Friday, December 28, 2018

Published a Piece at RunGuides: Almost Five Decades of Running

I've always been a freelancer, working mostly in comics & illustration, as well as the printed T-Shirt trade. More recently, I've turned to writing, dashing off articles on subjects from personal finance and small business to constructing the perfect Halloween costume.

For several years I've been writing for the excellent RunGuides site, which helps runners locate races and prepare for them. The site is a perfect online companion for us runners, guiding us through many aspects of the running experience with race calendars, run club info, and articles on running. There are even coupon codes to get you discounts on races.

I was recently invited to pen an article at RunGuides that pulls on my looooooooong experience as a runner (beginning in 1972 as a high school freshman). I came up with a piece entitled What I've Learned In Almost 50 Years of Running. Here's an excerpt.

"Trust yourself. Get into a good rhythm. Relax and run hard. Those endorphins will flow, and you'll know just what to do."

Go ahead a click through the above link to check out the article. Also, be sure to take the time to have a look around the RunGuides site... a good way to start is to navigate to the run calendar for the big city nearest you.

Happy Running!

- Steve Lafler

Here I am finishing 3rd for Lincoln Sudbury High in a cross country meet in September 1974. It was a triple meet against Wayland and Acton Boxboro, perhaps my best XC run in high school. The guys who beat me that day were tough.
One Rick Smith of Acton, a brilliant power runner who won the indoor state mile championship that year, finished ahead of me in second. The race was won by a skinny kid named Alberto Salazar of Wayland high school.
Our Dual Couny League was a real powerhouse. This day, I beat out a stack of my close rivals, a good five runners who were accomplished at both the league and state level in cross country and indoor and outdoor track over distances from the half mile to the two-mile.
On my part, I came 2nd in the Dual County championships over the mile twice, and 2nd in the 1000-yard indoor championships. As a senior, I was 5th in the state in the 1,000-yard run.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Love a Training Route P.R.!

When we moved to Santa Rosa two years back, I started doing out & back runs on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail. It's pretty, it's flat and there's a lot of shade. Perfect flat & fast course for tempo runs!

I like to relax on the way out, cross the bridge to the other side of the trail, and run a negative split on the way back. With the various bridges and street crossings, I can run loops totaling 7 miles, 10.4 and 15 miles. Sometimes I run 6.55 miles out, and turn on a dime to cover the 13.1 mile half marathon distance.

Last winter, soon after turning 61, I set a workout P.R. of 1:19:54 on the 10.4 loop. A bit more than six months later, all indications are that I was set to go faster on this route. I felt relaxed on the way out this a.m. and figured I'd give it a shot.


Cruisin' through the turnaround bridge at 41:15, I was pretty sure I had it in the tank to do it. I relaxed and stayed focused on the moment, not worrying about the distance left to run, and came back in 1:18:52. It was not easy! Hmmmmm... we did stay out dancing until past 1 a.m. three days back, I seem to recall, but only had 1.5 margaritas each. No prob! I love a workout P.R.!

Of course, it's not lost on me that in the late 70s I could run a 60 mile week at a substantially faster pace without too much sweat. But in truth, I am thrilled with running today, as I was then!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Roller Coaster Run at the Tiburon Half Marathon

Jogging? No, I'm shuffling at a 10 minute mile pace, half stumbling around in the pre-dawn in the pretty San Francisco Bay town of Tiburon, CA at 6:41 a.m. I remind myself: Have a positive attitude! The Tiburon Half Marathon starts in 19 minutes as I line up for the porta-potty. The early start time, and uncharacteristic butterflies in the gut have me a bit hyped-up! Let's R-e-l-a-x.

So I reflect. It's been a very good buildup for this run. I've enjoyed killer workouts! Some great negative split 13 and 15 mile runs, and an eye-popping 1:50 workout PR over my 7-mile tempo run course. Clearly I'm ready to bust open my half-marathon PR of 1:40:32! But (and it's a BIG BUT!) that half marathon best was set on a pancake-flat course at nearby Quarry Lake in Fremont. This Tiburon half marathon course starts and ends on the flat, but in between it's a hilly roller coaster ride.

