Running the gamut


The running trail around Lake Alice provides a scenic path in the middle of UF's campus. But watch out for those alligators.

Sun file photo
Published: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
The five best places to run in and around Gainesville
BEST ON-CAMPUS RUN Lake Alice THE GOOD: Lake Alice, one of the signature features on the University of Florida campus, is an alternative location for those who have worn out Percy Beard Track and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Florida cross country coach Jeff Pigg is one of several UF athletic coaches who take a run around Lake Alice on their lunch break.
"You feel like you're a ways from campus but you're not too far," Pigg said. "You can always see the (football) stadium."
The loop around Lake Alice takes you from the densely wooded University Gardens at the north end to a long trail on the south end. The run features paved sidewalks and dirt trails.
"Running around Lake Alice is hard to beat," Pigg said.
THE BAD: Watch out for alligators. DISTANCE: Approximately 3 1/2 miles around the lake.
DIRECTIONS: On the campus of the University of Florida. From 13th Street: go south on SW 13th Street across University Avenue to Museum Drive and turn right. Continue for about a mile until the road curves left. At the curve, Lake Alice will be visible on your left. A short distance farther, pull left into the parking lot.
BEST CLOSE-TO-HOME RUN Ring Park THE GOOD: Ring Park is ideal for those seeking a quick run close to home. Located between NW 23rd Blvd. and NW 16th Ave., the 19-acre park features a winding trail that forms a circle. The narrow, dirt trails wind along Hogtown Creek and feature a few rolling hills.
"It's a complete circle so you can't get lost," Whaley said. "That's why I like to run there. It's a really soft trail, there's not too many roots (in the ground) and there are a lot of hills so you can get a great run in."
THE BAD: You're likely to run on the same trails over and over again if you're looking to get a long run in.
DISTANCE: Varies. DIRECTIONS: Parking available at Elks Lodge entrance located at 1801 NW 23rd Blvd. Pedestrian entrances are located at NW 16th Ave near NW 20th Way and at the northeast corner of the Forest Ridge subdivision.
BEST NATURE RUN San Felasco trails (San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park)
THE GOOD: Those who have spent time running on the dirt trails through the San Felasco Hammock State Park have come across a wide variety of wild animals. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys, and many species of songbirds make their homes in the 18 natural communities found in the preserve, according to the Florida Park Service.
"I've seen bobcats, deer, hogs," Whaley said. "It's a really, really cool place to run. The trails are never-ending out there."
Pigg says he likes to run at San Felasco because of the soft, natural dirt trails.
"The soft surface is good for your body," Pigg said. "But mostly it's exhilarating to run out there because it's so beautiful."
The trails cut through numerous changes in elevation to take you through sinks, upland forests and prairies.
THE BAD: Cost. Park entrance fee is $2.00 per vehicle.
DISTANCE: Varies. Every half-mile is marked.
DIRECTIONS: Go north on NW 43rd St. from Newberry Rd. Turn left onto Millhopper Rd. (CR 232) and travel west toward I-75. Park entrance is on the left just before I-75 overpass (there is no Interstate access at the CR 232/I-75 overpass).
BEST PLACE FOR A WORLD-CLASS RUN Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail THE GOOD: The Gainesville-Hawthorne trail is a good bet for anyone seeking a marathon-like workout. The trail is mostly concrete and winds through Gainesville's Boulware Springs Park, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management area. Don't be surprised if you spot horseback riders on the trail as well. Use of the state park is free.
"There are a lot of bikers out there, but as it's also a great place to run," said Mike Whaley, manager of Run Florida on West University Avenue. "If you like to run on pavement, that's a great place to run."
THE BAD: Most of the trail is exposed to the sun. While ideal during the final days of winter, the searing Florida sun can become a hinderance during spring and summer.
DISTANCE: 16 miles. DIRECTIONS: State Park starts on SE 15th Street and extends to Hawthorne near US 301. To reach the Boulware Springs trailhead from Gainesville, intersection of University Avenue and Main Street: Travel east on University Ave. and take the right fork onto SR 20. Almost immediately, go south onto SE 15th Street. Travel until you find Boulware Springs City Park on the right. If the road makes a 90 degree left turn, you've passed the park. To reach the Hawthorne trailhead from Hawthorne: Follow the signs posted on US 301 or CR 2082.
BEST RUN YOU'VE NEVER DONE Micanopy's dirt roads THE GOOD: This is a run into total seclusion. Begin your run at SE 185th Ave. off of US 441 just south of Micanopy.
The dirt road features a few gentle hills that slice between residences and a few horse farms sitting on the banks of Tuscawilla Lake. A thick forest canopy will keep you in the shade.
"It's worth the drive," said Pigg, who takes his UF cross country runners here from time to time. "Different surfaces are really good for your body. If you're on the treadmill you're always striking the exact same spots. Varying terrain allows a break from that. It mixes it up. Psychologically, varying the environment is good as well."
THE BAD: About a 20- to 25-minute ride from Gainesville.
DISTANCE: Varies. DIRECTIONS: Travel south on US 441 from Gainesville toward Micanopy. Approximately two miles south of CR 234, which leads to Micanopy, turn right onto SE 185th Ave. Begin your run here.
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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