We were very fortunate to spend Christmas in Miami this year. Although not technically a running holiday, as always when we travel, we did an internet search for good places to run and local races. One of the first sites we visit is greatruns.com – “a guide to the best places to run in hundreds of cities and other destinations around the world for travellers who run”. It did not let us down. It suggested eleven different runs in the Miami area – the difficulty was choosing which ones to do.
We were based in Downtown Miami which meant we had easy access to many of the running routes. The ones we were particularly interested in combined urban running with coastal paths and spectacular views.
Our searches also turned up the Boca Raton 10k. Boca Raton is a small community just an hour up the coast from Miami. After reading that the start time and place were set in order to watch the sun rise up from the Ocean, we quickly signed up.
So in between exploring the very diverse neighbourhoods and cuisines of the city, the Everglades National Park and the local Liverpool FC supporters club (two matches over the holiday period), we treated ourselves to some amazing running and a short race.
Miami’s sub-topical climate, which in December hovers around 25 degrees centigrade and 80%+ humidity during the day and not much less at night – whilst not conducive to running PBs – was a welcome change from cold winter running in the UK.
Here are a few of our favourite runs.
The Rickenbacker Causeway
This run stood out as a ‘must do’ as soon as we saw it on the map. The causeway is 3.1 miles long and connects the downtown financial district of Miami with Key Biscayne via Virginia Key, two offshore islands. The trail from the mainland to the end of Key Biscayne is 8.5 miles long and for much of this time you have sweeping views of Downtown Miami on one side and the ocean on the other. There is a dedicated path for walkers/runners and a cycle lane on the bridges. In other areas palm trees and narrow beaches line the route. There are toilet facilities along the way but being winter the beach cafes were closed.
The route starts among the skyscrapers of Brickell Avenue. We took the free Metromover (a Disney-like elevated monorail) from our apartment to the Financial district stop and jogged from there (approx. 1 mile). The turnaround point (for us) was when we got to the “Beware of Crocodiles” sign.
South Beach via the Marina and South Pointe
This is an iconic run along one of the world’s most famous urban beaches. It includes paved paths, boardwalk and sandy trail, always with the ocean on one side.
We started our run at the roundabout at 5th Street and Alton – the point at which the MacArthur Causeway arrives on Miami Beach. It was easy from there to join the waterside trail heading south to South Pointe park. This part of the route is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants geared towards the sailing community whose boats are moored in the adjacent marina.
After a mile of running you reach South Pointe Park with its pier and lighthouse reaching out into the wide Atlantic ocean. The views are amazing.
A left turn then takes you past the dunes which signal the start of the 10 mile long Miami Beach. Running north you pass the Art Deco district of South Beach on your left with the palm fringed ocean on your right. As you can imagine this is a popular route for joggers, skateboarders, walkers and even rehearsing dance troupes, but far from being a hindrance they all add to the lively atmosphere.
At 23rd Street the paved pathways give way to boardwalk lined with tropical plants. It feels cooler here but still very humid. There are plenty of toilet facilities en route along with changing facilities and showers. Also there are water fountains and machines that dispense ice-cold water (for a fee).
The route finishes in Indian Beach Park at 46th Street in Mid Beach. A short stroll will take you to one of the many beach-side cafes where you can enjoy breakfast and maybe treat yourself to a Mimosa – you are in Miami after all!
Bayside and Downtown
As well as the spectacular runs mentioned above we also explored the area closer to our apartment in a series of short runs. The Maurice A Ferre Park (complete with buildings housing a science museum and art gallery) was the basis of a useful first 5k post-flight shakeout run. Combining this with the Bayfront Park and the entrance to the Miami river gave us a slightly longer run passing the Freedom Tower (a monument to Cuban refugees), American Airlines Arena (home to Miami Heat basketball team), Bayside Marketplace and both new and old downtown districts. What better way to see the sights.
Boca Raton 10K
Just 45 miles north of Miami, Boca Raton is one of the wealthiest communities in South Florida. The name comes from boca de ratones – a Spanish term for “rat’s mouth” referring to the hidden sharp pointed rocks that damaged ships.
December 2019 happened to be the 40th anniversary of the Boca 10k (an event that also included a 5K and mile option) and over 1000 runners turned up.
The race village was situated in the delightful Spanish River Park, and the start line on South Ocean Boulevard, as mentioned earlier, provided a full view of the rising sun. We also managed to run into a random local Liverpool supporter in full kit!
The entry fee included a medal, race t-shirt, finish food and age category prizes for the first three in each age group.
The route followed the coast road for a mile and a half before turning into one of the Boca neighbourhoods featuring magnificent houses with beautifully-maintained gardens, many of which had life size Santas complete with reindeer and sleighs as Christmas decorations.
At three miles there was a natural turnaround point in the estate and the route retraced itself back to the finish in the park.
The race was pretty perfect except for the 90%+ humidity and high temperature! Despite this we both managed to win our age categories and were awarded with substantial Boca Raton mugs as prizes.
Impressive Boca Raton 10k lead bike!
Places to eat
Miami is a very multicultural city and this is reflected in the food available. We ate in some amazing restaurants and would just like to mention a few of them before we finish this post.
Christmas Day we ate in Larios Cuban restaurant on South Beach (owned by Gloria Estefan); we had an amazing meal in Casablanca fish restaurant on the Miami river; we loved Riviera Focacceria, a fantastic Italian in Wynwood; and enjoyed an authentic Mexican meal at Taquerias El Mexicano in Little Havana. All of which we would recommend. The pizzas in Gramps (the Liverpool supporters’ bar) were also delicious and extremely good value.
Beachside breakfast of pancakes with Mimosas.
Our trip to Miami provided us with a very different Christmas. Miami itself is a vibrant and varied city which we hope to visit again – and run in! – in the not-too-distant future. There’s still lots to discover and many more trails to run.