Running in Mexico City

We run nearly every day without exception. As we travel from destination to destination we always have to figure out where to run in our new, temporary home. Sometimes this is easier than others, but more often than not, it is a challenge. We scan the internet, we look for blogs, we check Strava and Mapmyrun.

We decided to write about what we couldn’t find on the internet: a quick guide for running in new locations. If there is info you’re interested in that we didn’t think to include, or there are places we should be running in that we’re not, please tell us. It’ll make our lives better, our research easier, and it’ll help all the other runners out there that are looking for places to run in new locations.

The finish of Julie's 16k race in Chapultepec Park

The finish of Julie’s 16k race in Chapultepec Park

Fast Facts:

When: 5/1/2016-6/15/2016

Miles run: 384 miles (Matt) 118.6 (Julie)

Where we lived: Roma Norte, less than 1 km from Chapultepec Park (Leones entrance)

Pollution (self-made index 1-5): 4.5 – It was bad a lot of the time.

Elevation: 7,000’+

Shoes worn: Nike Zoom Elite, Nike Pegasus 31, Nike Wildhorse 3 (Matt), Brooks Cascadia (Julie)

Paavo’s age: 5-6 months

Quickscore on a 1 to 5 scale: 3.5

-Where did you run? – specific routes or areas

  1. Chapultepec Park – This place is easy to find. Look on a map of Mexico City and you will see this huge green space on the West side of the city. There are lots of entrances and lots of parts of the park to run in. The challenge was to figure out which parts to use and how to get to them. I had read that the park is twice the size of Central Park in NY. There should be a caveat though: some of it is inaccessible and I’ve heard rumors that the farther out locations have feral dogs (friend claims to have been chased while biking). That said, I could easily get an 8 mile run in without repeating once I figured out how to connect various sections. The greatest number of runners were in the mornings in the main part of the park and in El Sope later in the day and evening. Here is a typical route for me: https://www.strava.com/activities/609648338 (I would often run Paseo de la Reforma to get to the far part of the park – there was a middle section between the avenues that was better for running than dodging commuters on the side walk.
  2. Ocotal – This is a 4k trail loop on the outskirts of the city. I went with some new friends early one morning, starting in the dark with headlamps and finishing in the daylight. Lots of runners and very common place for people to go. It is over 9,000’ elevation and largely out of the smog, though it is located right off a major highway out of town. I’ve been told it’s unmarked, but everyone locally knows where it is. Here is the route: https://www.strava.com/activities/582066955
  3. La Pila – More trails on the outskirts of town, a little further than Ocotal. Went with Ricardo and his family for a morning run here. Weather was great, very popular trail, and there were people set up making juice in the parking area. I think it’s a national park, but it doesn’t feel at all like a US National Park. We paid a small fee to park and then we were off. We hiked a steep section in the beginning and then it was a fairly level run the rest of the way. There are many trails but the main one is an out and back, 21k is what I was told. Would love to run more out there if I had a car or had been living closer to this park.
    Trails just outside of Mexico City

    Trails just outside of Mexico City

    https://www.strava.com/activities/605943941

  4. Reforma – This is a main street through the city. I didn’t totally figure it out until our last Sunday there, but this huge road is closed to car traffic and is taken over by bikes, runners, and walkers every Sunday. There are multiple stops as cross streets still have traffic (cops and workers help manage the traffic to keep it safe). Cool experience to be running down one of the major streets of the city. https://www.strava.com/activities/607331822 (part of this run was on Reforma and then I headed to the park after getting tired of being stopped at lights)
  5. Parque Mexico and the Amsterdam loop – not my favorite, but close by and something to do when I was tired of the big park. There is a 1k loop around the park and closer to 2k around the bigger Amsterdam loop. The bigger loop crosses Sonora Rd twice so getting stopped is likely. Plus, paying attention to traffic on smaller road crossings is a must. The smaller loop in Parque Mexico is usually busy with walkers, but it works in a pinch. https://www.strava.com/activities/588077165

-How accessible were the good running locations? Road, track, trail?

Running to good running locations in the city is challenging as the city is big and busy, making running the streets often challenging. If you’re cool driving, taking Uber, or public transit, then there are more options. We opted for staying close to Chapultepec park, which made running from our front door possible.

