Running in San Diego…what a trip!

San Diego is a beautiful place to run.  Along the coast, the cloud cover is present until around noon, but go inland a few miles and the sun breaks through early.  The temperature is usually fairly moderate, even in the summer, and it never gets too cold in the winter.  Staying in San Diego for my daughter’s graduation, I had the opportunity about two weeks ago to do one of my favorite loops, a ten mile run which runs from her apartment, around Balboa Park, down hill to Harbor Drive, along the paved walk along Harbor Drive, then back up to Balboa Park, along El Prado, and finishing past the San Diego Zoo and back to her apartment.

Ten Mile Loop in San Diego

Ten Mile Loop in San Diego

This loop starts about a mile from Balboa Park.  Running along the edge of the park, there is a steep downward path leading to a bridge over highway 163, then a steep climb back up to the park level.  Along 6th Avenue, there is a lot of room on grassy areas for early morning yoga classes and other fitness trainees using the free access to the park to their advantage.  The usual park dwellers, also known as homeless, although they consider this their home, also hang out here.  Their daily activities are set by the timing of the park sprinkler system.

Tree in Balboa Park, near the favorite spot for ultimate Frizbee.

Tree in Balboa Park, near the favorite spot for Ultimate Frisbee.

The route then turns westward down Laurel Street towards Harbor Drive.  I do mean downwards, too, as the drop from the park to the harbor is about 300 feet over a mile.  Laurel Street passes the San Diego International Airport, also known as Lindbergh Field.

Lindbergh Field's runways seen from Laurel Street.

Lindbergh Field’s runways seen from Laurel Street.

The planes landing at Lindbergh Field fly right over the buildings of downtown San Diego.

Plane coming in to Lindbergh Field for a landing.

Plane coming in to Lindbergh Field for a landing.

Once one reaches harbor drive, it is a nice flat run to the south along the pedestrian way.  There is a marina specifically for sailboats at the base of Laurel Street.  Maneuvering past the navy ships in the harbor may be a bit challenging, but then one can sail to the Coronado Islands, or Catalina, or perhaps down to Baja California.  I got a chance to sail with my college friend, Keith, back a few decades ago, on his father’s sailboat.  We took a trip out to the Coronado Islands, a group of four islands off the coast of Tijuana, and owned by Mexico.  We were followed by a group of dolphins the whole trip, and I suppose they were expecting something, although I’m not sure what.  Applause, maybe?  The islands have an interesting history and I’ve included a link to the Wikipedia article.

Sailboat Marina in San Diego Harbor at the base of Laurel Street.

Sailboat Marina in San Diego Harbor at the base of Laurel Street.

From the marina looking south along Harbor Drive towards downtown San Diego.

From the marina looking south along Harbor Drive towards downtown San Diego.

Running along the pedestrian way, one passes the San Diego Maritime Museum, a collection of historic ships which are restored and operational.  It includes the oldest operating sailing vessel in the world, the Star of India.  Farther down is the USS Midway aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1945, seeing action in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm, and then decommissioned in 1992.  It can be visited, and is also a popular spot for private events, as it is huge and can accommodate a few thousand wild party goers.

USS Midway aircraft carrier in it's permanent berth in San Diego Harbor

USS Midway aircraft carrier in it’s permanent berth in San Diego Harbor

The last mile of the five miles out on this loop goes past the Seaport Village, a touristy shopping and restaurant area conveniently close to San Diego’s hotel and convention center area.  At my turn-around point, I had a nice view of the Coronado Bay Bridge (different Coronado than the islands mentioned above), and people flying very large and complex kites on a point of land extending into the harbor.

Coronado Bay bridge, and kite flyers

Coronado Bay bridge, and kite flyers

I then turned around and headed back towards Laurel Street, following the dictates of my Garmin.  I reached Laurel, and began the climb back up towards Balboa Park.  Still at sea level, going past the airport, I had the misfortune of taking a wrong step.  I think I was a bit beat by the fact that the sun came out early this day, but I clearly wasn’t paying attention.  Either that, or the sidewalk in front of me magically rose about an inch, and I hit the lip of concrete with the toe of my right shoe.  I took a quick fall, in kind of a rolling fashion, and I can still remember going down.  I knew it would hurt, but when I hit the sidewalk with my right shoulder, it seemed to hit with a great deal of force.  A shock went through me, and I lay face down on the sidewalk, slow to recover.  My first concern was that I thought I must have broken my collar bone.  I slowly rose to sitting position with a great deal of pain in the right shoulder.  I ran my hand over the collar bone, and didn’t feel any change in the contour, or bone fragments sticking out through the skin.  I tested my range of motion, and found that I could still move my arm around in a circle.  So, I decided it wasn’t broken.  Next, I stopped my Garmin, which may seem obsessive, but perhaps my running friends will understand.  After another few minutes on the sidewalk I decided to get up and see if I could still run.  While the shoulder hurt, I was still able to run, so I headed back up the hill for the long climb to the park.  Oh, and I restarted the Garmin.

Reaching Balboa Park, I headed straight along El Prado, crossing the Cabrillo Bridge.  This bridge was built in 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal, and was the impetus for building many of the buildings in Balboa Park.

View facing south from the Cabrillo Bridge, over Highway 163, the Cabrillo Highway.

View facing south from the Cabrillo Bridge, over Highway 163, the Cabrillo Highway.

Continuing over this attractive bridge, one enters the part of Balboa Park with museums, restaurants, and a very beautiful botanical garden.  The Spreckles Organ, a large outdoor pipe organ pavilion is nearby, and was also built for the 1915 Expo.

Looking past the central fountain towards the buildings of El Prado in Balboa Park

Looking past the central fountain towards the buildings of El Prado in Balboa Park

I then finished the run heading back to my starting point, taking me past the San Diego Zoo, and back to my daughter’s apartment.  My shoulder was  hurting pretty badly by then, so I took some aspirin, and told my family about my fall.  They were concerned, and quite sympathetic, although I detected a note of “you should be more careful”.  I think I was just thinking that myself, and they really were quite sympathetic.  I felt foolish, but thankful I still had an intact clavicle.  I downed a lot of aspirin the next two weeks, as the pain gradually subsided.  It didn’t get in the way of me enjoying my Hawai’i trip, though, and for that I’m very appreciative.


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