Reasons to Love Running in Austin from Outside elessard

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An enthusiastic transplant from the East Coast, Michael Zocco loves spreading joy about Austin, Texas, as a fantastic running city. “It’s a very special community,” says the co-city lead for the Endorphin Running Club, Austin Area. Zocco and his co-lead, Makayla Bassi, host group runs every Monday evening and occasionally other weekdays, plus long runs on Saturdays. Whatever the day, the message remains one of inclusivity and positivity through running.

“Our goal,” says Zocco, “is to expand as much as possible, where we can get people from all different paces and experience levels to be able to share that same space: endorphins.”

Zocco says he loves how other running groups and clubs around town offer group runs throughout each week. “That makes Austin so special,” he says.

The majority of runners in Austin head to the multiuse trail around Lady Bird Lake, which is actually a segment of the Colorado River. Teeming with runners and other recreationalists, the ten miles of smooth path along the waterfront is a testament to Austin’s health-and-fitness-loving vibe.

 

Routes

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail: While the official name for this ten-mile path around Lady Bird Lake is long, the trail that circumnavigates a dammed section of the Colorado River is casually referred to as Lady Bird or the Lake Trail. What makes this highly trafficked route special, Zocco says, is how it allows runners to connect with each other. “You realize there are a lot of people who care about the same things you do,” he says. “And for everyone who loves recording their runs, it’s a perfect ten-mile loop, so it’s great for training.”

Congress Street: Running on this 1.5-mile road between Lady Bird Lake to the Texas State Capitol is “just super iconic,” says Zocco. “People do out-and-backs up and down Congress for the city scenery.”

Tejas State Park Trail System: Just outside the city, in the Texas Hill Country, is Tejas, home to trail races and ultramarathons. The terrain is flat but beautiful—and peaceful. “You can hear a pin drop there,” says Zocco.

More options: The Barton Creek Greenbelt heads just over seven miles past limestone cliffs and the creek. For a bit of rugged terrain in the city, the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail veers off Lady Bird Lake for three miles. And don’t miss Barton Springs, a pristine natural spring connected to Lady Bird Lake that welcomes swimmers year-round—summer group runs often start and finish there, and runners take a dip to cool down afterward.

Events

Ascension Seton Austin Marathon: With a full marathon, plus a half and a 5K, Austin Marathon weekend each February is “like the Super Bowl of the running community,” says Zocco. “The visibility of running, of health and wellness in general, is at an all-time high that weekend,” he says, “and everyone comes out to either run or support the event.”

3M Half Marathon: Taking place every January, this half marathon drops more than 300 feet in elevation from start to finish. “A lot of people like to PR that race,” says Zocco. “It’s a special event.” 

Decker Challenge: This event is in its 45th year and features a half marathon, 5K, and kids’ mile. The half wraps around Decker Lake on hilly roads, serving as a hearty training run for those working toward a spring marathon.

More Options: The Zilker Relays, held in Zilker Metropolitan Park, bring together teams of four, with each team member running 2.5 miles. The Austin Distance Challenge kicks off in September with the CASA Superhero 5K and leads up to February’s Ascension Seton Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. Many runners sign up for all of the monthly events, earning perks like a Distance Den bag drop and snack area post-race, plus a special all-event finisher’s jacket.

Austin is full of running clubs that offer group runs in town and on the trails. (Photo: Getty Images)

Resources

Clubs

Endorphins Running: Part of the nationwide group, this chapter meets for weekly runs led by Zocco and/or Bassi to celebrate community while running along Lady Bird Lake.

Your Mother’s Run Crew: Hosting group runs open to all paces, this female-led club also connects its members to other running events throughout Austin.

Austin Runners Club: This club for all ages and paces organizes group runs and a host of events, including the Daisy 5K, the Decker Challenge Half Marathon, the Austin Distance Challenge, and the Zilker Relays.

Stores

Fleet Feet Austin Downtown: With locations at Circle C, Gateway, and Seaholm, Fleet Feet Austin provides shoe fittings and apparel, “family-like” training, and group run sessions.

The Loop Running Supply: Just off the path around Lady Bird Lake, this store hosts group runs, gait analysis, and nutrition consultations, plus a curated selection of fashion-forward running footwear, apparel, and accessories.

Ready to Run: This locally owned shop, located in the Far West Retail Center, specializes in gait analysis and shoe fittings.

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