This New Mexico city is the highest state capital in the U.S. at more than 7,000 feet above sea level.
Founded in 1607, Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. These 400 years of history also make it one of the most vibrant—the New Mexico capital’s eclectic mix of Native American culture, renowned artists like Georgia O’Keefe and cosmopolitan population have earned it its nickname, “The City Different.”
This moniker applies to its running community too, where adventurous runners find inspiration in the raw, unique beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 14ers and the city’s old Spanish architecture.
Locals consider their trails “to be treasures, whether they are mountain bikers, runners or hikers,” says Mariam Browne, vice president of the Santa Fe Striders running club.
A great place to catch this city’s unique running vibe is the Santa Fe Striders’ Thursday night run from the Running Hub, a popular Santa Fe running retailer. “It meanders through almost every part of town a runner needs to see: The rail trail, the plaza, museum hill and the historic east side,” says store owner John Lumley.
Santa Fe is located more than 7,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest state capital in the U.S.
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Where to Run
If you are weary from travel or need to acclimate to the altitude slowly, Lumley recommends the paved section of the Santa Fe Rail Trail that starts downtown. The trail is 17 miles long and follows the route of the old Santa Fe railroad line.
For mild elevation change, Browne suggests the 6.7-mile-long Rio en Medio Trail, which features several waterfalls along the way. The Aspen Vista Trail, which starts at nearly 10,000 feet and tops out at 12,000 over 5.5 miles, is a perfect lung-buster for advanced runners, “especially in the fall when the leaves are changing,” Lumley says. “You get the excellent views of the Espanola Valley very early in the run.”
The Dale Ball Trails offer several options for trail enthusiasts, as does the Santa Fe Ski Basin ski resort. For speed work on familiar turf, The Santa Fe High School track is the place to sweat out 400-meter repeats with the best runners in town.
Where to Eat & Drink
The Santa Fe Baking Company Café (504 W Cordova Rd.; santafebakingcompanycafe.com) sponsors a handful of local races and provides discounts for the Santa Fe Striders, so you will likely bump elbows with a few runners or cyclists if you stop in. Breakfast is served all day long. For a quick refuel, pick up one of their many baked goods and a coffee, and check out their live music on Saturday mornings. Blue Corn Café (133 W. Water St.; bluecorncafe.com) is a Santa Fe Striders favorite, especially for Taco Tuesday after the group’s track workout. The restaurant’s handcrafted beers and New Mexican fare can satisfy any palate. Known as “Santa Fe’s Watering Hole,” Del Charro (101 West Alameda St.; delcharro.com) is the place to go for good food and strong drinks on a budget. Nightly specials, mouth-watering burgers and signature margs highlight the menu, with options for vegetarians too. Don’t forget to try the local favorite: Frito pie—a casserole-type dish with chili, cheese and Fritos corn chips!
Where to Shop
Family owned and operated, the Running Hub (527 W Cordova Rd.; runsantafe.com) is Santa Fe’s go-to place for anything running. “The staff are competitive runners themselves and offer advice about shoes, injury prevention, running safety, routes, weather support—you name it,” says Browne. Along with the Santa Fe Striders, the store hosts group runs at 6 p.m. every Thursday year-round and an additional run on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. during the March through October months. Alpine Sports (121 Sandoval St. #B; alpinesports-santafe.com) carries a large selection of trail running shoes and gear for hitting up the extensive trails in the area. Servicing such an active community, REI (500 Market St. #100; rei.com) also has its usual array of outdoor equipment and has a location in the city. Pick up some hydration mix, a new pair of running shoes or grab a book about where to go explore.
Where to Race
The Corrida de Los Locos (Feb. 2015) is a small race celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2015. “Anyone willing to run in that weather is truly loco,” Browne says of the typical mid-20s temps on a February morning. “But the hot chocolate at the end brings back some sanity.” The oldest race in town, the Santa Fe Run-Around (May 2015; santaferunaround.blogspot.com) features a 10K, 5K and free 1K children’s run. Starting in the central plaza, it follows Canyon Road—home to the city’s art district. The Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon (Sept. 2015; santafethunder.com) is another popular point-to-point race, climbing from downtown to Buffalo Thunder Resort in Pojoaque, N.M. It begins with a tough climb and ends with a fast downhill in the final few miles to the resort. “Runners from Kenya, Mexico [the Tarahumara], Native American tribes and other cultures all come together for this wonderful global running promotion,” Browne says. For the fun run seekers, the Monster Dash at Desert Academy (Oct. 2015; desertacademy.com) is a 3-mile dirt obstacle course that many runners tackle in-costume.
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Things To Do
Because of Santa Fe’s longstanding reputation for diverse inhabitants, there’s no shortage of ghostly history. If you have no time for a tour, stop by La Fonda Inn or La Posada Hotel for dinner or a drink and a little ghoul hunting.
If you want to experience the local flavor Santa Fe is best known for, and have a big appetite, take the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown Tour.
Visit the eight Northern Indian Pueblos within an hour north of Santa Fe to learn more about the culture and traditions that still influence the city and state of New Mexico today.
Santa Fe experiences mild versions of all four seasons, with no extreme heat and little rain and snowfall. Lumley says the best thing about running in the area is the weather: “It rarely rains and is almost never hotter than 80 degrees. In the winter months, the low humidity and regular sunshine can make a 30-degree day feel almost like shorts-and-T-shirt weather.” Winter mornings can yield heavier-coat-worthy conditions, but runners can enjoy manageable temps once the sun is high in the sky.