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A Look At One Runner’s Ultimate California Road Trip

Knox Robinson’s California road trip proves that destination running doesn’t have to be about a race. The destination is the run itself.

Marin Headlands

When runners are looking for stoke and adventure, Knox Robinson brings it better than nearly anyone. The founding coach of Black Roses NYC run crew and chief curator of Nike+ Run Club also produces one of running’s must-follow Instagram feeds, @firstrun. There, the former Division I runner documents his running adventures in far-flung places—from upstate New York to South America and east Africa, along with food, music, history and other touchstones of the running lifestyle.

But what sets Robinson apart is the style with which he does it: His posts combine documentary, poetry, social commentary and a reverence for running, with plenty of thoughts on wellness, meditation and spirituality. He speaks to the rhythms and challenges that all runners can identify with. Layered on top of all that is his coaching advice and sprinkles of encyclopedic music knowledge that this former editor at The Fader magazine is full of.

Earlier this year, Robinson took a three-week trip through California, from Palm Springs to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sonoma County, then back to Los Angeles. He not only brought his running gear, he did plenty of running (75–85 miles per week). He wasn’t traveling to race—he simply met up with locals and explored a few beaten paths and many roads less traveled. In the spirit of this month’s travel issue, Robinson shared photos, plus his inspiration for running as a pursuit in and of itself. Want to get away? You don’t need to do it for a race. Do it just to go running.

RELATED: Why You Should Plan A ‘Runcation’ (And Travel Tips for Runners)

How To Get Away

“You just gotta go for it,” Robinson says. “If there’s an interesting person or a place that you’re vaguely curious about, reach out and meet up with them for a run. If there’s a cool landmark or a cool park or some sort of sight that you’ve seen or have a recollection of, whether it’s six months ago on someone else’s Instagram feed, or 20 years ago with a line of poetry that you read while you were in college, go out and pursue that.”

On Meeting People To Run With

“I dialed up people and let them know I was going to be in town,” Robinson says. “But sometimes it’s also easy to be like, what town am I gonna be in? Then find the running club, like San Francisco Running Company, and join them on their runs. Other times it was cool to meet a stranger in town. Just walking up to the counter and asking, ‘Where should I run around here?’ I was having a good time just doing that. Also Googling and going to random places—just being an average runner and asking where I should go. It’s really great to have people show you their turf.”

How To Pack To Go Running In New Places

“Much respect to everybody with standard trainers, but I would pack a pair of lightweight flats so you won’t clog up your luggage, and you’ll keep your pavement runs super nimble and interesting,” Robinson says. “Definitely a pair of lightweight trail shoes as well. And a trail pack. That way you can say, you know what? I’m in Palm Springs, there’s a mountain right there, let me pack a water bottle and my hydration stuff, sunscreen and sunglasses. And mapping tools: Avenza has made scalable versions of tens of thousands of maps from all over the world, downloadable to your phone. They’re the topo maps you find at camping stores, but they’re searchable and GPS coordinated. I get the map for wherever I’m going to be to see what cool stuff is around.”

RELATED: 7 Essential Pieces of Gear For Traveling Runners