At the start line, I'm looking for the 1:40 pace group, but today the fastest group leader holds a sign for 1:45 pace. A brief chat with the pacer works out great, he advises “I'm going to run 7:30s for the first few miles to make up for the hills”. Perfect! The starting horn blares and I relax into it. But I think the pacer is too slow, like 8:30 pace! Chill, I tell myself. We hit the mile in 7:35 and I'm appreciative of his pace judgement skills.

Locked in with the 1:45 group, I am relaxed and conserving energy. We cruise the first 4 miles just above 7:40 pace. Right on. The first medium-sized hill comes along, the group strings out a bit on the way up. Drifting ahead of the group on the next flat stretch, I've moved out front of the pacer without giving it much thought. OK, just stay relaxed.

Cruisin' early on

The undulating hills start coming at us, as we run through neighborhoods approaching Mt. Tam, the 2000-foot hill at the center of Marin County. Nothing too drastic pace-wise, I keep rhythm, stay relaxed, but it ain't lost on me that I am steadily passing other runners, including some who were striding out quickly in the first couple miles.

The elevation map of the course showed a steep climb about halfway on the course, and BOOM, here it is! I keep rhythm as before, feeling jaunty. Don't push too hard, cowboy! Truth is, I'm really pleased with how I'm feeling on these hills. The flow is there. Not so sure I'm going to get under 1:40 due to these inclines, but the run is going swell.

Indeed, I'm well prepared for a hilly run. Four weeks back, I had a fine race at the Annadel Loop 7-mile trail race up in Santa Rosa, nailing down 4th out of about 100 runners. OK, so it's a handicap run, but heck I'm 61 years young, I'll take it! Did I mention the first mile is straight up? Basically, up a mountain, down a mountain, and finish, that's the Annadel Loop.

My real secret weapon, two months back I spent a couple weeks in the mountain town of Oaxaca Mexico, running from the 5000-foot city floor to the 6000-foot mountain ridge just to the north, and back. Ready for hills !

This pitched Tiburon hill is a quarter mile at a steep incline, very Oaxaca. Only Tiburon is not at altitude! Done. Sliding down the other side, I press a bit. Why not? It's been all relaxation up to now, but the competitive former miler in me wants to race. We get on the flat and I open it up a bit.

Then some kid (I mean a 40-year old, of course) slips by, really the only person who has passed me since mile 4. Go ahead young man, I'm in my own pace. I'm feeling good, six miles to go, maybe I'll dip under 1:40 today after all! Rolling!

But wait-a-minit. There are more hills coming at me! Long hills. I was ready for maybe one more, but nope, the course continues to be a roller coaster. I'm still doing OK up the inclines, but at this stage of the race I can only go so fast without depleting the tank. At least I'm still passing people.

The course finally flattens out with a little over 3 miles to run. I find a bit of pace in my legs, even if I'm starting to feel ragged. Then, inside three to go, I think, let's throw it down. Go for broke! Does this really hurt so much? Nah.

...and done. Whew!

Now I'm rolling, but maybe a bit too much too soon. With a mile and a quarter to go, I'm struggling to maintain pace. Trying to work the rhythm and relaxation as well as I can, but fact is I'm hungry for the finish! There's suddenly a lot of slow stragglers from the concurrent 5k and 10k runs, and I'm obliged to make the effort to run around them.

I hear the race announcer's voice floating from the finish line, and see the finish gate as I round a bend in the path. Maybe 300 to go I really pick it up, and manage a near sprint over the last 150 or so, let's milk it for an extra few seconds if I can! I come under the finish line gate in 1:41:08, very pleased with my effort on the day.

I missed my PR by 36 seconds, but in truth I consider this my best half marathon, given those pesky and persistent rolling hills!

