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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Bronx: Einstein/Jacoby Medical Center – Home Depot for peaceful short- to medium-runs

For many runners, maintaining momentum is important during their run. Finding a short route that provides the fewest running interruptions can be important to a runner. For this reason, I present you with the Jacoby – Home Depot route. It can be a peaceful 4-miler and, yet, it can be so much more! If you tack on the 1 mile loop around the Home Depot-Planet Fitness shopping center, you can make this anywhere from a 5-miler to a 12-miler and beyond!

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Route Description:

(Run 8/5/17) This route starts at the driveway of 1935 Eastchester Road, near the intersection of Stillwell Ave. and Eastchester Road.

Head south to Morris Park Ave. and make a right.

About 400 meters later, make another right on Seminole Ave. and follow the street around the western side of the Jacoby/Einstein campus to Pelham Parkway South.

Make a right on Pelham Parkway South and continue until Eastchester Road.

At Eastchester Road, make a left and cross to bike path on the north side of Pelham Parkway (not Pelham Parkway North). Make a right on the bike path and follow it to Stillwell Ave.

Make a left on Stillwell Ave. and follow it to the right as it continues on to the east. Run on the long, continuous sidewalk in front of the United Cerebral Palsy/Hausman Campus.

Near the end of the campus, you will be forced to cross the street to continue to the end of Stillwell Ave. where you will curl left along E. Gun Hill Road around Kings Harbor Hospital.

Continue for two blocks to the stop sign right across the street from the Pelham Bay Diner. After you pass the stop sign, turn around and return the way you came for the four-mile route.

Bonus miles! If you want to continue adding miles to your run, you can loop around the Home Depot-Planet Fitness shopping center starting from this point across the street from Pelham Bay Diner.

For the additional 1-mile loop, continue running north along E. Gun Hill Road (be mindful crossing the two shopping center entrances) until you hit Allerton Ave (after the gas station).

Turn left on Allerton Ave. and follow two long blocks (Allerton Ave. becomes Gunther Ave. beginning with the second block).

When you reach Waring Ave., cross to the far side and make a left.

Follow Waring Ave. until you reach E. Gun Hill Road again (about 7 blocks) and make a left to the stop sign across from the Pelham Bay Diner to complete the 1-mile loop.

Return home from this point if you are finished with the loops or continue repeating the loop as desired.

Mileage:

4 miles to many.

Elevation: 

Basically flat. Varies from 26 to 62 feet.

Hill Ratio:

0 hills for a ratio of 0.00.

CPMR: 

0.00. No cigarette smokers encountered for the past five runs.

%RNPS:

0.50. The 4-mile course places you within a half mile of a major highway for the middle two miles of the course. The 1-mile loop is entirely within a half mile of a major highway.

Safe after dark?

This route is pretty safe until dark.

Crowd Scene?

Very light foot traffic for the majority of the course. Most of the foot traffic you encounter will be in front of Jacoby Hospital along Pelham Parkway South.

Running Surface:

Sidewalk and asphalt.

Changing Station?

There is a Starbucks on the corner of Morris Park Ave. and Eastchester Road with serviceable bathrooms.

Points of Interest:

Good views of the Pelham Parkway and the Hausman Campus.

Good for Groups:

Great for group runs of up to 4. Most of the course is along neighborhood sidewalks so you can run 2 across comfortably for most of the course.

Safe from Cars:

As long as you are mindful of the light neighborhood traffic and at the entrances for Jacoby Hospital and the shopping center, you should be fine on this low-volume set of roads.

Prospects for a Break-Free Run: 

The major break point will be when you cross Pelham Parkway north to south or vice versa. With experience, you can time your crossings with minimal stoppage. Otherwise, most of the run can be done without a major break in momentum.

Friends Run Into During Run:

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Is there a route 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.

Queens: Astoria Park to 20th Ave to Steinway Loop

Today’s posting is a Flashback Friday posting. I lived in Astoria, NY for a year and liked it a lot more than I thought I would.  After living in Manhattan for 5 years, it was refreshing to open my front door and look across the street to see Astoria Park and the Tri-boro Bridge.  I guess this is the feeling the folks on Central Park West must feel like in the morning! I had a number of routes mapped for Astoria and this is a 4 mile loop that anyone in Astoria should enjoy. Start at any point on this route and finish the loop since it spans northern Astoria.

