOTE: This is IF you get there in the daytime. Merrion, like St. Stephen's Green and Dublin Castle are all closed evenings and early mornings.
Doorway on Merrion Square, photo by Dieter Schütz
If you first run straight, with the square on your left, you'll pass the National Gallery and History Museum on the right, behind the courtyard with the obelisk. Across from the obelisk, run into the park at the little pyramid (if open. Otherwise, continue running counter-clockwise around the square).

When you get to Merrion Square East, keep going east on Upper Mount Street, running straight towards a church, St. Stephen's, set in the middle of the street. Just a block behind the church you will come to the 200-year-old Grand Canal. Turn right and run along the canal bank, going past the old wooden boat locks and stone bridges.
Along Grand Canal, photo from Google StreetView
Keep running along the canal until you get to the second bridge, at Leeson Street. Cross Leeson diagonally to the right and run up Adelaide (with the little brick building in the intersection to your right). Run 3 blocks and then turn right on Earlsfort Terrace. You run past the National Concert Hall and run straight to Dublin's biggest square, St. Stephen's Green. If the square is open, run diagonally through the park. (Otherwise, run counter-clockwise outside it until you come to the opposite diagonal corner.) When you're in the middle of the park, before the lake, circle around to the left side to come out at the big stone archway at the other corner of the square, opposite Grafton Street. This is Dublin's big pedestrian shopping street.

NOTE: Grafton is the street in the great movie "Once" where the musicians were busking and the girl was selling her flowers.

Run straight down Grafton, heading back towards Temple Bar. When you get to the end of the pedestrian street, with Trinity College directly ahead, turn left on the small pedestrian sidestreet, Suffolk Street, which will curve to the right and bring you back to Dame Street, with the Temple Bar neighborhood straight ahead.

Turn left and run down Dame Street until Crow Street, where you turn right and run past all the pubs and clubs, doing a right/left zig-zag on Cecelia, and you'll find yourself right back at the Liffey, near the Ha'penny Bridge again.

NOTE: If you still feel like running and seeing more, and it's daytime, you could keep going down Dame and run the 2 blocks to City Hall, and turn left just past the building to go do a loop inside Dublin Castle, a collection of buildings going back to the year 1200, but, as I mentioned, it's closed mornings and evenings.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Las Vegas, Univ. of Nevada Running Route

Length: 7 km (4.3 miles), terrain flat

Las Vegas Running Routes:
The Strip
University of Nevada

Red Rock Canyon
For more running routes, see Routes List.
If you've already run the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) in Las Vegas a few times (see article, Las Vegas, the Strip Route), you might be ready for a change of scenery. If you are located at the north end of the Strip, meaning anywhere north of Sahara Avenue, there are quiet residential neighborhoods to the east where you can easily wind your own way up and down the various streets.

But most hotels are located at the south end of the Strip, and there are no quiet residential neighborhoods around at all. The side streets aren't very interesting for running: most side streets towards the west are concrete canyons, and some, like Flamingo Road, are 10 lanes wide! Also on the west, you quickly hit the I-15 freeway, so there is only one choice if you want a quieter neighborhood: head east to the University of Nevada campus.
Campus walkways in the evening twilight
The campus is a mile (1.6 km) east of the Strip, going out Harmon Avenue. You can also get there by running east on Flamingo Road or Tropicana Avenue, which run along the north- and south-edges of the campus, but these are both busier streets than Harmon, so that's the route we'll try here.

The University of Nevada Campus Route
Start out at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, at Planet Hollywood and the Harley Davidson Café. Just run straight east on this very unscenic road. When you see the Hofbräuhaus on the right side, you're just about there. You will run straight into the campus, with athletic fields to each side. The intramural fields on the right are also used for the yearly rodeo championships.
A bit blurry, but you get the idea: nice and quiet!
Run past the gyms on the left side. When their parking lots end, turn left and run past the gyms and suddenly you will find yourself in another world. A long, landscaped walkway goes off the the right, full of singing blackbirds. Run eastwards along the walkway until you come to the Fine Arts Gallery at the end. Turn right here to run south along the next green, landscaped walkway.

Plaza in front of the Fine Arts Gallery
The walkway ends at a spot with an amphitheater in front of the Student Union. Keep running south, to the right of the Union, to the next larger road, University Road. Turn right here, heading west. In just a couple of minutes you will run into Gym Road, where you turn right to head back north, past the huge library on the left side to Harmon Avenue, which you can recognize by its strange electrical transformer sitting directly in the middle of the street, creating a traffic circle.

Turn left here and head straight back to the Strip.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Las Vegas, The Strip Running Route

Length: 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain flat

Las Vegas Running Routes:
The Strip
University of Nevada

Red Rock Canyon
For more running routes, see Routes List.