The Tiburon Half was well organized. I had a very positive on course experience, and collected the usual medal and t-shirt. There was plenty of convivial good cheer to go around. I note that the registration fee was a bit higher than the going rate. Although it was a fantastic experience, I'd probably try another local half before returning here, as I could find a flatter course at a better price. I'll save my hill racing for other distances than the half, where I'm rather keen to work on the PR.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Going For It at Sixty

I'm having a great time running at age 60. I've run three half marathon P.R.s over the past year, and I'm going for another just past my upcoming 61st birthday. As stated before, I never ran a half marathon until age 58, so it's the event I can still set a P.R. with. Certainly I'll no longer run faster than the 4:01.0 1500-meter as I did at age 20, but I'm excited to try and break 1:40:00 next month at the Oakland Running festival in the half marathon.

Recently I completed a 62-mile week in the buildup to my next half marathon. This is the most I've run in a week since I was a kid on the UMass Amherst track team. Now, with the next half marathon race 3.5 weeks away, I'm a week into doing faster than race pace workouts.

This Sunday past I had an exhilirating experience running fartlek from Miwok Meadows over the trails of China Camp State Park in San Rafael CA. Heck, I was going to go easy that day, on the out-and-back 8-mile run I'd scheduled. But coming back, I found myself just throwing it down and blasting through the woods! Running fast and free, it felt effortless!

Was I thinking of mountain lions??? Maybe! But I conclude that increasing my training volume over the past several months has paid off. I can reach deep into a reserve of strength I've developed and sustain a quick pace at will. I can't wait to test myself over upcoming races! I'll be sure to report here at The Grumpy Runner on the results.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Years Eve Half Marathon - Another PR!

The volunteer from Diablo Valley Runners leading the 1:40 pace group is going too fast! I've targeted the Brazen New Year's Eve half marathon at Quarry Lakes in Fremont for a crack at breaking 1:40, and I know from painful experience that going out fast is sure death.

I'm backing off the pace after 2 miles in 15:03 -- we should be more like 15:16. Bear in mind, at 60 years old this is a jaunty pace for me. If I have any hope of reaching my 1:40 goal, I should run negative splits.  Translation - I want to run the second half of the race faster than the first half.

 Ready to fall off the back of the pack at 2 miles
 - on purpose!

It's not that the pace feels hard - yet. But there is 11 miles to go!
The 1:40 group slowly gains a few yards on me, but after a mile or so I'm keeping the gap even and feeling relaxed.

At the turnaround on this segment of the course, I gulp some gatorade, pretty clumsy and jerky I am, but I get a couple good swigs down. Thinking only relaxation/rhythm, I notice the 1:45 pace group approaching the turnaround. Huh? Why are they this close?! I ratchet my speed up a notch, renewing my commitment to 1:40 pace.

I'd trained really well, averaging just over 40 miles / wk in my buildup, topping out at 54 miles one week. I knew I could dip under 1:40 on a good day, but it would take a smart race. The fly in the ointment, one week prior to race day I come down with a cold and a nasty throat. I rested up, drank ginger tea and gulped Airborne supplements and quelled the cold just in time.

Looking up between the six and seven mile mark, I see that I'm catching the 1:40 group, indeed my pace will lift me past them, but here's another aid station. Again a rather clumsly grab and glug of sports drink, but hell I know I need the fuel to keep my train rolling. I'd run first few half marathons on just water. I do better late in the race drinking eletrolyte beverages.

I re-focus on rhythm and settle in with the pace group, content to draft on them for now.

Feeling cheeky, I pop in front of the 1:40 pace group during mile 9. Maybe I'm ready to make a break! Nope, the pace leader reels me in and I settle back into drafting off the group. He asks how I'm doing, "not bad" says I, but the strain is showing. He allows that anyone who wants to break away might go at the next turnaround, but I'm dubious now!

The asphault trail dips under bridges at points, creating a small downhill/uphill. These tiny uphills are beginning to get difficult. We hit the final turnaround, I down my final gulp of gatorade and get plenty of it all over my shirt.

