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The Great Runs Spring Road Trip

Your Chief Running Officer has just completed a memorable three-week road trip from Boston to southern Georgia, where I explored new running routes and QA’D some existing spots. I was joined by bike friend Jon from Boston to North Carolina, by my spouse Jennifer for the South Carolina and Georgia sections, and then solo’d it for the 5-day return trip. SLIDE SHOW BELOW, CLICK SIDE ARROWS TO ADVANCE SLIDES. SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS BELOW THE SLIDE SHOW.

Day 1: Drove from Boston to Delaware
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Highlight was a gorgeous canal-side bike ride along the Michael N Castle Trail between Delaware City and Chesapeake City. Another highlight was the post-ride outdoor beer at Grain.

Day 2: Rehoboth Beach Area
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Wonderful running on Gordon’s Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park, along Rehoboth Beach, and in the cute coastal town of Lewes.

Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk

Day 3: Explored Assateague National Seashore and Chincoteague Island
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Both have great multi-use paths and excellent, undeveloped beach running.

Assateague National Seashore Beach

Days 4-5: Wilmington, NC
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On the way to Wilmington, rode the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail — a former highway which is now a wide, flat, smooth 8-mile path. Great for interval training!

Did a great run in the Riverwalk Historic District, and cycled out to Greenfield Lake, UNC Campus, and Wrightsville Beach, which is a great beach for running.

Greenfield Lake, Wilmington

Day 6: Hilton Head Island, SC
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Some of the best beaches for running on the U.S. East Coast. I also biked nearly all of the island’s bike trails, some of which are quite scenic, and others are paths along main roads.

Hilton Head Island Bike Path

Day 7: Jekyll Island, GA
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Lovely island for running. We biked the entire island to come up with recs on the most scenic sections, and enjoyed a great beach run.

Jekyll Island Historic District

Day 8: Cumberland Island, GA
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Only accessible via ferry. Former Carnegie estate is now preserved and run by the National Park Service. Fabulous running opportunities in rain forest draped by live oaks, on trails with dune and marsh views, and miles of pristine beach. A highlight of the trip.

Days 9-10: Savannah
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The two running highlights were an early morning run through Savannah’s sun-kissed historic squares, and a fabulous sunset beach run on Tybee Island. Fort Pulaski is also worth exploring. Two disappointments: Half of the Queen’s Island Rail Trail is washed out. And the Wormsloe Historic Site requires admission and you can only drive along the oak tree lined road. Hence, no longer a ‘great run’!

Tybee Beach: Great Sunset Beach Run!

Days 11-12: Beaufort, SC
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Lovely running in the historic district, and a great beach run in Hunting Island State Park. We also biked the Spanish Moss Trail, which was part nice and part meh.

Hunting Island State Park

Day 13: Kiawah Island, SC
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Limited access by car unless you’re staying there, but you can explore the 30 miles of bike paths and a 10-mile beach to your heart’s content by foot or bike. We biked the entire island to discover the most scenic spots, including the firm sand beach which is great for running.

Kiawah Island: Wonderful firm sand on '10-Mile Beach'

Days 14-16: Charleston & Vicinity
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Great exploration of Historic District & waterfront up to the Citadel and Hampton Park by foot and bike. A nice running discovery was the Mount Pleasant Historic District just over the Ravenel bridge. Wonderful sunset beach run on Sullivan’s Island/Isle of Palms.

Sullivan's Island Beach

Ocean Walk in Mount Pleasant Historic District

Days 17-18: Richmond, VA
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The beautiful weather helped, but we were enchanted by the running options here: huge variety of trails along the James River, gorgeous parks, and numerous attractive residential neighborhoods, all in close proximity. Explored part of the Capital City trail, which stretches for 50 miles between Richmond and Williamsburg — great for a ride or long off-road run.

University of Richmond

View from Riverside Drive

Day 19: Eastern Shore of Maryland
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Not covered by GR yet, but Easton is a really cute town and there’s some wonderful running/biking on quiet farm roads. Also some nice Chesapeake views on the road down to Tilghman Island.

Day 20: New Haven, CT
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Stopped here on the long drive from Maryland to Boston to go for a height-of-spring-bloom run along pretty residential streets and out to East Rock.

One of the highlights of the trip was running
under the canopy of live oak trees. This 400-year old tree has a trunk with a 26-foot diameter!

A Few Trip Stats
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Miles Biked: 480
Miles Run: 50
Miles Walked/Hiked: 52
Total Steps: 380,000
Miles Driven: 2,940

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It was a great excuse to re-discover the traveling legs, escape Boston’s finicky spring weather, and write off some taxes. Truth be told, we did a lot more biking than running — it was the most effective way to cover major ground and explore new spots that would qualify as a ‘great run’. All of the places we visited are now updated on the Great Runs site, with improved guidance and some exciting new routes! 

A few highlights and observations

  • March to May is a fantastic time to be in the Southern U.S. Everything is blooming and green, and the temps are delightfully warm.
  • The beaches in Georgia and South Carolina are hands down the most consistent for running quality we’ve ever experienced. Not only can you run on them, you can bike on them. 
  • Running beneath a canopy of live oaks is something every runner must experience some time in their life.
  • Cumberland Island is a worthwhile day trip. You’ll have the place to yourself and experience a wonderful variety of terrain. 
  • If in Charleston and Savannah, get up early and enjoy a magical run in the gorgeous historic districts before the crowds descend. 
  • You can access some sections of ‘private’ & gated communities in places like Hilton Head and Kiawah Island on foot (or on a bike), but not in a car. 
  • We like Rehoboth Beach much better than Ocean City.
  • While Savannah and Charleston get all the love, Richmond is an under-rated city from a running perspective.

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