Our entrance to Chapultepec near the Leones gate

Our entrance to Chapultepec near the Leones gate

-Safety

Our first night, we got in after dark and I still needed to run. I felt safe. As we spent more time there, I felt even safer. That said, our local friend Ricardo ensured me that there are places that he wouldn’t run and that I definitely should not venture into. Only one time in 6.5 weeks did I turn around to run somewhere else because it had seemed that I’d ventured somewhere that I shouldn’t.

From a female perspective, Julie felt very safe running. She stayed on just one side of Chapultepec Park, in the main 3k loop, mainly because she’s not super adventurous and doesn’t like to explore much. She ran as early as 6am in the park and felt safe going to and from the park, and within it. There were always other runners and people out and about at nearly all times of the park’s hours (5am-7pm, 8pm in the summer)

-Weather

Depends when you go. It was hot when we arrived in early May with temps in the mid-80s. The sun was hot and the smog was thick. Within a couple weeks the rainy season started. It was still sunny most of the time but the temps dropped into the 70s and big thunderstorms were common on a daily basis. People were out walking in the storms so I tried to not feel scared of the lightning when I’d inevitably find myself running in the rain later in the day. We ran at all times of the day, with the early morning being the coolest and clearest, but even late morning (10-11am) wasn’t bad, as there was a good deal of shade within Chapultepec.

A different part of Chapultepec, around a cactus garden

A different part of Chapultepec, around a cactus garden

-What was the running vibe?

At the right time of day in the right place, it feels like tons of people run in Mexico City. It’s also a huge city and the percentage of people running is likely to be really small. El Sope and Chapultepec in the morning had the biggest runner vibe going.

-Running community?

We met runners by the end of our first week in the city. We weren’t actively seeking out community but if we had I think we could have found it. Everyone I met and ran with went out of their way to show me cool places to run.

-Running stores and access to new gear

Most stuff is available. There was a New Balance store two blocks from our place and I was able to buy a new pair of Pegasus shoes from the Nike Factory store for $54. There are malls and online retailers too.

-Racing opportunities?

Nearly every weekend. We didn’t feel up to racing right away but by the end of our stay, we were looking for races. Had we stayed longer, we would have raced more. Here are two race reports we ran while in CDMX: Toluca Marathon and the Split 16kIMG_20160605_102046813

-Best parts about running in city

Chapultepec park. I enjoyed doing loops and exploring the big park. El Sope was great because there were always runners. And there are races pretty much every weekend that you can sign up for very last minute.

-Least favorite aspect of running in city

Smog and traffic.

-Special tips/pointers for others

Carry 5 to 10 pesos with you. Bathrooms are seldom free and if the necessity hits you and you’re far from home, options are limited. I had to take care of business in a less than desirable location – stressful and messy! A small ziploc of toilet paper doesn’t hurt either, as there was rarely toilet paper available in the bathrooms or in the porta potties at races.

Be ready for the altitude. It took me 2+ weeks to feel decent running. I was coming off a 50 miler prior to arriving, but long after I recovered from that race, I was still struggling at 7,000’+ elevation.

-Best stories from running there

Running with Ricardo and his crew. We met them while looking for a swimsuit for Julie. Julie found a store via Google that was closeby. We ended up finding out that the store is an office for an online store. We get to talking, turns out they had some small inventory for Julie, and that they’re all runners (triathletes) as well. We exchanged info and this lead to me running trails on two different occasions. It also lead to good conversation and hopefully a friendship that we can carry with us.

What did we miss? Other great places to run in Mexico City?

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4 Responses to Running in Mexico City

  1. Dionne Himmelfarb says:

    This should be your goal. To have a section in your blog where runners can check out the running scene before they go and visit. Keep on traveling.

    • Matt says:

      We would love that! It depends if we’re able to keep traveling (and running!). For now, the plan is to keep traveling and to keep running, so we’ll keep writing about it. Now you just need to come run with us!

  2. Araceli Jonsson says:

    Do you have any insight into where we could find an actual track to run on? My son is a high school runner trying to get a college scholarship, and he needs to train during spring break of 2017. We will be staying in Hacienda de Valle Escondido near Ciudad Lopez Mateos. Thanks in advance for any help the community can offer!

    • Matt says:

      I’ll ask around and see if I can find anything near where you’ll be at. I’m sure there are tracks to use in CDMX but I am not familiar with the area you’ll be in.

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