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Click on map to enlarge.

Route Description:

(Run 4/10/14) I would typically start this route at the track in Astoria Park, then head north on Shore Drive along the East River to the power plant on 20th Ave and hang a right. Head all the way down to Steinway St. and make a right down to Ditmars Blvd. and make another right. Head back to Astoria Park and make a left on Shore Drive and head back to the start at the Astoria Park track.

Mileage:

4ish miles.

Elevation: 

Only two significant rises that take place over a 1/2 mile span.

Hill Ratio:

3 hills for a ratio of 0.75.

CPMR: 

0.5.  You will usually run into one or two smokers on Ditmars.

Safe after dark?

Astoria has one of the lowest crime rates in the 5 boroughs.  I regularly ran this route at night after work from 9pm to 12am and felt safe as an average-sized male.  I would probably exercise more caution since there are isolated stretches along 20th Ave.

Crowd Scene?

The only crowded portion I ran into was on Ditmars but I like that stretch because it has great vibe at most times of the day.  If you want to avoid the crowds, head down Steinway to Hoyt Ave S and head back to the park that way.

Running Surface:

Sidewalk and asphalt.

Changing Station?

The park has bathrooms that are open generally until 7pm.

Points of Interest:

Great views of the Triboro Bridge, Astoria Park, and Ditmars Ave (one of the main drags in Astoria).

Good for Groups:

Great for group runs since the promenade along the East River and the north side of 20th Ave provide ample space to run. Running down Ditmars is hit or miss during the day but manageable.

Safe from Cars:

Three quarters of this route is fairly free of the worry of vehicular traffic.  You’ll need to look alive on Ditmars as you’ll cross several streets on this stretch.

Prospects for a Break-Free Run: 

Moderate! Approximately 5 major intersections where you probably need to stop if you don’t catch the light.

Friends Run Into During Run:

0.

© 2015 Danilo Torres. All rights reserved.

Manhattan: Downtown to Columbus Circle via 7th Ave

Have you ever wanted to try something new even though you know that it is the absolute wrong thing to do? I’ve lived in New York for 8 years now and I should have known better than to run up 7th Ave in broad daylight. Want to experience as much of New York as you can in 45 minutes? Run up 7th Ave after work on a weekday. You’ll see a famous movie site, an NYPD station, a legendary music venue, tunnel traffic, nine rises, dozens of busy intersections, copious numbers of smokers, hundreds of out-of-towners, and thousands of New Yorkers.

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Click on map to enlarge.

Route Description:

(Run 4/7/15) This route starts outside the World Trade Center PATH Station, heads north on West Broadway to Varick to 7th Ave toward Columbus Circle.

Mileage:

4.13 miles.

Elevation: 

Not really hills, just long rises.

Hill Ratio:

9 hills (rises) for a ratio of 2.17.

CPMR: 

20 smokers for CPMR of 4.84.  Highest number I’ve recorded to date.

Safe after dark?

Probably safe until 12am.  When you run up the middle of the city that never sleeps, you’ll never be alone.

Crowd Scene?

Yes.  Definitely not a PR-potential run as you find yourself running past Penn Station and through Times Square. A good easy run especially with the number of forced stops at intersections you’ll encounter.

Running Surface:

Sidewalk.

Changing Station?

The New York Running Company offers its changing rooms to weary runners until closing time at Columbus Circle.

Points of Interest:

Start by the Freedom Tower, head past the Ghostbusters fire station, run past S.O.B.’s on Varick, Penn Station, Times Square, Columbus Circle, and Central Park.

Good for Groups:

Nope. Picking your way through crowds is best for single runners and those who are looking to hone their skills as a running back.

Safe from Cars:

Too many intersections to count means that you’ll need to be vigilant throughout this run for people AND cars.

Prospects for a Break-Free Run: 

Terrible.  You’ll run into throughways for the Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnels, and 7 major cross streets (Canal, Houston, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th) which will guarantee that you will have several guaranteed breaks during your run.

Friends Run Into During Run:

0 today

Also, a special shout out to my only subscriber! Thanks for following, Michele!

© 2015 Danilo Torres. All rights reserved.