Forget the treadmill. Get outside and try a canal.
Imagine yourself jogging, sans iPod, to the song of birds and the faint sound of lapping water. Your sneakers rhythmically pound the ground, unearthing pebbles and bits of sand. With every few strides, you inhale mighty lungfuls of air, the piquant tinge of nearby water making each breath that much more invigorating.
A run on the beach in San Diego? Not quite. Your cardiovascular fantasy is actually happening on the graveled terrain of the many canals lacing through Phoenix.
To the uninitiated, the canals carry an unfortunate stigma – that of malodorous, stagnant water concealing a trove of mob-whacked corpses. The truth: The Valley’s canals are more National Geographic than CSI, and a favorite of avid runners. With their flat terrain and insulation from traffic, the 131 combined miles of waterways make it possible to find peace and solitude smack dab in the Valley’s urban sprawl. A particularly arcadian stretch runs through Arcadia west to 40th Street and Camelback (pictured).
“Group effort is always more fun and rewarding than pounding out the miles on a treadmill,” says Ron French, manager at Runner’s Den, a local running store that sponsors a canal running group. “Run any number of miles on a treadmill and you will know why. The scenery never changes, and it doesn’t feel natural having a belt move beneath you.”
To find the stretch of canal that’s right for you, visit srpnet.com/water/canals/distances.aspx.
OTHER URBAN TRAILS
Murphy Bridle Path
Named after a Phoenix founding father, Murphy Bridle Path offers walkers, bikers, runners, and equestrians a scenic and shady trail in Central Phoenix. With ash trees and huge homes shading the path, you won’t have to worry about remembering the sunscreen. It starts on the east side of Central and Bethany Home Road, and extends for a little less than three miles.
Stargazer Trail at San Tan Mountain
Escape the city for a couple of hours for a run in our local hinterland. The Stargazer Trail offers a smooth and wide terrain with only occasional unevenness. Perfect for a morning run, no? Located just south of the Maricopa/Pinal County line near Queen Creek, the trail gives you the chance to catch some rays, break a tolerable sweat, and maybe even see an animal other than your min-pin. maricopa.gov/parks/santan/Directions.aspx
Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt
Originally a solution to a decades-old flood problem, the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt is now an oasis for Scottsdale residents to enjoy the outdoors and athletically socialize. The 11-mile sanctuary features lakes, parks, paths, golf courses, and even public art. The flat paths are perfect for jogging. scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/greenbelt