Distance runners know when it comes to beating the monotony of mega-mileage, it's best to get off track--the running track--for a while.
Like those exercise wheels for hamsters, one doesn't run the track, the track runs you .
The same can be said for that "around-the-neighborhood" rut into which many often fall.
Same old run. Same old time.
True, not everyone has the time or the motivation to drive somewhere new every time he or she runs, but it seems fair to suggest that exercise might be more stimulating--yes, actually enjoyable --if one could run his first mile without being able to recall every rock, curb and crack along the way.
The county offers a wide selection of running terrain: beaches, parks, canyons and hills, all of which welcome the pitter-patter (or clomp clomp) of waffled soles.
The following were chosen as the 10 Best Runs in Orange County. Selections were based on interviews with area runners, whose criteria included scenery, variety of terrain and difficulty. Difficulty is rated on a one-through-five star scale, five stars being most difficult.
LAGUNA NIGUEL LAKE LOOP ()
Laguna Niguel Regional Park provides a pleasant setting for a run, a brunch or both. There are plenty of trails around the area for further adventuring, but this one 5.4-mile loop alone is usually enough hills for the average billy goat. Run early and bring a drink. It can get very hot.
Directions: Start at the Alicia Parkway entrance to Laguna Niguel Regional Park. Run south on Alicia to Crown Valley Parkway and turn left. Run north on Crown Valley to La Paz Road. Turn left on La Paz and drop down into park. Follow trail through park and around lake. Continue to Alicia Parkway.
BALBOA PENISULA LOOP ()
A great run (5.7 miles) for those who appreciate the nautical scene. Plenty of boats, beaches and cool breezes to refresh weary spirits. Includes a ride across the bay on the Balboa Island Ferry, so don't forget your 20 cents . . . unless you want to swim. For those who want to log a little more distance in their training diaries, add another two miles by running the perimeter of Balboa Island after crossing over on the ferry.
Directions: Start at Dad's Donut Shop on Marine Avenue on Balboa Island. Run down Island to Bayside Drive and turn left. Take Bayside Drive to Pacific Coast Highway and turn left. Run north on Pacific Coast Highway to Newport Boulevard and turn left. Continue on Newport Boulevard (which turns into Balboa Boulevard) and turn right on 32nd Street. Run to the boardwalk and turn left. Follow the boardwalk to the Balboa Pier and turn left on Palm Street. Board the ferry and ride across to Balboa Island. Turn right off the ferry onto South Bayfront (sidewalk) and follow it around the Island back to Marine Avenue.