Albuquerque: A Year-Round Runner’s Paradise

Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp is one of many elite runner who have trained in Albuquerque. Photo: Scott Draper | Competitor

This mountain city offers near-perfect weather, sweet trails and an enthusiastic running community. 

Since the late 1960s, an ever-growing influx of elite distance runners—Kenyans, Japanese and a handful of Americans—have come to the Albuquerque area in the winter and spring to train. In fact, more than 20 athletes trained in Albuquerque to prepare for the London Olympics.

Visiting runners will find elites doing loops on the 3.3-mile dirt trails around Albuquerque Academy and speed workouts on the oval tracks (both indoors and out) at the University of New Mexico.

“It’s pretty fun to see them out there running the same routes as you,” says Randy Arriola, a local coach who opened ABQ Running Shop seven years ago. “They come for the diversity, altitude and the almost-perfect run climate.”

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Looking to run with some like-minded folks? Groups such as the Albuquerque Hash House Harriers and the ABQ Road Runners offer weekly social runs, track workouts and trail runs.

“The community has really begun to understand and embrace running,”  Arriola says. “Everyone is so friendly, so don’t be surprised to get a couple hellos or waves on your route.”

Where To Run

The Paseo del Bosque Bike Path is the only flat run in town, spanning 16 uninterrupted paved miles along the Rio Grande. City views line the 14.3-mile Paseo de Las Montanas route along the Piedra Lisa Arroyo to the base of the foothills. If you’re looking to escape, the Cibola National Forest/Sandia Mountains offer some of the best trail running in the state, including the lung-busting, 7.7-mile La Luz Trail. Just outside of town, the Tramway Bike Path has views of the La Sandia Mountains on a slight uphill for 8.5 miles one-way—hit the path early to avoid crowds. A 2.7-mile Sandia Peak Tramway (or drive 9 miles from town) gives easy access to more than 26 miles of remote mountain trails. Embrace history by navigating the rock drawings of Native Americans on the trails around the Petroglyph National Monument, including the Rinconada Canyon Trail.

Where To Race

Weekend warriors and daily run enthusiasts alike can find a race or two every weekend around Albuquerque, from holiday-themed runs to trail races that get your heart racing. The Run for the Zoo (May 4; runforthezoo.com) is the largest race in the state and is a big fundraiser for the ABQ BioPark Zoo. Ten thousand runners and walkers participate every year, including some of the fastest locals. Celebrating its 49th year in 2014, the La Luz Trail Run (Aug. 3; abqroadrunners.com/la-luz-trail-run.html) has become so popular, there is a lottery system for one of the 400 coveted spots into this summer event. The 12 percent grade of the course—topping out at 10,678 feet at the top of Sandia Crest after 4,000 feet of climbing—doesn’t seem to intimidate. “The climb is tough but worth it,” Arriola says. The Duke City Marathon (late October 2014; dukecitymarathon.com), which celebrated its 30th anniversary in October, is one of the premier running events in the state and serves as a Boston qualifier for those who dream in blue and yellow.

Where To Shop

The ABQ Running Store (6550 Holly Ave. NE D-2; abqrunningshop.com) has a staff with a combined 50-plus years of experience and guarantees you’ll love your shoes—or you can return them. Family owned and operated, the Bosque Running Shop (6001 Winter Haven Rd. NW; bosquerunningshop.com) has a custom-fit process to help you find the right shoe and offers group runs every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. Fleet Feet Sports (8204 Menaul Blvd. NE; fleetfeetalbuquerque.com) features a full lineup of clothing, accessories and running shoes, with free yoga on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Head to the historic Nob Hill area off old Route 66 to shop for local art and antiques. There is also a REI store located off the Pan American Freeway near other local bike and sports shops (1550 Mercantile Ave NE), so you can gear up for any kind of outdoor adventure.

Where to Eat & Drink

Nexus Brewery (4730 Pan American Freeway; nexusbrewery.com) pairs traditional New Mexico dishes (think Frito pie and calabacitas) with craft beers made on-site. If you love chilies or are just craving a burger, head to one of the Bob’s Burgers locations throughout Albuquerque. Bob owns the locations west of the Rio Grande and makes some of the hottest green chili in the state, only to be rivaled by his son-in-law Clifford, whose east-side locations feature chilies so hot you will be grabbing for anything to cool down your mouth. Flying Star Cafe (multiple locations; flyingstarcafe.com) is also runner friendly. “The patio is a great place to hang out after a run,” says Arriola. If you are looking for a splurge with spectacular views, take the tram 10,378 feet up and enjoy a meal at the High Finance Restaurant (40 Tramway Rd NE; sandiapeakrestaurants.com). Local dishes, from green chili beef stew to salads, sandwiches and seafood, are all on the menu.

Weather

With an average of 278 days of sunshine every year, the weather in Albuquerque is ideal for year-round running. Residents and visitors can experience all four seasons, but, despite the elevation, the area has a short winter and snowfall typically only in the Sandia Mountains. Winter temperatures range from the mid-20s the mid-50s, but springtime brings an idyllic range from the mid-40s to the upper 70s. The low humidity makes the upper-90s heat of summer easier to handle. Brief thunderstorms can be frequent during monsoon season from mid-June through September, but even then the region averages a little more than an inch of rain per month.

Did You Know?

The City: In recent years, Duke City has gained fame for the nefarious dealings in the hit TV show “Breaking Bad.”

The Food: The hardest question you’ll have to answer is whether you prefer red or green chilies with your post-run feast.

The View: Colorful adventures extend to the sky in the “ballooning capital of the world” and include the watermelon-hued Sandia Mountain range at sunset.

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