Category Archives: Austin Town Lake

The trail etiquette for running around Austin’s Town Lake: Watch your surroundings

Town Lake gets crowded on the weekends. Photo courtesy of Americantrails.org

I love running Austin’s Town Lake jogging trails, especially on the weekend when it seems like half of the city is out. But I’ve noticed a few troublesome habits of people who may perhaps need a refresher course on trail etiquette.

The trail etiquette rules:

1. Walk no more than two abreast. Don’t stroll around walking hand-in-hand five deep at Town Lake. There is nothing more annoying than having to run off the trail just to get around you and your family reunion. This rule also applies to runners. We shouldn’t take up the entire trail when running. So, if there are more than three of you, think of yourselves as walking into Noah’s Ark: Two-by-two.

2. If you are walking on the trail. STAY. ON. THE. RIGHT. SIDE. OF THE TRAIL. Its just like on a street. Slow traffic on the right, faster traffic on the left. Uh, you maam, don’t worry about walking too close to the edge of the trail – NOTHING’S. GONNA. COME. OUT. AND. BITE. YOU.

3. Last Sunday, I nearly ran up the back of a biker and a runner. The biker, albeit, appeared to be no older than 12, so I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt each time she’d slow down RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

But I’m sorry, if you’d stop trying to text on your friggin smartphone while biking, maybe you’d be a little further along. So, the rule there is: No texting while biking. As far as the runner, look, sometimes when you run in this heat, you need to stop and take a break. I got no problems with that. But do me a favor: Run off to the side BEFORE you stop. On Sunday, this couple was running and as they neared the bridge that crosses Barton Creek, they just stopped. Right in the middle of the friggin trail. Listen people, don’t make me say friggin again.

4. Hey showoff, don’t be using your Saturday or Sunday runs for tempos or intervals. I know and everyone else should know the risks you take when you decided to run in the middle of the mornings on weekends. Everybody uses Town Lake at this time of year. Everybody. No use fighting it. So, schedule your speedwork for another part of the city or another time, or you will be doing a lot of stopping and starting, or worse, you might run into a poor lady pushing her twin baby stroller. The only kind of runs I do Sundays at Town Lake are recovery runs: Slow enough to obviously recover from Saturday’s long run; and slow enough to not have to worry about suddenly having to hurdle a toddler who has broken free of the grasp of his/her parent.

5. At the water stop, fill your cup and move on. You are not the only thirsty runner out here. Still, I see way too many people who get their water and stand RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF. THE. WATER. BARRELS. Like they are at a bar on Sixth Street. You sir, there is a person right behind you. Get out of the friggin way. (You made me say friggin again!) Let’s all treat the water stops (under the Mopac Bridge and at Auditorium Shores) like we are in line at our favorite buffet: Get what you need and keep walking.

6. Don’t forget rules 1 through 5.

 

As you were, Internet.

 

I needed directions to stay on the yellow-brick road.

I went to Austin this weekend to see my 8-month-old son, Noah. For the first time, I decided to run one of Austin’s most famous trails: Town Lake.
In my short time as a runner _ exactly four years this month _ I’ve run several trails in Texas. (In Houston: Memorial Park, Herman Park, and the trail around Rice University; In Dallas: White Rock Lake, and the Campion Trails in Las Colinas; And in Fort Worth: the Trinity Trails)
So, I consider myself somewhat of an authority on decent places to run in Texas. And I’d say Austin’s Town Lake stands as one of the best places to run, though there is some room for improvement. (Through the magic of my Garmin Forerunner 305, Motionbased, and GoogleEarth, I’ve embedded my run at the bottom of this post. I ran clockwise.)
A quick review for anybody going to Austin soon. (Little Miss Runner Pants?)
1) Atmosphere: Well, you are running nature, 10.1 miles around the Colorado River with scenic views of downtown Austin.
The good: What’s not to like about running around mostly water? Or kids softball fields? Or dog parks? I’ve blogged before that what I like most about running the Trinity Trails in Fort Worth is the Saturday atmosphere, with so many people sharing the trails. Well, the Trinity Trails have nada on Town Lake. There were people rowing and kayaking. On the west side of the lake, there are spots where it gets so crowded that its like you are at the start of a race. I was elbow to elbow with people. Had to contort my body to get past people who were walking their dogs. There was a guy playing the guitar shouting, “Good job,” to anybody who ran by. All I was missing was a bib number.
The bad: Parts of the trail took me out on Cesar Chavez Street and East Riverside Drive. At one point, I went down several flights of stairs to get from the road to the trail. Another time, I found myself running through the parking lot of the Austin American-Statesman. (The Statesman reported last month that it is going to hire a firm to design a boardwalk that would close this gap in the trail.)

2) Navigation/user friendliness: Your knees will love this trail as it is mostly crushed limestone or gravel. And there are water fountains in many places. On some parts of the trail, volunteers had set out some paper cups and water.
But, if you are a Town Lake virgin, like I was, there may be some frustration here. There were no clear maps or markers to tell you where you were or where you were going. No yellow-brick road. I ran the trail clockwise, but it appears that most of the people were running the trail counterclockwise.
Also, I meant to run just 5 miles, afterall, my son’s godfather told me it was only 5 miles around the lake. So I set a quick pace for myself, thinking I’d be done in about 42 to 43 minutes. At mile 3 I realized I wasn’t even close to being done. Huffin’ and puffin’ I asked two women how long the course was. When they told me 10.1 miles, I knew I had to slow down. But I’d already used up too much energy and I paid for it in the last three miles. I did the first 5 miles in a 9:00 minute/mile pace. The last 5 were in 9:33 minute/mile pace. After the run, I had enough salt on my face to season a potato.
Even though its 10.1 miles around the lake, there are several different trail combinations you can use to run any distance you want. But I didn’t see any clear maps to show me. On the east side of the lake, where it was not as crowded as it is on the west side, I had to ask runners which way to go when I got to a fork in the trail. When the trail ran parallel to Lakeshore Blvd., you can see where I took the wrong fork in the road. The trail also went by this power plant type structure that looked really scary. I wouldn’t run by this area at night.
I know I complained a lot. But this is a nice place to run. And I’ll run it again the next time I’m in Austin.

Here is a breadcrumb trail of my run:


View Larger Map

Here is how Town Lake ranks compared to the other trails that I’ve run.
1. White Rock Lake, Dallas: You get a view of the lake with just about every step of this 9.3 mile journey. Watch out for the bicyclists, though.
2. Town Lake, Austin
3. Memorial Park, Houston: Tons of people to rub elbows with on this 3 mile loop.
4. Rice University: I like running when there are a lot of people around, and, though there are no mountains and no lakes or rivers, you get plenty of company running around Rice.
5. Trinity Trails, Fort Worth: You can run from downtown to southwest Fort Worth and not have to dodge one car.
6. Campion Trails, Las Colinas: Twelve-feet wide trails give you plenty of room to pass _ or be passed _ though the concrete will wear your knees out.

Here were my Saturday Splits at Town Lake
1: 8:54
2: 8:31
3: 9:07
4: 9:04
5: 9:20
6: 9:20
7: 9:09
8: 9:37
9: 9:47
10: 9:50
Cheers