When Robert Semple and Thomas O. Larkin founded Benicia in 1847, they couldn’t have picked a more ideal location for runners. With its long hills, wide sidewalks and sweeping views, Benicia gives runners everything they need for an enjoyable, yet challenging workout. If your treadmill has you bored to tears, if you’re tired staring at the same television screen while you’re working out, then consider stepping out of the gym and onto the streets of Benicia. Though you may not realize it now, after a scenic run out in the State Park or a workout up and down the challenging Southampton hills, you’ll understand that Benicia is the perfect town for runners. This article offers you three routes to consider the next time you want to check out Benicia while on the run.
Scenic: Ninth to Rose
Since Benicia sits along the Carquinez Straits, any scenic run has to maximize water views. Start this run at the Ninth Street Park and head down West K Street to the Benicia State Recreation Area. Follow the paved trail until you reach the second parking lot. During this stretch of the run, ignore any aches or pains and take in the beauty of the park. Listen for the twittering of redwing blackbirds; look for a beaver dam; smell the eucalyptus and anise. When you reach the second lot, turn right off the park trail and cross the newly opened Rose Drive Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge.
This span now safely connects western Southampton with the State Park. Follow the bridge over I-780 until you reach the intersection of Rose and Cambridge Drives. This is your turnaround point and is a little over 2 miles from the start. Using this new bridge, you’ll be able to increase the number of scenic run options, incorporating the vistas at the top of Southampton’s hills with the State Park’s rocky beaches and sweeping marshlands. And when you’re running out in the State Park, don’t forget to give your knees and joints a break by running along the soft-surfaced, single-track trail on either side of the pavement.
Hills: Cambridge Drive
It’s no secret that hills make the runner. Every healthy runner should incorporate hill repetitions in their weekly training regimen. Hills strengthen muscle fibers and increase overall aerobic fitness. Since Benicia is brimming with hills, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, the best hill in Benicia happens to be one of its steepest: Cambridge Drive. Park your car at the intersection of Rose and Cambridge Drives. From there, don your running shoes and head straight up Cambridge until you reach the top.
With 300 feet of persistent climb in just half a mile, with its nearly 20 percent grade, this is no hill for the faint of heart. The first time you complete this workout, don’t despair if you can’t run the whole length of the hill. Walking up it is just as good as running. Consider summiting this hill at least once a week if possible. As you begin to improve your fitness, attempt two or more repetitions.
Long: Clocktower Loop
Whether you are training for a marathon or just wanting to complete your first 5K, you should include one long run a week in your training schedule. Long runs strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which decrease your chances of injury. Long runs also increase your overall cardiovascular fitness. “Long” can be a relative term, but for the purposes of this article, a long run is approximately 6-7 miles.
If you’re just beginning to run long, experiment with flat routes first. One good option is to explore Benicia’s east side. Park your car at the Ninth Street Park and head east down West I Street until you get to First Street. Run down First Street to the end and turn left on East B Street, then run back up East Second. At this point, it’s time to get creative; wind your way northeast using either East Fifth or Sixth Streets until you reach Military East. Make a right out to the Clocktower, your turnaround point. Instead of retracing your exact steps back to Ninth Street, consider heading down L Street on your way back. Eventually you’ll reach the Library Park—a beautiful green space that should help take your mind off any late-run fatigue.
These are just three suggestions for you to try. After you’ve given them a shot, consider branching out and exploring the rest of Benicia. You may never turn on that treadmill again.