By: Frankie Ruiz
Greater Miami has everything from pristine beaches and two National Parks to the culture epicenters of Brickell/Downtown, Coral Gables and Little Havana. There’s no secret that the best way to explore a city is by foot and there’s no one more qualified to be your local tour guide than the co-founder of the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon, Frankie Ruiz. Lace up your running shoes and join Frankie as he takes you on personal tour of the best running routes Miami has to offer!
Hard-packed Sands of South Beach
This route is by far my favorite! It takes you from 23rd Street south all the way past 1st Street to Government Cut. These hard-packed sands provide the best viewing stage for all that is Miami and its beaches. On Sunday and Friday afternoons you’ll be able to see the giant ships pulling out of port, so I try to time my runs during these times. The footing is just the way I like it, with some cushion for my stride and some resistance for strength building. This run is good in the mornings or afternoons, although in the afternoons you may have to dodge some of the beachgoers going home. The best part of this run is that after you’re done you can go for swim! View Route
Miami Beach Boardwalk
The Miami Beach Boardwalk is one of my favorite spots because of the perfect blend of the ocean breeze and the views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is here where, regardless of the time of year, that you will have to meander around tourists and the locals, which gives you that feeling that you are on vacation. The footing is pretty good because the wood absorbs the impact of each stride and the textured pavers of the newest sections of the path force you to pay some attention to the ground from time to time. I usually park on 22nd Street and start the boardwalk north up through 47th Street but starting from the north heading south is also a good way to run it. There are a few spots where you might even stop to wet your head from a hotel or public shower on a warm day. View Route
South Pointe Park
Miami Beach has so many running spots and this one is one of the newest ones. You can park at South Pointe Park at one of the metered spaces but get their early because spots can be scarce as the day goes on. This park has Miami Beach’s only mountain, fine … ok hill! I like starting my run at the top of the hill as I take in the sights on the observation deck. By the way, this is also a good place to end your run because there are some deck chairs to chill out and rest a bit. From this spot you can head along Government Cut passing the popular Smith & Wollensky restaurant. This path then links you with the Baywalk along the Miami Beach Marina. The path ends at the base of the MacArthur Causeway. If I am inspired to go longer and take in some of the views from the MacArthur Causeway I might go over the bridge and turn around at Terminal Isle, which is where the Fisher Island Ferry departs. Don’t go past the Ferry Terminal because it can get a bit hectic to run along the actual Causeway’s bike lane without a sidewalk. View Route
This place blows me away every single time I run it. There is 360-degree views from the bridges connecting the man-made islands that make the mileage just fly by. The sites of the multi-million-dollar homes and the yachts driving by can certainly help the mind wander. Be careful, though, because these sidewalks and bike lanes do get crowded at times due to their narrowness. Also, be prepared to take a mandatory break if the drawbridges go up to let a boat pass through. Best kept secret: Take a side route on De Lido Island (the largest of the island chain along the causeway) to see some of the most amazing and expensive homes along the water. View Route
The Rickenbacker Causeway is arguably Miami’s most popular running destination area. This area is referred to by locals as “Key Biscayne” but truth is it is officially known as the Rickenbacker Causeway. When I run this stretch I like to park on the west end at Hobie Beach, which is the first available parking lot on the right hand side after you pass the toll plaza coming from the Miami mainland. Parking is free so you can take your sweet Miami time to go for your run. There are bathrooms and showers along the way and public water fountains to keep you hydrated. Besides the runner’s high you’ll experience from the views the other reason this spot is so popular is that about a mile from where you park there is our Goliath! The “big bridge” or more formally known as the William Powell Bridge will give you the highest elevation in South Florida available to runners. Get ready for 80 feet above sea level! I know that doesn’t sound like much but the grade is challenging enough when combined with our humidity and sun to give you quite the work out. It is about a 700 meter climb so if you add a little bit to the ends you can do mile intervals. It can get a bit crowded on weekend mornings and weekday afternoons. As you pass over the bridge you can continue heading east for several miles. I suggest you turn around where the sidewalk ends which is near the Crandon Park Marina if you want about 6 miles. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous and you would like to see some of the Magic City’s greener nature then make a left at the crosswalk slightly past the marina and take a curvy run on the Crandon Park Nature Trail. I look forward to this portion of the run because of the tranquil nature and views of a fully restored mangrove habitat. It is a bit quieter and a bit lonelier as most folks don’t even know it exists, so don’t tell anyway! At about 4.5 miles into your run I would turn around and backtrack after you have taken a sip of water at the Majory Stoneman Biscayne Nature Center. View Route
Lummus Park Sidewalk
You’ve seen this area on just about every movie that has ever been shot on South Beach. Call me crazy but I love running this route on long weekends. The weaving in and out of the tour groups and the occasional “Run Forrest Run” shouts from those sitting along the limestone beach wall just inspires that smile that propels you through a good, long run. I like to pick up this route off of 5th street and head north. This is one of Miami Beach’s largest concentrations of Coconut Palms set as a tropical curtain of sorts for the Art Deco buildings along world-famous Ocean Drive. If you take this path north you can run almost all the way to Mid-beach up near the Blue & Green Diamond Buildings at which time you can either jump on the soft sand or make a left and head for the red sidewalk of Millionaire Row along Collins Avenue. Here’s a fun fact, Lummus Park is part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is named after the Lummus brothers, one of the original developers of Miami Beach. View Route
Downtown Miami Baywalk/Museum Park