Now I work hard to keep rhythm. With about 3 miles to go, I reckon I have the strength to maintain pace without cratering. How do I know this? Last year I went out too fast, attempting to run 1:40 and I ran the last 3 miles almost backwards! I crashed and burned. Today, I feel much better. Better training, better pacing, and sports drink!

Meanwhile, the pace group drifts ahead of me again - 40, 50 yards. I work to keep it even with them from there, with some success. But now 1.5 miles to go, they are pulling away.  I'm not falling apart, but I can't pick it up either. I figure, the pace so far insures I have a crack at 1:40, but maybe plus a few seconds rather than breaking it? We cross the bridge over the river to the final loop and I'm pretty toasted.

About 100 yards to go, I gave it everything I had. I sure hope that is a 5k straggler in back of me, not another half marathoner!

The last 3/4 mile or so to the finish, I'm looking for a bit of pace but can't find too much. I keep the rhythm going and man I'm happy to hit the finish line! I cross in 1:40:32. Well hell, I am happy with it. It's a PR by 1:26! 

What the hell? Who's complaining. Also, after feeling pretty sick the prior week, I'm super pumped to have run a fairly smart race and kept my head in it the whole way.

What next? I'm thinking rest a bit, then do another build up with a bit more volume, and have another go at it at the Oakland Half Marathon this March 25th, just after my 61st birthday. I'll run under 1:40 yet!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Victory Half Marathon & Zoom Quarry Lakes Half. How to PR a Half Marathon - Start Fast or Negative Splits?

Happily, and in part painfully, the answer is: Both!

The conventional wisdom on running a personal best in any race is to run an even pace. On the occasion of my 60th birthday, I executed a strong 3-month buildup and tried both a fast start, and 3 weeks later, a negative split run. I never ran the half marathon until age 58, it's a distance I can run a PR over, even as a geezer.

Struggling to the finish after a fast start, but a PR nonetheless

For elite runners, the preferred PR strategy is a fast start, perhaps a minor lull in pace for the middle miles, and a fast finish. You see this in many of the faster marathons like Berlin or London - a big pack of elites jam at a crazy pace from the gun. Runners fall off the back of the pack and dropout, with 1 - 3 studs hanging on to vie for the win and a fast time.

Me, I want to make a major dent in my PR of 1:44:35, set at age 58. I prepared well, started at 25 miles per week and working it up to 50 over three months. Key workouts included plenty of 10 - 13 mile runs, and 7-mile runs at faster than race pace.

First Attempt: Victory Half Marathon

When I toed the line at the Victory Half Marathon at the Richmond, CA marina in late February, I felt ready to take a shot at running a 1:40:00 half marathon. I had a solid race plan, go out easy and build into a fast pace for the 2nd half of the run.

But I felt edgy, worried that I would start too slow and lose my shot. Fact is, I didn't know that until the race started. I felt good and started too quick! I ran through 6 miles in 44:57 (46:27 10k pace). Damn! That was 7:30 per mile pace, a good minute faster than I'd planned, indeed it was a half minuted faster than a recent 10K race I'd run.

Still, I felt strong and hoped to hang on towards my goal. The surface was paved bike path, a bit the unforgiving, hard surface, but fast. Things got rough at the half-way point on the out-and-back course. The turnaround was comprised of a bumpy, muddy path, slick with puddles from the winter rains.

Struggling to maintain rhythm, the course markings were lackluster through the dirt path moment. Hard to know which path to follow. I soldiered on; after about a kilometer of the draining dirt path, it was back to the bike trail to the finish.

Locked into my rhythm, I continued strong through 10 miles in 1:16:30. Okay so my pace per mile slowed to 7:39, but I was dead-on pace to run about 1:40. I was tired but excited!

Around then, I felt like a sea lion popped out of the adjacent San Francisco Bay and took a ride on my back. Working hard to keep rhythm, the power drained out of me and I slowed to roughly 8:30 pace over the last 5K. Yup, I hit the wall, hard!

