It’s a quirky city known for its robust music scene, college-town liveliness and energetic nightlife, but Austin, Texas, is also a five-star running town, too. And the beauty of Austin, especially in the springtime, is when those alluring elements are easily brought together.
“Any runner who flies into Austin, and takes a taxi downtown can immediately hit the trails and encounter hundreds of other runners,” says Paul Carmona, head coach for the Austin-based Twenty-Six Two running club. One of the most runner-friendly cities in the U.S., it’s the kind of place runners dream of training in, not only for the easy access to trails and tracks, but also the camaraderie, weather and local scene.
Spring is perhaps the best time to visit the capital city of the Lone Star State. A temperate climate coupled with the famous South by Southwest music and media festival make it an exciting time of year to touch down in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” September isn’t a bad time, either, when the Austin City Limits Music Festival takes center stage on back to back weekends, but afternoon temperatures don’t really cool down until October.
The most common—yet uncommonly good—place to run in town is along the iconic Lady Bird Lake Trail. Located in downtown Austin, the route, formerly known as Town Lake Trail, skirts its namesake reservoir on the Colorado River, making it a favorite among local and visiting runners for long runs and faster workouts. One of Texas’ oldest pedestrian trails, the mostly flat, crushed granite trail meanders for 10.1 miles around the long, narrow lake, but runs for several additional miles via various offshoots. Plus, you can hop on the trail easily with a short jaunt from most downtown hotels, and there are plenty of water stops and restrooms along the way.
And with more than 60 local races in and around the city every year, you can always toe the starting line with the vibrant local running population.
“There are plenty of races to run beginning in March,” Carmona adds. “You could literally run one every weekend.”
Where to Run
Adjacent to the Lady Bird Lake Trail, just southwest of the city center, the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail offers up nearly 13 miles of rolling forested routes. There is an easy connection from Lady Bird Lake Trail at Zilker Park, making it the combined route a great venue for marathon and ultra-distance training runs. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a down and dirty urban escape, with dramatic cliff walls, plenty of vegetation and multiple creek crossings. In all, Austin boasts more than 75 miles of close-in running trails, but hundreds more trails in parks and ranchlands in the rolling terrain known as Texas Hill Country just southwest of the city.
Where to Race
There are more than 50 events on Austin’s race calendar, the biggest of which is the mid-February Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon. Other events include the Texas Independence Day 5K , the ZOOMA Texas Half-Marathon and 5K and the Capitol 10K. For a unique adventure, consider the Texas Independence Relay, which will allow you to race with seven to 11 of your closest friends from from Gonzales (where the Texas Revolution began) all the way to the finish in Houston.
Eat & Drink
Austin is known for haute cuisine, trendy restaurants, Southwest-inspired cocktails and dive bar. Topping the list for many are Uchi (801 S. Lamar; www.uchirestaurants.com), a casual sushi joint known for great fish and decorative presentations, and Wink (1014 N. Lamar), a cozy joint that blends top-tier service, a great wine list and an innovative American fare. A post-workout favorite of many local runners, Magnolia (2304 Lake Austin Blvd.) serves up breakfast around the clock and also offers a bevy of Tex-Mex, soups, sandwiches and burgers. For great coffee and a whole lot more, head over to Austin Java (1608 Barton Springs Road), which has scrumptious offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dubbed Austin’s only all-organic restaurant, Casa de Luz (1701 Toomey Road) serves up nutrient-rich dishes that will dazzle any health-conscious athlete. Finally, Food for Fitness Café (1112 N. Lamar Blvd.) is the place to fuel up after a hard workout. With tasty smoothies and breakfast tacos every morning, as well as a wide variety of midday munchies, you’ll leave full and satisfied. Catch up with running buddies post-run at the outdoor beer garden at The Ginger Man (301 Lavaca Street), where you can choose from 100 specialty beers. Go out of your way for tasty Mexican food and avocado margaritas at Curra’s Grill (614 E. Oltorf St.).
Early spring in Austin is when the first bluebonnets begin to sprout after hiding from winter’s cooler temperatures. Averages range from the 50s to the 70s, ideal for runners looking to jumpstart their spring running seasons. “We have our cool days, but it stays pretty moderate in the spring so you can usually run every day without dealing with bad weather,” Carmona says. Peak summer months can be a bit brutal if you aren’t adept to hot-weather running. June through September temperatures often soar into the 90s so if you’re looking for pristine running weather look to visit in the late fall to spring.
If you want a guided tour of Austin with fellow runners, join one of the City Running Tours jaunts around the city. With the chance to participate in themed runs highlighting everything from the city’s history to the rockin’ music scene, there’s something for everyone.