Explore a new city on foot

From December 26th through the 31st, my family of 4 was happily exploring the city of Charleston, South Carolina.  We elected to skip the car rental in exchange for a downtown hotel, and the hope that the city would prove to be walk-able (run-able).

Each afternoon while the children napped, I was able to run around the city, part training, part exploring.  I’m certain this is how all cities are meant to be explored.

I’m not a big technology user, so I never run with my phone.  Not that it would matter anyway, as I don’t have an associated data plan, allowing for maps and navigation.  It also allows for the distinct possibility of getting lost, which adds a certain level of adventure to my runs.  I’m actually out exploring.  For my first foray onto the streets of Charleston, I consulted MapMyRun, and examined some routes within the city.

I settled on a nice 6.5 miler, and dutifully recorded all the turns on a small sheet of paper, which I folded up and held in my hand.  I choose this route, as it looked to make a complete loop that was fairly close to the perimeter of the downtown area.

Off I went.

Sidewalks were available at all points, so traffic wasn’t a concern, however pedestrian traffic proved to be.  There were a lot of people out and about, shopping and seeing the sights, which made running a bit tricky.  I saw some nice architecture, a bit of the water front along the Ashley river (great name for a river), and Citadel University.  I stopped to read a few historical markers (remember these runs are part exploration), and was back at my hotel 49 minutes later.

This first run showed me that overall the area was quite runner friendly, and the city really wasn’t that big so getting truly lost would be difficult.  With water on three sides, and two main roads, King and Meeting, running straight through the city I’d always be able to reorient myself.

For my second run, I consulted the hotel map, and noticed a little park at the point of the peninsula.  I decided to run along the water front, check out the park, and then run back through town.  This turned out to be a beautiful route.  I saw the location of our restaurant for the following evening, I enjoyed gorgeous views of the historical homes, and could faintly see Ft. Sumter out in the bay.  I again stopped to read some historical markers, and checked out some war monuments in the park.  Later in the trip, as a family we walked to the park, hand a picnic lunch, and my wife and I enjoyed the architecture while the kids slept in the stroller and backpack.

(Sam liked the view from the park as well)

The next morning at the hotel breakfast, I got some advice from a fellow runner.  He noticed my Harrisburg Mile shirt and started up a conversation.  The city was connected to another island by a large suspension bridge.  I assumed like most bridges, this was for motorized traffic only, and I, using my feet, was trapped by the water.  My new running friend assured me this was incorrect, the bridge had a pedestrian lane, which offered a nice run and great views.

Intrigued, I set out that afternoon.

I had a short jog through neighborhoods, until I turned left on East Bay Street.  The sidewalk here lead right to the bridge access.  Other then the constant highway noise this run was definitely worth it.  I got some hill work in on both approaches, and was afforded interesting and different views in each direction.  The city’s many church steeples spiked above the trees, and I saw several large ships plying the waterway.  I stopped to read the bridge information, and was a bit unnerved, as you could feel the bridge flex just a bit with passing traffic.  I’d rather not do this run daily, as it was out and back along 8 lanes of traffic, but it provided a neat vantage point to view the city and surrounding countryside.

Charleston is my 3rd city that I’ve explored in this manner, joining Boston where I took in Heartbreak hill, Boston College, and the Charles River Trail, along with Chicago where I enjoyed a frigid slushy run along the waterfront past Soldier Field with its ridiculous addition and enjoyed great views of the city skyline.

(Chicago skyline)

Running allows one to cover much more ground then when walking, yet the pace is still slow enough that you can experience your surroundings.  Next time you travel to a new place, check out some running routes online, pack your sneakers and enjoy.

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