What does it take to create the quintessential Austin walk or run?
Someplace to get water, definitely. A bathroom comes in handy, too. But quirky highlights and beautiful scenery are what really make us forget our burning quads and flagging energy.
We took a look around the city, then checked in with some Austin runners to come up with this list of places to incorporate into your own epic Austin running or walking route.
1. Want to do a little (big) bird watching? You’re almost guaranteed a peacock sighting along West 35th Street between Mayfield Park, 3505 W. 35th St., and Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. The birds strut along the retaining walls, perch on rooftops and spread their iridescent tail feathers for passersby.
2. If you hike up all 105 steps at Mount Bonnell Park, 3800 Mount Bonnell Road, you still won’t be at the highest point in Austin. But you will get a good leg workout in — and a great bird’s eye view of Lake Austin.
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3. They don’t call it Scenic Drive for nothing. The West Austin road winds along a ridge above Lake Austin, providing more inspiring views.
4. The owners of a home on West Rim Drive in Northwest Hills built a water fountain right along the curb to keep passing runners and walkers hydrated. It’s pretty, too, decorated with colorful bits of tile. Plus, there’s a bowl for your dog to drink from.
5. What parent, out for a walk with their children, can resist the sign inviting them to take a free ride on the swing in front of Ana Salas-Porras’ home in the 4500 block of Shoal Creek Boulevard?
6. Run anywhere near Royal-Memorial Stadium the morning of a University of Texas football game and inhale the tantalizing aroma of Longhorn tailgating. Even at 6 a.m. you’ll get a whiff of smokers loaded with barbecue. The people watching’s not bad, either.
7. For another spectacular view, check out the city skyline from University Circle Drive at St. Edward’s University off South Congress Avenue. Tip: Best seen at sunrise.
8. Check out the refreshingly uncrowded hike-and-bike trail that winds through the Mueller development off Airport Boulevard, right in the middle of the city.
9. Everybody loves the trail around Lady Bird Lake. But lots of folks never venture east of Interstate 35. For a shady respite on a sunny day, head to the leafy section on the north side of the lake, between I-35 and Pleasant Valley Road. (And coming in 2014, the much-anticipated boardwalk on the south side of the lake, just west of I-35.)
10. In South Austin, detour to the “Greetings from Austin” mural by Billy Brakhage and Rory Skagen. The retro-postcard montage, painted in 1997, will make you smile.
11. The giant cement gorilla on West Lynn Street a few blocks north of Sixth Street, is good for a guffaw, and you never know what it’ll be wearing. And right across the street stand Puppy and Kitty, the colorful sculptures that guard the front of West Lynn Veterinary Clinic. They like to dress up for holidays, too.
12. The trail’s been spruced up at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park, 400 Grove Blvd., and athletes can stop at a portable toilet, then zip down a leafy and hidden out-and-back stretch of path toward U.S. 183.
13. What’s the best motivator? Food, of course. Pick a place for post-run breakfast tacos, pancakes or smoothies, park your car and run from there. When you finish, you don’t have to go anywhere to refuel. (Runners frequent Maudie’s Cafe, Torchy’s Tacos, Magnolia Cafe and Austin Java, to name a few.)
14. Not sure where you’re headed when you strike out? Tuck your Car2go membership card in your pocket and just go. When you’ve gone as far as you want to, you can use your smartphone to track down an available car and drive back home.
15. One last thing. You know you’ve had the perfect Austin run or walk when you spot Thong Guy, that anonymous Austin man who cycles around town wearing nothing more than a tea-colored thong. Don’t question it; just consider it your lucky day.