Monday 10 January 2011

Montevideo Rambla Out-and-Back Running Route

Length: 5.8 km (3.6 miles), terrain flat

Article and photos by Heather Marr

NOTE: Thanks Heather! What a great place to run. I hope I get to try it sometime. See Heather's other great route for San Francisco at San Francisco Marina Green to Fort Point Out-and-Back

For more running routes, see the Route List!

Having relocated from San Francisco, California, and jogged hundreds of miles in the cool, hilly, green Bay Area, I found running in Montevideo to be quite a change. For one thing, there aren’t  many green parks here, and they tend to be on the small side. Also, sidewalks on city streets—while decently maintained and quite wide—often contain potholes, loose tiles, or dog poop (sometimes all at the same time).  Thankfully, the city is blessed with a lovely beachfront promenade that is around 13 miles long, connecting Ciudad Vieja and Centro (downtown) with several beach neighborhoods.

You can hop on to the Rambla anywhere and have a good run. If you like people-watching and don’t mind weaving in and out among walkers,  bicyclists, toddlers on trikes, and groups of people just hanging out and taking mate (the Uruguayan beverage of choice—some people drink multiple liters of it each day), run on a warm day anytime from around 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. If, like me, you prefer less crowding and cooler temperatures, go in the early morning or really late at night. Except for Ciudad Vieja, most of the Rambla is safe and well lit around the clock. In general, the whole city is mostly flat, so if you love hill training, you’re out of luck. The strong winds on the coast will give you some good resistance, though.

This run is an easy out-and-back starting in the neighborhood Pocitos.

Montevideo Rambla Out-and-Back Route
Get your bearings in Plaza Gomensoro. (If you have small kids, you have to take a look at the typical Uruguayan wooden swings there, usually somewhat rickety, perched directly over concrete. That’ll teach those kids not to fall!) Take a deep breath, and sprint through the traffic on the often-busy highway that runs parallel to the promenade. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way in Uruguay.

Plaza Gomensoro
Take a look at Playa Pocitos, resisting the urge to scrap the whole run and jump into the water already.

Pocitos Beach
Head west (right, if you’re facing the beach) on the Rambla and start running. Note: If your knees prefer softer surfaces or you’re tired of tripping over people on crowded days, this route includes many areas where you can step off the main promenade and run on the adjacent grass.
Punta Trouville
You’ll pass Punta Trouville on the left, and then the restaurant Che Montevideo. Incidentally, you’ll occasionally hear locals calling each other Che. No, they’re not all named after Che Guevara, though you’ll see plenty of T-shirts for sale with that famous Argentine revolutionary’s picture on the front. It’s just that Che is the Rioplatense dialect equivalent of  Dude, as in Hola, Che!

Che: hey where's the beard, Che?
Right across the street from Che,  don’t miss Castillo Pittamiglio, a castle built by local alchemist and architect Humberto Pittamiglio. The castle’s unusual fa├žade peeks out from among all the modern residential high-rises that line the Rambla in this part of Montevideo.

Castillo Pittamiglio
Just a bit farther, you’ll pass the Nautilus Yachting Club and then the first of several soccer fields. Soccer is a big deal in Uruguay, and the country’s fourth place finish in the 2010 World Cup is a huge source of national pride.  If a game is happening on any of the fields you’ll pass during the run, it’s worth stopping for a minute to check it out. Even yacht-club-level soccer draws some enthusiastic fans.

Next is another upscale restaurant, El Vieja y el Mar (The Old Lady and the Sea), with its little outdoor cabanas that seem perfect for a romantic meal.

El Vieja y el Mar
Keep running and admiring the water. Impressively large body of water…why is it so brown? Since you can’t see Buenos Aires—or anything—on the other side, it can be easy to forget that what you’re looking at  isn’t the ocean, but the widest river in the world, the Rio de la Plata. With a maximum width of around 140 miles, it merges into the Atlantic Ocean at Punta del Este, a couple of hours east of Montevideo…and there the water is blue. The river is quite nice for swimming, though, especially if you prefer smaller waves. And hey, it tastes like ocean water (plenty of salt) and serves up some good fish. In fact, you could buy some at the little fish stand on the way back.

Pescaderia on the beach
So far, you’ve been heading southwest and are likely feeling a fairly strong wind: either a headwind or a tailwind. Usually you get hammered most as you reach the southernmost point of the route, just past the Club Montero soccer field and a rugby field. You’ll get some relief as you reach the Ancap gas station and start curving slightly northward.
Rounding the bend, finally less headwind!
After rounding the bend, there’s yet another big field on your left, and on the right is the large, green Punta Carretas Club de Golf.

Keep going until you reach the stone plaque for the Memorial del Holocausto del Pueblo Judio on your left. If you don’t mind stopping for a few minutes, you can walk toward the water and visit the memorial (definitely worth a return trip, if you want to keep moving for now).

Turn around and head back to Playa Pocitos, for a 5.8 km (3.62 mile) run. Hit the sand and jog the length of the beach and back to add on almost another mile and a half. Or just go for a swim.

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