I take this route often, as it is one of Miami’s newest sections of Baywalk and frankly one of the most populated areas. You can start on either end but the section I frequently run is one that is popular with our Tuesday night Baptist Health Brickell Run Club, one of the largest free weekly run clubs in the country. You can start the run over with a loop around Brickell Key. You can stay hydrated at a public water fountain along this stretch over by the large statue on the northeast corner of the island. As you come off the Brickell Key bridge you can hang a right turn and stay along the Baywalk and take it all the way back up to Brickell Avenue over the Brickell Avenue bridge. Here things can get noisy and really truly give you the feel of our tropical urban core. Stay on this path as it borders Biscayne Boulevard and passes Bayfront Park. After you have passed the Bayside Marketplace, you’ll cross over the entrance of PortMiami and head past the AmericanAirlines Arena, home of our World Champions Miami HEAT. After you pass the area you’ll enter Museum Park, home of the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). This is one of Miami’s newest developed parks. You can run under a double row of Royal Palm Trees and get the feel of what a finish line in the tropics feels like. I take this path all the way over to Museum Park and for fun, I like to climb the steps to the museum and make that my turnaround Rocky movie moment. The view from the PAMM gives you a great perspective of the Government Cut basin and Port Miami. There are some bathrooms and water fountains at the park and at the museum, so take a sip and head back the same way you came. To add some variety to the run, you can wind around some of the paths inside Bayfront Park to get some better views of Biscayne Bay and maybe even spot one of our local Dolphins swimming by. View Route
Oleta River State Park Trails
When I want to completely shock my legs and give them a totally different workout, I hit Oleta River State Park’s network of over 15 miles of multi-use trails for some long runs. When running on the weekend, be careful of the mountain bikers in the area because this is a favorite spot for them, as well. One neat aspect that I like is that the trails actually have some change in elevation with some man-made dredging and a nice canopy of foliage. Keep in mind that there is a park charge per vehicle for entry. Here’s the best kept secret … there are bathrooms located in the campground about midway through. View Route
The Everglades – Long Pine Key Campground
This is my favorite destination run. It can take about an hour to get from Downtown Miami but the drive is worth every penny. You’ll need to pay for the entrance into the Everglades National Park near Homestead, which is about $10 per vehicle. After passing through the entrance you’ll stay on Old Ingraham Highway and follow the signs to Long Pine Key Campground where you can park near the bathrooms and start your run. The signs to the trailhead are about a quarter mile back towards the entrance of the campground. This trail for most of the year has dry ground but it can be muggy and humid. In addition, if you do it during the summer and you run late afternoons you’ll get hammered by the mosquitoes, so timing on this one is everything but the planning is worth it. This trail goes out towards the pinelands for about 6 miles. It is well blazed so you should be fine finding your way. Be on the lookout for wildlife as I have seen everything out here except for the elusive and endangered Florida Panther but you’ll be lucky enough to spot one! I have to say this is one of the few quality unpaved long trails Miami-Dade County has to offer but it doesn’t disappoint if you make the trek out there. View Route
The Underline to Coral Gables from Brickell/Downtown
Miami has an exciting trail that is currently being improved but for now it provides a nice shot from Brickell down South along our US 1 corridor. I like running this route when I want shade because it sits almost entirely under the Metro Rail line, which is our version of an elevated rail. You can start this run from what is known as the Brickell Metrorail Station and run it south for almost 9 miles in a single direction. Some of the locals might call this path the ‘MPath’ but the recent rebranding of the trail calls it the Underline. The one drawback of this route is that there are no water fountains and bathrooms that are in close proximity unless you enter the rail stations located every couple of miles. Something I like to do at least once or twice a year is take the trail down south all the way from the Brickell Station to the Dadeland South Station then take a few dollars to buy a ticket back on the train. You might even do a few stretches and some pushups in the comfort of the air conditioned train, as the ride back will take you about 20 minutes. View Route
Tamiami Trail Levees
I head out to this gravel road that sits atop the levee that contains a seemingly endless river of grass of the Everglades when I want to decompress and just run without any worldly distractions. Except for the occasional bird or even deer crossing your path, this is a very peaceful stress-free setting. The ground can get a little uneven at times but overall you can set a nice pace on this path. I enjoy this run just as the sun starts to set. In the summer months, this can be quite the colorful spectacle in the sky after those famous Miami thunderstorms. You can park along the canal road and just run north for miles on end. There aren’t any bathrooms or water fountains so make sure you bring your own support. You also have the option of the trail that runs south on the south side of Tamiami Trail. Be on the lookout for some Alligators, too! View Route
About Frankie Ruiz: Frankie Ruiz is the co-founder of the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon and Chief Running Officer for Life Time Fitness, who acquired the race in 2013. The Miami Marathon & Half Marathon is one of the fastest-growing annual marathons and attracts world-class distance runners each and every year. The race has grown from 1,000 participants in its first year in 2003 to over 25,000 runners annually. In addition to his race organizing duties, Ruiz has been the cross country coach as his high school alma mater, Belen Jesuit School since 2002, and led the Wolverines to seven state championships during his tenure. The Miami native was also a track and field star at Florida International University, running the 800-meter distance and the high jump. In 2009, he launched the popular Run Club Network, encompassing over 15,000 runners throughout Miami-Dade County. Ruiz is an active member of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Sports Tourism Advisory Board as well as the Parks Advisory Board and part-owner of SoleRUNNERS running store. Follow Frankie on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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