Having grown up in Florida, I was prepared to hate Las Vegas: a giant tourist-rip-off full of tacky amusements in what was once a beautiful piece of nature. I'd seen too much of that already. But somehow, I can't help loving Las Vegas, too. It's just a place full of fun-loving, normal folks, just out to have a few interesting nights-out. Everyone is pretty relaxed and good-natured about it, the shows are great, and some of the developments, like the Aria Resort, are beautifully done. Even if a lot of other stuff IS pretty tacky, what the heck.
The Strip at night in Las Vegas
SIDE NOTE: The only problem I really have with Las Vegas is that people haven't completely learned the lessons of saving water or energy there yet (well, water savings has begun there, at least). The city of 2 million, sitting in the middle of a desert, depends on the water and electricity from nearby Lake Meade. But droughts and diversionary canals have lowered the water level so much that it will no longer power the Hoover Dam electricity in 10 more years. But, still, running past the hotels in the mornings, you'll see people spraying-down the sidewalks with high-pressure water hoses, and the neon never gets turned off at night. The average Bavarian farmer has more solar collectors set up on his rainy homestead than the entire city of Las Vegas does, out in the sunny desert. So there, I've had my say.

A more immediate problem for runners, and all other pedestrians, is that Las Vegas is definitely NOT very pro-human in its transport system. Every second street corner along the southern Strip totally lacks a pedestrian crossing, and you have to go up high stairways to cross the cars from above. One such pedestrian bridge ended abruptly at the entrance to the Treasure Island casino, and I just kept running through the slot machines to get back out to the street. The same thing happens at the Belaggio Hotel, the hotel of hotels in Las Vegas. There are no real parks or quiet streets to run in the town center: the freeway of I-15 blocks access from the west, and the only park-like spots are fenced-off golf courses.

NOTE: If you have a car and free time (I had neither), you can drive 20 miles (30-km) west, out to Red Rock Canyon and run/hike in glorious nature. I would definitely try this, if possible!

Morning runner along the Strip
Most of the big casinos and hotels are on the south end of the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) nowadays, so that's where we will start this run. And because there is hardly anywhere else interesting to run, we'll just do a simple run up and down the street. I have to say, this is an interesting street. And this is where just about everyone runs in the mornings. We'll just regard the various pedestrian bridges as hill work.

Las Vegas Strip Route
We have to start somewhere, so we'll do it at the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, where a lot of hotels are bunched up: the Tropicana, the MGM Grand, New York New York, Hooters and the Excalibur. We'll just run north, up one side of the Strip and back south down the other side.

NOTE: I assume that if you are there in the abundant hot weather in the summer, you'll have enough sense to run in the early mornings to avoid heat-stroke.
Running the Strip in the morning
We'll try to take advantage of the spots where hotels have added some landscaping away from the street to enjoy a few quieter spots along the way.

Starting at the giant lion in front of the MGM Grand, on the east side of the street, we'll take off. With the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty across the street, as well as a Brooklyn Bridge without Brooklyn, off we go. We'll pass the Hawaiian Market and the Harley café, with the gargantuan City Center project on the left.

After Paris and its Eifel Tower and Arche de Triomphe, you'll see a landscaped courtyard in front of the Bally Hotel, with the fake waterfalls. Do a short loop there.
Paris, Las Vegas
Then you'll have to run up to the first pedestrian bridge, over 10-laned Flamingo Road. Then you'll find yourself running beneath pink billboards at the Flamingo Hotel touting the Donny and Marie Osmond Show. Hey, aren't they about 85 years old now? They must need the work to pay for the monthly plastic surgery.

The majesty of ancient Rome at Caesar's Palace is evident across the street, with its Colosseum and the Forum. A block later, and Venice rises up on the right side, with a simplified version of St. Mark's Plaza, but strangely lacking the canals.

And, in my eyes, even more majestic is Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, blaring out my kind of music.

We'll just keep running north to Circus Circus Drive, cross the street there, then run back south again. But you could really turn around anywhere you feel like it, of course. If you continued northwards, you'd run through the northern end of the Strip, where the old downtown gives it a feeling of the old Las Vegas of the 1960s, with fewer gigantuan projects (find the downtown route here).
The route as it winds through the Treasure Island casino
Heading back south on the west side, there are more opportunities to get a bit away from the direct street traffic and noise. At the Mirage Hotel, you can run behind the lagoon, where you can see, smell and feel real plants among the fake boulders (don't they have enough real ones in the area?)
Running through Caesar's Palace
And at Caesar's Palace, the Bellagio and New York New York (run over the Brooklyn Bridge) you can run a bit away from the street through their landscaped property.

And once over the Brooklyn Bridge, you're back at Tropicana, and the end of this fun and interesting run.