Struggling through the finish, I stopped the clock at 1:42:45. Every tick over 1:40:00 was gained over that last 3 miles! I hadn't rigged that hard since age 19, when I was on pace for a 1:55 half mile and ran backwards over the last 220 yards to a 1:58.0!

Well, I wanted my 1:40:00 half marathon. I went for it, and paid the price. What the heck, I still PR'd by 1:50, can't complain too much. But fact is, I was left with the feeling that my fast start left precious seconds on the table. Surely if I'd gone out at, say, 7:45 per mile pace instead of 7:30, I'd have been able to pick up the pace in the second half of the race?

A day or two after the Victory Half, I looked over some local races and decided to run the Zoom Quarry Lakes Half Marathon in Fremont, CA over a mostly flat course, three weeks later. Reasoning I was in darn good shape, I reasoned that I could go out easy and get it right if I tried again.

Racing two half marathons over a three-week stretch is not recommended. That didn't stop me. I knew I'd take a break after my 3-month buildup, so what's the harm in throwing in another race before taking a break?

Second Attempt: Zoom Quarry Lakes Half Marathon

Whereas the Victory Half Marathon had a field of several hundred runners, the Zoom event had less than a hundred. The very epitome of the low-key race, I figured it would be a true solo effort with few runners around. I hoped the course was well-marked!

We started out and I stuck to my guns, running a slower pace over packed gravel. I felt comfortable and did not let the people passing me change my pace. Enjoying the spring greenery and the lake, I bided my time.

"I climbed inside a relaxed yet syncopated rhythm and determined to ride it to the finish."

I knocked down a gulp of gatorade at the first aid station. I usually drink water on a run. This time, I wanted to replace electrolytes and take on a bit of fuel for the 13.1 mile distance. I did not want to run out of gas this time!

By 4 - 5 miles, I'd caught and eased by a couple runners who had to slow their pace. I was going evenly and keeping positive. Around 40 minutes in, I found an easy robot rhythm and sped up a wee bit. I felt good but did not want to push yet. Another aid station and another gulp of gatorade, and I felt downright jaunty. That stuff is nasty, but it works!

I had a long way to go yet felt confident. I was truly on my own, no other runners ahead or behind in sight. There were no mile markers to gauge my time, and no runners around me. I kept my eye on the ribbons marking the course and maintained. Approaching the 3rd aid station, I noticed there was a big water dispenser at each station blocking the cups of water and gatorade from sight. It was work to find and pluck the right cup, but I did it.

Once again I felt a zing from the gatorade gulp and settled into my pace, picking it up a tad more. Maybe there was 5 miles to go. This was it, I climbed inside a relaxed yet syncopated rhythm and determined to ride it to the finish. Focused and rolling well, working hard but content.

A young runner slid by me with 1.5 miles to go. I was rolling, he was rolling a little faster. His fluorescent yellow socks pulled high, I remember passing him at 4 miles. Clearly he'd gone out too fast. Young & strong, he recovered for a final push.

The Inevitable Glory Days Reference

I entertained the petty yet true thought, "I'd be 20 minutes ahead of you at your age". I know, I never ran a half marathon until I was 58 -- how can I be sure I'd beat the young guy in the silly socks? Easy. Back in '89, in Oakland, I ran 20K in 1:14:51.

Yes, 1.1k short of a half marathon, but you get the idea. Honestly,  I'll temper the anecdote with the fact that I placed all of 83rd in a field of maybe 385. Early days of prize money, everybody showed up for a shot at it.

In fairness to yellow socks guy, I did try a half-marathon at age 21 in New Bedford, MA, and failed. I ran with my pal Jeff King to the 8-mile mark, then promptly dropped out. Jeff was the 1976 Massachusetts state half mile champ, running about 1:53 in high school. Not too shabby. We cruised along that day in New Bedford at about 5:30 - 5:35 pace before I threw in the towel. To Jeff's credit, he soldiered on. Me, I was in a world of searing pain and stopped cold!

