Parks, squirrels, and stuffing my face

Best places to run in Mexico City

On the face of it, Mexico City is not the greatest place for running. The altitude and pollution will leave many, if not most runners gasping for breath. The pavements are uneven at best, peppered with cracks, missing stones, and huge drops, as the combination of earthquake damage and lacklustre local government leaves little room for repair. Finally, stepping into the roads themselves is to take your life into your own hands, as the endless traffic deems those of us on foot an unnecessary evil, to be stamped out, or at least heavily dissuaded from sharing the streets.

However, dig a little deeper, and venture just a little further from your front door, and there are some excellent options for the runner in the city.

Chapultepec I and Circuito Gandhi

Chapultepec is an absolute gem of a park. Right in the heart of the city, yet with a feeling of peace and calm, as the trees cut out the sounds (and smells) of the main roads which surround it. The wide Gran Avenida in Seccion I, just over 3km long, runs all the way around the primera seccion, past small yoga classes, bike safety classes, the zoo, the Museo de Arte Moderno, and along an avenue of street vendors selling hats, tacos, sweets, candy floss and chicharon (pork crackling).

A short detour out of the main park and across Reforma and you come to the Circuito Gandhi, circumnavigating the extraordinary Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Somewhere between a clay track and a forest trail, the 1km track twists and turns through shaded woodland between Reforma and Polanco, offering a respite from the sun. It seems to be a bit of a favourite of runners with dogs, so be prepared to dodge/pause for a cuddle, depending on your preferences.

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Arguably the best thing about running around Chapultepec and Gandhi is the ability to finish within staggering distance of El Pialadero, home of the most outrageously sloppy, spicy and delicious famosas tortas ahogadas. Sit outside, be thankful they provide you with plastic gloves, and wash it down with a horchata.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a corridor of tropical trees running down the middle of one of the picturesque avenues in trendy La Condesa, which encircles the beautiful Parque Mexico, opening up every 600 metres or so to go around the eye catching fountains. Filled with dog walkers, amorous couples and brunching hipsters, yet everyone is surprisingly accommodating to the wheezing, puffing runner stumbling round and round (and round). It’s just under 2km all the way round, and you’ll be joined by a much younger, ‘fitspo’ crowd of fellow athletes, particularly as it passes a neat little outdoor gym at one point. Again, an array of canine compatriots is a plus or a minus, depending on your outlook on these things.

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The beauty of Amsterdam for me is that it’s a short jog from Myriam’s house on the edge of Escandon/Condesa, and the route home takes me past the Mercado Michoacan, where they sell amazing fresh juices and some expensive but delicious cheeses. There’s also an extraordinarily good bakery nearby, if an injection of sugary pastry in the form of a concha is required. Finally, Global Comics, on the corner of Vicente Suarez and Mazatlan, is owned by an excellent Frenchman whom I intend to befriend, as he sells the finest almond croissants I have ever tasted.

Viveros

In 1901, Miguel Angel de Quevedo, the director of public works in Mexico City, began donating land to establish the Viveros tree nursery, to provide seedlings for the reforestation of the badly damaged forests surrounding the city. Now covering 39.8 hectares, Viveros is a national park, and a truly beautiful haven of tree-lined avenues, with a 2.2km clay track running around its edge. Running around the track, and up and down the grid of avenues, is an aromatic experience as much as anything else, as you pass acacia, eucalyptus, azalea, jacaranda and cedar. The park is also full of the tamest black/red squirrels I’ve ever seen, something I discovered to my cost, when one of the little buggers tried to steal my post-run churro.

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Viveros is a short warm-down jog away from the centre of Coyoacan, which is so far the prettiest bit of D.F. I’ve been to. It retains the feeling of a village or small town, and the main plaza, surrounded the faded grandeur of the colonial architecture and the beautiful Parish of San Juan Bautista, is the perfect place to sit with a coffee and a churro relleno (chocolate-stuffed churro), after a workout. If the damn squirrels leave you in peace, that is…

Chapultepec II – El Sope

El Sope is where the running club I initially hoped to join hold their training sessions, in Seccion II of El Bosque de Chapultepec. At 5 20 am. In the morning. Before dawn. I mean…I love running and all, but a 4 30 am wake-up call would, I think, justify my friend Claudia’s concerns about the obsessive nature of running as a hobby…

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Despite this, El Sope is a rather excellent course, and apparently hosts over 1,000 runners every day. Two tracks of 1km and 2km respectively, a mixture of clay, gravel and tarmac, join to form a very decent 3km circuit around the more manicured section of the park, running around the lake in the middle, passing a fancy restaurant, several children’s playgrounds, and an amusement park.

There are no excellent post-run food options in Chapultepec II as far as I’ve discovered.

Trails

I have to admit that I’ve yet to get myself to what are potentially the best running spots in Mexico City, the trails of Desierto de los Leones and the Bosque Tlalpan. Within the city limits, about 45 minutes drive, but about two hours away by public transport, trail running will require me to be at my most persuasive with my excellent girlfriend/chauffeur. Wish me luck…

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