St. Petersburg/Clearwater is for Runners

Dedicated athletes takes their routine with them wherever they go. This holds true for runners. Most days I get up early, throw on my gear and start pounding the pavement, logging my requisite miles before the sun comes up.

I prefer to run alone. It’s my church – my chance to breathe, think and start my day. There’s something magical that tugs at a runner when you’re staying at the beach. Running at the water’s edge is not as easy at it appears in movies though

After a short jog from where I’m staying, I reach the sand beach and realize, you simply can’t run on this fluid white powdery surface. It takes a careful walk using a completely different motion to keep the sand out of my shoes and to make my way to the packed sand.

Image of Indian Rocks Running Club

Indian Rocks Running Club

In the dark hours before the dawn, I feel the humid salt breeze blow through my hair and hear the waves washing against the gulf shore. I make sure to stay above the wet sand, so I can keep the rhythm of my stride even though I sense the slightest sinking feeling with each step. Every day distractions are soon swept away by the relaxing sound of the sea, the comedic sandpipers running in and out, as they try to catch breakfast among the tide’s foamy aftermath. As I start to perspire, I’m glad I’m out early….it won’t be long before the temperatures start to rise.

I’ve made some mental notes as to where to get on and off the sand and turn around. Fishing piers, be it Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach,

Pier 60, at Clearwater Beach

Pier 60, at Clearwater Beach

or Long Pier in Redington Beach,

Pier at North Redington Beach

Pier at North Redington Beach

or wooden ramps over protected sea oats, serve as my markers to measure time and distance.

While yesterday was a difficult run, less miles were covered. Today I don my gear and elect to run street-side. I’m amazed how much farther I can run with asphalt under my feet. This morning is met with the mundane side of beach life and it’s not as easy to free my mind – newspapers being delivered, equipment headed to the sand to begin beautifying the beach (who knew her looks didn’t come naturally!), the aroma of food wafting from restaurants make me think of breakfast, employees bicycling to work and fishermen readying to head out to sea.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll get back on the beach as it’s much more peaceful run. For those who like to run in a pack, dawn and dusk options are available around the county…see below.

Have Bike. Will Travel.

We love to ride our bikes. Whenever possible, we travel with them. Ask anyone in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area where to ride and this is what they’ll say, “Pinellas Trail.”

Image of Sea Oats and Sunset

Sea Oats and Sunset

In many parts of the country, retired railroad corridors have been converted to recreational paths and it’s no different here. This 36-mile contiguous linear trail connects Tarpon Springs to the north with downtown St. Petersburg to the south. The asphalt is well marked and requires users – bikers, walkers, in-line skaters and others – to follow “rules of the road” for the safe and enjoyable use by all. While the pathway hugs the west side of peninsula, don’t worry about crossing congested roadways, as overpasses have been created in many places.

Image of Over the Edge Bikes, Dunedin

Over the Edge Bikes, Dunedin

Over our numerous stays in the area, we have enjoyed biking different sections. Maps, available for this county park, highlight “park and ride” lots, beverage vendors and a place to get under cover for those unexpected showers. Bike and skate shops have popped up along the trail offering repairs, rentals and sales. A thumbs up to Trail Sports in Seminole for their great service They offer rentals and are convenient to the trail. So glad Uncle Bill and his wife could join us on a ride!

The trail is busy on weekends. For that reason, we prefer to take the roads less traveled and explore the many spurs and side trails built as a result of the trail’s popularity. Exploring the many neighborhoods gives us a real flavor for the community.

A big thanks too for the bike lanes on Gulf Blvd., a major north-south thoroughfare between Clearwater Beach’s Sand Key area in northern Pinellas county to Treasure Island (includes a short stint on Blind Pass Road) and then the length of St. Pete Beach to the south.

I’ll touch on some of those neighborhoods in another blog, as well as beach cruisin’ and a trail within Fort DeSoto County Park.

Slideshow Image 1 – Photo courtesy: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

Slideshow Image 2 – Take a spin around Pass-a-Grille, a small community just south of St. Pete Beach on these beach cruisers. Rent bikes a Merry Pier, located on the bay. Stay off the main streets if you like and have fun exploring the many alleyways. Photo courtesy: ©Charles Morton.