Bumping to the Finish

I considered trying to run with yellow socks kid. I'd been gaining on another runner some 50 meters ahead of me slowly but surely. Why not go for glory? Instead, I let the guy in the silly socks go. I'd been working hard for a good many miles, and did not want to blow up again! Instead of trying to push for a faster pace, I looked to relax and go as fast as I could within my rhythm.

Following the two runners just in front of me, I navigated a couple turns and could smell the finish. We're all gunning for it now. Of a moment, the paved bikeway gave way to a goddamn muddy, bumpy path. What the Hell?! This only lasts for a couple minutes, but it was a ball-buster to maintain pace and cadence.

Out of the mud, we're back on the asphalt trail, just a couple hundred meters to roll. I dig down to pick it up a bit and we're through the finish chute. I stop the clock at 1:41:58. Another 47 seconds sliced off my personal best run! I didn't get under 1:40:00, that's out there for another day. Could be, I was a bit tired from the first race.

I can't say for sure if I ran negative splits. There were no mile markers on the course. There no question that I measured out my energy flow properly. I cruised for the first 40 minutes, then it was GO time. I squeezed my pace up for the rest of the way, hitting an average pace of 7:47 per mile. I was pretty happy!

It's not lost on me that I'd done plenty of long runs at a faster pace in training as a college kid.  But no matter, it's still a trill to run and race, and a personal best is what it is!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Oaxaca Running Tips

Here's a few tips for runners visiting the city of Oaxaca. I was leading running tours in the hills around the city of Oaxaca for a few years, but for family reasons had to head back to the states (at least for now), so I want to leave a few pointers here.

We'll look at choices for running in the center of town, at a park near the airport, and best of all, above the city on the Libramiento road just north of Colonia San Felipe del Agua. Finally, we'll open the door to the Pueblos Mancomundados, mountain villages where you can indulge in endless trail running.

Parque Llano

The easiest run in the Oaxaca City Centro is to do laps around the lovely urban Parque Llano, between Calle Benito Juarez and Piño Suarez. It's about 650 meters per lap. Just don't go on Friday, market day. Keep an eye out for kids, dogs, bikes and vendors, but in truth it's a well-used, much loved locale for local runners. Sometimes Parque Llano is called El Llano, or Parque Juarez.

Click on map to see it larger

There are often races starting in Parque Llano on Sunday mornings, typically at 8:00 a.m. The starting line in usually on the Calle Benito Juarez side of the park.

No one will bother you if you run bandit. You always have to sign up in advance, so many people simply show up and run without a number. Lots of families are in the park on Sunday, so it's maybe not the best time to run laps in the actual park, but if there's a race, get there early and join the Oaxacan running community for a jaunt around town.

Expect a chaotic scene at the start. You'll find chubby abuelas smiling on the front line, standing in front of the local Kenyan contingent (who will run 10k under 30:00 even at mile high altitude) . Just be patient, as the Kenyans are, and take your time with the start.

 The starting line of a local 5K race on Calle Garcia Vigil in Oaxaca. I bet you can pick me out in the lineup pretty easily! Photo by Jeff Charles.

A few blocks east of Parque Llano there is a new track/sports complex that is open to the public. There is a running path there as well as the track. It's on the other side of the Periferico from Llano. It's a few blocks south of Calle Niños Heroes de Chapultepec.

Parque Tequio

Near the airport is Parque Tequio, with a 5k-ish flat trail. You can take a cab out there for about 120 pesos. Tell the cabbie your destination and ask for a price before entering the cab. It's good for women runners to have a companion, of course, but many local runners are there mornings. Sometimes there are races there too.

