I feel like I’ve thoroughly explored Downtown Vancouver on foot and I definitely like to have a variety of routes to keep me from getting bored. Here’s a list of my favourite running routes in Downtown Vancouver:
- Flat and scenic: The seawall of course… from Coal Harbour to around Stanley Park to English Bay and it stretches out to Science World, Olympic Village and Granville Island. You can cover a pretty big distance or a very short one. Just choose your landmarks and do an out and back or a loop. A full loop of Stanley Park is 10 km and what I noticed was that it was more difficult running clockwise rather than counterclockwise. It’s a good place to train (both directions) as a lot of races use this route or at least a portion.
- Bridges: If you’re looking to hill train, make use of our 4 downtown bridges and even the viaducts. For me, Cambie is the easiest bridge, short compared to the rest of them. Burrard is easier going southbound and tougher going northbound. It’s also very pretty so that adds to the appeal and leads you into Kitsilano. Keep running west and you’ll hit Jericho, Locarno, and Spanish Banks as well. Then comes the Granville Street bridge. Have you ever tried running northbound on Granville Street? It’s a long, slow, gradual climb which can be challenging. I haven’t tried going southbound but I imagine it would be pretty fun as it will mostly be downhill. Last but not least, the Lions Gate Bridge. To get there you have to run uphill on the causeway, which is longer than you think. Going northbound on LG is not as bad as going southbound. There is a pedestrian underpass at the end of the north side so you can get to the southbound lane safely. Then you’re up for a long steep climb (but it’s worth it) and afterwards, you’ll be treated to a long downhill along the causeway. Take your headphones off as you share the sidewalk with cyclists. Don’t block the path and don’t get run over. I suggest running the Cambie and Burrard bridges more often as they are normally part of some of the bigger races in Vancouver like the BMO, Seawheeze and Scotiabank Half.
- Trails: I love running to Beaver Lake in Stanley Park. I run the South Creek Trail just off the Rose Garden and follow the signs to Beaver Lake. Once there you can do a loop of the lake, which I believe is only 1 km and then head back the way you came. Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park is also a nice jaunt. Combine it with a seawall or Beaver Lake run and it will be quite a workout. Pacific Spirit Park near UBC is also a great place to run, just don’t get lost. It’s also very hilly and challenging depending on where you go. Last but not least, don’t forget the Grouse Grind – while that may not be a trail you can run (you can try) it’s still an excellent mountain workout.
- Urban hills: The whole Georgia Street stretch is a nice little challenge. West of Burrard, there aren’t too many lights so you can get a pretty good pace downhill or not too much of a break going uphill. East of Burrard though, it’s more than likely that you will end up stopping at every intersection. You can challenge yourself and try to beat the wave of lights. Once you hit Richards, the downhill portion begins. The Burrard Street hill is also a tough one. From the Convention Centre until Georgia Street, Burrard is a steep climb but with all the intersections you could get multiple breaks. Keep going up and it goes downhill again around the St. Paul’s Hospital area and the route also flows nicely into another hill, the Burrard Street bridge or you can hit the seawall for an easier workout.
As you can see, these routes are mostly the perimeter of downtown, less lights more running! I find it a bit frustrating to run through the downtown streets because you lose so much momentum when you have to stop at each light… not to mention, certain areas can be quite congested with tourists. Canada Place is bad for that and Gastown. If you run through Gastown, I suggest you run on the south sidewalk of Water Street so you don’t run into the horde of people waiting for the steam clock to make a sound. I also think you should stay away from the gritty part of the Downtown Eastside… in my opinion anyway because you never know. Especially if you’re a female running alone.