Marathon season is approaching, which means it’s time to up that weekend mileage. Most runners have their go-to place for long runs—a neighborhood route or perhaps a favorite park—but it’s far too easy to get stuck in a rut, especially as you amp up the mileage week after week.
Birmingham offers many options for a long, uninterrupted run. Most of them can be customized to start out small and add distance as your endurance improves. Whether you have your sights set on a fun run, 5K or half marathon such as the Magic City Half, Birmingham never seems to run out of great places for a refreshing, lengthy run. The Mercedes Marathon is just six months away, so now is the best time to make your training plans, map out your routes and get pumped for the race.
One of the most popular routes in Birmingham is the Lakeshore Trail , which goes by several names. It may be called the Independent Presbyterian Church route, using the church as a starting point, or Homewood Shades Creek Greenway. The route mostly follows Highland Avenue starting out. But adding distance is as easy as making your way over to 20 th Street and continue toward Clairmont and back. This is a great route with a few hills, and can easily be changed up. The portion of the trail designated as the Greenway is a 2.5-mile paved trail, which is a great startup route for the beginning of training or when you need to squeeze a run into a time crunch.
A popular but unofficial run route is what we like to call the Rojo Route. This paved pathway is almost 6.25 miles (approximately 10K) and makes a great uninterrupted run that allows you to people watch and enjoy passing some of Birmingham’s best landmarks. From Rojo , make your way over to the Pepper Place and on toward Sloss Furnaces . From there, change direction to Railroad Park , then on to Alys Stephens Center . Once you pass Alys Stephens, veer over to 5 Points , then back to Rojo. Grab some friends to make the Rojo Route an afternoon run, and celebrate your finish with a beer and quesadillas.
The 4 Village Loop Road Run is an official RootsRated favorite, for several reasons. Starting at the Trak Shak , make your way toward the runner-friendly Shell Station in Crestline Village (about 5K into the run) to take a small break and refill your water bottle. You can head back at that point or challenge yourself to keep going. This route can be customized for any runner at any level, and the pretty architectural style of the Village centers make a nice distraction. The Trak Shak employees are great about providing information and directions (as they are avid runners themselves), and may even have additional suggestions to make your run extra fun or extra challenging, depending on the kind of run you’re after.
If you prefer a dirt track over pavement, Oak Mountain State Park is definitely the place to go. The Double Oak Trail made Runner’s World magazine’s list of 25 Best Trail Runs in the U.S. It is a 17-mile single-track loop that take you right into the heart of nature, surrounding you with the beauty of God’s green earth and enveloping you in instant serenity. Oak Mountain has a total of 51 miles of singletrack, so grab a map, plan out the route and take off into the shade of Alabama’s pines.