The Libramiento Road, Closed to Cars

You can also grab a cab to the Colonia San Felipe Del Agua, 3 miles north of the Centro, or take the San Felipe/Hospital bus from Parque Llano. Ask to go to the bus turnaround square (end of the bus line). It's about a kilometer past the Iglesia San Felipe. From there, the Libramiento road starts. Ask the driver to show you the start of the Libramiento road from the bus turnaround square. It's on the west side of the square.

The Libramiento is 99% traffic free, running on the hillside above the city.  The local running and biking community is up there mornings getting in a workout. If you do an out-and-back run from the bus turnaround, go out about 3.5 miles and you can get to the ridge between the Oaxaca and Etla valleys and see both sides. Beautiful!

One note, some of the buses will not stop at the bus turnaround area north of San Felipe del Agua, they will proceed to drive the Libramiento for about a half mile then take a left down a steep road. You will know they are on the Libramiento as things get rural in a hurry.

You can also run to the Libramiento from Parque Colosio in San Felipe del Agua, here's my cheesy video about it. There is no bus to Parque Colosio, but you can take a cab there. Ask the cabbie if he knows where Parque Colosio is. They don't all know. Or course, they'll never admit it!

Parque Colosio a great place to start a run from. Standing at the park entrance, head left our of the park on the road for about 100 meters, then take the dirt road to the left. It will take you about 3/4 of a mile up to the Libramiento road. You can go left to run up to the ridge between the valleys. Or go right, and in about a mile you'll connect with the bus turnaround at the top of San Felipe del Agua.

It took me years to discover and explore the trails on the wooded hills/mountains above the Libramiento. I was in heaven running up there. If you can get used to hills, it's a runners paradise. I also got really fit running up there! In truth, it's best to have a local guide to show you the trails. Once I befriended some local runners, they showed me the ropes.

My favorite trail route is called the Carniveros by locals, while other gringos called it the Meatgrinder. Basically, you run from just about 5000 feet up to about 6000 on the gorgeous wooded mountainside, and the come back. It's a wooded trail above the Libramiento road.

I designed routes for myself combining the Libramiento road and Carniveros trail running from 6 to 12 miles. If I ran with my friend Richard Stoutner, ultra-runner and coach, we might go as far as 15. Transcendental fun, in my book!

Here's my post on running the Carniveros.

When I led running tours in Oaxaca, I had a few hard core clients who were tough and strong enough to run up the mountains with me, lots of fun! Some of them really raked me over the coals!

A word of caution, don't try to take the wooded trail from the Libramiento that is close to the bus turnaround, as it's closed. There are guards there anyway, so you get the picture.

Pueblos Mancomundados

There are a series of high altitude villages and wilderness areas within an hour or two of Oaxaca, at altitude of 7 - 8000 feet and up. You can book hiking tours at these Pueblos Mancomundados, and chances are you could find a sporting tour guide who would be willing to take you running up there. I have hiked up there, but not run. But I recommend it for the hard core ultra or trail runners out there!

Reserve a cabaña and stay for a night or three, it's inexpensive. For a day hike, you can hire a guide. If you stay overnight, you'd have the opportunity to explore more than one trail, and run to the next village even! Adventure beckons. You can eat hearty, fresh delicious local foods it a local comedor (dining room) for crazy low prices.

Here's a photo link from Lonely Planet on the Pueblos Mancomundados.

Getting High in Oaxaca

As you may know, Oaxaca is a mile high city, just enough altitude to feel it when you run. Stay hydrated and take it easy for the first couple days. Check out these altitude running tips from Runner's World, and don't be afraid to slow to a walk if you feel winded.

And final note on running in Oaxaca. Don't run in front of cars, if you value your legs (and your life).

I lived in Oakland, CA prior to Oaxaca, where pedestrians aggressively assert their legal right of way. By walking in front of cars at crosswalks. Smart, eh? The law is officially on the side of pedestrians in Oaxaca, but exercising your rights could lead to getting run over.

Didn't mean to scare you! Have fun. And if you are not used to mile high altitude, take it easy at first.

Feel free to email me with Q's on Oaxaca running! Happy trails.

Steve Lafler