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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Beyond the ARC: Outdoor running spots in Davis

Tired of running inside the ARC? Want to explore the outdoors? Maybe it’s time for you avid runners to check out some local spots around Davis.

David Hawkins, an exercise biology professor said running outside on varied terrain is beneficial to any workout regime.

“Running on trails provides runners greater variety to keep them motivated and it also provides them eccentric muscle actions when running down trails, which they don’t tend to get running on a treadmill or around a track,” he said.

While mountainous trails with heavy incline and serpentine paths may not be available in Davis, there are definitely ways to have fun while getting your exercise. Here are just a few of Davis’s hot spots for runners.

The UC Davis Arboretum

Occupying 100 acres alongside the old north channel of Putah Creek, the UC Davis Arboretum is 3 miles around, a moderate distance for amateur runners. Home to 22,000 trees and plants sectioned off according to their geographic areas or plant families, the Arboretum provides much in the way of botanically diverse, calming scenery for any runner.

Founded in 1936 for teaching and research purposes, the Arboretum did not become a place for running until the 1960’s, when a referendum was passed to expand running paths. It was at this time that the gazebo was also added.

Kathleen Socolofsky, the Arboretum director, jogs the 3-mile path every week, said that it is bigger than many people think.

“The Arboretum has some incline for added resistance, and plenty of loops and sub-paths, so people can vary their workout,” she said.

Socolofsky also said most students do not realize that the Arboretum extends all the way to the UC Davis Veterinary School. In this sense, many parts of the arboretum are undiscovered wonders.

“One thing I find particularly beautiful about it is that it’s always changing depending on the season and on which plants or flowers are in bloom,” Socolofsky said. “This makes for a run that is always a little bit different -something you can’t find in the gym.”

One noteworthy spot in the Aarboretum includes a mural underneath the tunnel that goes under the A Street bridge. The mural depicts plant and insect interactions and was created by students attempting to fuse both science and art, Socolofsky said.

North Davis Greenbelt

The North Davis Greenbelt consists of the Covell, Senda Nueva, Perimeter and Northstar greenbelts. Extending four miles, the route is a little longer than the Arboretum but still doable for amateur runners.

The North Davis Greenbelt is one of four collections of paths in Davis that cater to scenic strolling, jogging, bike riding and walking. The other three are located in East, South and West Davis.

Construction of the greenbelts dates back to 1986. Members of City Council believed the city needed more interconnecting pathways for bikers and joggers.

One highlight of the greenbelt is the diversity of the landscape. From lakes and wetlands to cornfields, climbable cement dominoes and playgrounds, there are a variety of different environments for running.

Senior exercise biology major Mikey Acuna cites the changes in terrain as positive elements of the greenbelt. It offers different running surfaces such as dirt, grass, gravel and even wooden planks. Acuna said his favorite terrain is the grass.

“Running on grass is easier on your body as opposed to pavement,” he said. “It is impact friendly, and you’re less likely to be in pain the next day.”

Diverging paths also help to make the greenbelt a place of varied workout. North of the concrete dominoes, two paths offer different running experiences. You can continue to run on pavement or switch to a dirt path. Both provide a unique run, different from anything at the ARC. The West Davis greenbelt includes the Aspen Greenbelt and the Evergreen Greenbelt, while South Davis Greenbelts includes Putah Creek, Rose Creek, and Willowcreek. Finally, East Davis includes Green Meadows, Mace Ranch, Wildhorse, and La Playa Parks.

Whether you live in West, North, East or South Davis, greenbelt paths make for scenic running paths for any level of runner.

West Covell Boulevard and Country Road 31

One of the harder and more difficult running spots in Davis, Country Road 31 can be as long or as short as you want it.

Ending in the nearby town of Winters, West Covell Boulevard turns into Country Road 31, which merges onto Country Road 93A. Ambitious runners can go the whole 12.6 miles to Winters, where a water hole with a rope swing awaits tired, well-worked bodies.

For those of you who aren’t in the mood for running a half marathon, however, the road has pretty views for the first few miles. Stimulating for the country scenery enthusiast, running past fields of simple delights can be cathartic, especially if you go at sundown when the gold of the cornfields complements the sky’s red hue.

The road itself is mostly flat, but the changes in terrain can make your workout more varied, depending on whether you are running on the pavement, the gravel or the dirt mounds.

There are frequent cross streets that can break up your workout if you do get bored of running in a straight line. These crossroads lead you through farms, one of which is Grandpa’s Farm, a venue open only in the month of October that features a pumpkin patch, a hay maze, a petting zoo with baby goats and baby ducks, and group tractor rides.

Running half of a marathon is not something most people budget in to a day’s work, so try cutting that in half and the road to Winters to make for a scenic country run.

ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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