By Amy E. Pittman, DVI Intern
It’s 7 a.m., and I’m at the top of the Main Street Bridge. My breathing is heavy as I take out my ear buds and lean against the blue railing. My legs are tired from the distance they’ve already carried me, but I know I won’t regret taking a moment to watch the sunlight spilling over into our city to wake it up. Besides the obvious health benefits, the best part of running is exploring, in my opinion. Downtown Jacksonville is a great place to explore through exercise because the terrain is diverse, the sidewalks are safe, and the views from the bridges are perfect.
In the fall, runners can get off the treadmills (or the couches, as the case may be) and happily exercise in cooler weather. Jacksonville is hosting many races over the next several months, and quite a few will take place Downtown. (Be sure to check out the Stadium 5K Challenge, the Jacksonville Challenge and the Running of the Bulls 5k if you’re looking for a fun upcoming race in the Urban Core.) Runners D. Ward and K. Butler, members of Black Girls RUN!, said they love to run Downtown three mornings a week because the paths are runner-friendly and easy to navigate. My personal favorite apps to use when navigating and tracking my running are RunKeeper, Nike+ Running and Footpath. Whether you are long-distance training on a Saturday morning or jogging a quick lunch-time mile, here are a few routes where Jacksonville runners can kick up some Downtown dust:
How long? 2 miles
Let’s go! Starting at Friendship Fountain, make your way southbound on San Marco Boulevard, and follow the Acosta Bridge sign right underneath the San Marco Skyway station. Running over the bridge, keep right heading eastbound on Water Street. Continue on, and you’ll find yourself at The Jacksonville Landing (a great stop for water or a restroom break). Continuing just southeast of the Andrew Jackson statue, your next destination is the Main Street Bridge. Sometimes the bridge is raised, and your run may be paused for a maximum of eight minutes, but that’s the perfect time to post a #runDTJax selfie! At the bottom of the bridge, hang a right at the Museum of Science and History, and you can loop around back to Friendship Fountain. This is an incredible route for traveling runners who are visiting Downtown, too!
How long? 6.5 miles
Let’s go! (I like to park at Memorial Park or the Cummer Art Gallery for this run.) Beginning under the Fuller Warren Bridge, the home of the Riverside Arts Market, follow the Northbank Riverwalk that will take you all the way to Catherine and Bay streets. (Along this route, you will find a high-impact hill just under the Acosta Bridge, and you will also run by The Jacksonville Landing. See the big blue building that says ‘Wells Fargo’? Feel free to hop right on in there and take a restroom or water break – they are always friendly!) Continue right, and you’ll head eastbound on Bay Street toward Metropolitan Park. Keeping on the left sidewalk closest to First Coast News and Everbank Stadium, circle around Gator Bowl Drive to the north side of the stadium. At this three-mile point, you may stop and loop your steps back to complete approximately six miles, or you can run along the back of the stadium toward the giant silver baseball player statue at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Following the road behind the Veterans Memorial Arena, you will discover you are on Duval Street, which you can follow until turning left onto Jefferson and continuing southbound on to Riverside Avenue, back to the start of your route.
Bridge Burn Run
How long? 3/6/9 miles
Let’s go! Parking at the Yates YMCA, head northeast toward the Acosta Bridge. Once you’re over it, take a left onto Prudential Drive, and head one block over to Main Street. Run over the Main Street Bridge, making a left onto Newnan right in front of the Hyatt, and then a left on Bay which will lead you back to the foot of the Riverside Avenue overpass at Jefferson. When you take Riverside Avenue back to the YMCA, you will have completed three miles. Repeat twice for a six-mile run or three times for a nine-mile run that is sure to leave you satisfied (and probably sore).
Duval Half Prep
How long? 10.5 miles
Let’s go! This route is your R.A.M. Route with a twist! After completing the three-mile Riverwalk loop from under the Fuller Warren Bridge to the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, take Duval Street to Main Street and make a left running toward the blue Main Street Bridge. Once you make it to the bottom off the bridge, make a left onto Prudential until you arrive at Broadcast Place. Circle around here and head back westbound on Prudential passing Treaty Oak Park, making a right at San Marco Boulevard to take the trek up onto the Acosta Bridge. Keep right and loop once more over the Main Street Bridge then back to the Acosta. At your second encounter with Bay street at the foot of the Acosta, take a left and go one block over to Jefferson and take a left there onto Riverside Avenue. Taking this route all the way back to the Riverside Arts Market will give you 12 miles to brag about on Instagram, just make sure you use #runDTJax.
How long? 1 mile
Let’s go! This run is short and sweet and is good for those runners who don’t mind doing some stretching or high-knee jumping while waiting to cross the street safely. After stretching for a few moments underneath the Jacobs Jewelers clock at the corner of Laura and Adams, head north up Laura Street toward Hemming Park. Taking a left at Duval and running westbound, you will make your way behind the Duval County Courthouse and then take a left onto Broad Street heading south. From here, take another left and run eastbound on Forsyth. Stopping at Laura, you’ll find yourself beneath the Bank of America building and will have a completed approximately one mile.
Every Friday morning, Jacksonville Beach resident Bob Deloach gets in a few miles Downtown. “The view is just spectacular,” said Deloach, who will soon be publishing a motivational book that compares the path of the Jacksonville Riverwalk with the path of life. One resident from Riverside who also enjoys the Riverwalk said Downtown Jacksonville is one of the most beautiful places to walk, run and exercise. If you agree, comment and tell us why you love to workout Downtown, and be sure to share your favorite photos and fastest times with us by using the hashtag #runDTJax on Twitter and Instagram.