Havana, Cuba: Malecon to the Plaza del Revolution

Travel running is something that I have really come to enjoy. It is a great way to cover a lot of ground on your vacation and become a part of the tapestry of life that you’re visiting. Also, if you are training for a big race, it helps keep you in shape for when you return to real life.

Late last year, I had the chance to visit Havana, Cuba and get a few runs in along some of the grand boulevards of the city. Hopefully, if you get a chance to visit this quaint and historic place, you get a few interesting runs in to see the local sights.

This particular run took me from our hotel near the water up to the Plaza de la Revolution. Our trip landed us in Cuba roughly a month after the death of Fidel Castro and his body laid in state here for several days as thousands of people lined up in this giant square to pay their respects to their beloved leader.

This is one of many runs that one can safely manage around Havana and I hope to hear from others about the routes they’ve run here in years to come.

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Havana, Cuba, ladies and gentlemen!

Route Description:

(Run 12/19/16) This route starts at the Melia Cohiba Hotel on the corner of Calle 1ra and Avenida Paseo. Very simply, you take Avenida Paseo southwest all the way to the Plaza de la Revolution which is about a mile and a half.

Run around the main plaza area but don’t try to head up to the Monument Tower of Jose Marti in running clothes. Apparently, you’ll only be admitted with special permission and dressed in a respectful fashion.

But once you are done sight seeing, you can head back down Avenida Paseo past the Melia Cohiba Hotel to the Malecon which is the main street that runs along the water in Havana. I’d recommend carefully crossing this busy street and making a left running along the water. BE CAREFUL! If you see any puddles on the sidewalk, there will likely be algae growing there which makes the sidewalk VERY slippery. Try to avoid those spots or walk carefully through them.

You can follow the Malecon for at least another mile before you reach a tunnel that goes under the bay (which you can run through) but this run has you going for only a half a mile before returning to the starting point.

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Here is a better look at the beginning and end of the course.

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Here is my wandering route through the Plaza de la Revolution as I paused to sightsee.

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This is a panorama picture of the Plaza de la Revolution that looks a lot better on my phone.

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Here is a closeup of the tribute to Che Guevara in the PdlR.

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Here is a closeup of the tribute to Camilo Cienfuegos in the PdlR.

Mileage:

This route worked out to 4.5 miles in total but it could definitely be extended in any direction for more sightseeing.

Elevation: 

A little challenging with a min elevation of 7 feet to a max of 132 feet.

Hill Ratio:

1 hill for a ratio of 0.22 for the 4.5 mile run.

CPMR: 

0.0. While I didn’t run into many smokers during my morning run, I have to say that the lack of catalytic converters in some of the older cars nearly caused me to create a new statistic for this blog. Technically, this number is 0.0 for this run, but you could theoretically count every old car as two smokers! In which case, I’d probably give this a nearly off-the-charts 3.0 CPMR. And this was early on a Sunday morning when there was little to no traffic on the roads. I don’t recommend running these streets during the day when more traffic is present.

%RNPS:

25%. This is another stat what will need to be adjusted. Though there was only one freeway near this route during mile 2, I’d argue that this number should be closer to 100%. 

I have to hand it to the EPA in the United States, they’ve done a great job reducing car-based air pollution. I run along the busy Westside Highway and the FDR all the time and one 1958 Plymouth Belvedere in Havana puts out more lung-choking exhaust than 100 catalytic converter-equipped cars zooming by the power plant on the running path near 14th St. 

Seriously, I had to hold my breath and wait for the exhaust to disapate every time one of these smart looking global warming machines went past.

Safe after dark?

Safety in Havana is interesting. Many of the neighborhoods I ran through looked run down which in the US usually indicates a sketchy neighborhood. However, the reason for the declining state of the housing in Cuba is due more to the embargo on building materials than due to neglectful residents. Based on my perception from my small sample of runs and walks through Havana (and Cuba in general), I’d say running through the neighborhoods in Cuba is very safe during the day and into the evening.

Crowd Scene?

A lot of people walk in Havana and the sidewalk widths vary widely. This particular route would likely be busier later during the day, especially during the middle of the day. I’d recommend running earlier to avoid running into large crowds.

Running Surface:

Sidewalk, asphalt, and carved coral (the most readily available building material in Cuba) on the Malecon.

Changing Station?

Tough to say. You can change in the hotel if you are a guest but I never got a chance to check out alternative arrangements.

Points of Interest:

There are so many things to see along this route!

In addition to starting at one of the original prestige hotels in the Melia Cohiba, you start across the street from the famous Riviera Hotel. 

Along the way on Avenida Paseo, you will pass a few embassies including the sizeable Embassy of China. Of course, you will also get a chance to see Plaza de la Revolution with the monument to Jose Marti, the Council of State (think “national government house of representatives”), the National Theater, the National Library, and the monuments to Che and Camilo.

Back along the water, you’ll run along the Malecon which is also known as the world’s largest couch because on a summer night, you’ll find thousands of people sitting or standing along the wall socializing.

If you choose to run further west along the Malecon through the tunnel, you’ll find Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Ave. This street featured the nicest houses in the city where the creme de la creme used to live before the revolution. 

Post-revolution, many of these estates were converted into embassies. With a central walking path down the middle of Quinta Avenida that extends for about two miles, it also makes for a nice run to consider.

Good for Groups:

Narrow sidewalks and bike paths along the course make this ideal for 2 up to 4 runners.

Safe from Cars:

If you stay along the sidewalks and obey the traffic signals, you should be in good shape. Most sidewalks have enough of a buffer from fast-moving traffic to maintain a good margin of safety.

Prospects for a Break-Free Run: 

There are probably two major breaks to worry about in this scenario. Be very careful crossing Avenida Paseo and the Malecon. They are very wide streets and depending on the time of day, traffic moves pretty fast and frequently along these roads.

Friends Run Into During Run:

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Is there a route in a foreign country you’ve always wanted to run, but wanted someone else to run it first in case of hidden axe murderers or marauding street cat gangs? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to cover it! Or is there any other route criteria you’d like me to cover? If so, drop me a comment below.

© 2017 Danilo Torres. All rights reserved.

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