Running in the 'Meda: Favorite running spots in the East Bay

Running in the 'Meda: Favorite running spots in the East Bay

Marty Beene

Lake Chabot's Columbine Trail. Photo by Marty Beene.

Starting with this week's blog, I want to write about my favorite places to run here in the East Bay. For my first entry in this series, let's visit Lake Chabot Regional Park, which is operated by the East Bay Regional Park District. I've done a fair amount of running here over the years, and I think it might be my first choice of places to run if I'm going to drive somewhere for a workout.

The great thing about this park from a runner's perspective is the variety of options it offers. The basic loop around the lake is a challenging run of about nine miles. It includes paved paths, dirt roads, and single-track trails. There's one big hill that has been named something including profanity by at least one person. There are also many other ups and downs that always keep things interesting for you.

I have seen deer, turkeys, rabbits and rattlesnakes, and there was apparently a nesting pair of bald eagles along the route last year that I missed. The route actually has markers every half mile so you know how far you've gone.

If you want to run further than nine miles, you have several options to extend that distance by anywhere from one to five miles or more (if you connect to trails beyond the park's limits). Your best bet to do this is to check out a trail map of the park online (and print it out if you need to) to plan your longer run. Another option is to run one of the courses laid out for a trail race, like for Brazen Racing's Bad Bass event - they have a half marathon course that you can follow using their map.

What if you're not up for the whole loop? No problem. The first couple miles of the loop trail in either direction from the home base of the marina building are lovely paved paths that you can follow easily to create shorter out-and-back runs. Each direction has hills, with the direction leading to a counterclockwise version of the full loop a little easier. The other direction leads you to the dam, which people with civil engineering backgrounds like me always enjoy viewing.

One of the other great features of the trails is that there are bathrooms along all but the most remote sections. Those of us who hydrate appropriately before a run particularly appreciate this.

My favorite time to run at Lake Chabot is early in the morning because it seems like there is more wildlife around. You can tell you're the first one on the trail in the morning when you run into the spiderwebs that have been strung across it overnight. Do beware of running here in the afternoon during the summer, as it can get quite warm, and there isn't any drinking water available along the main loop trail. I've also run here during winter storms - the unpaved parts do pretty well for the most part, but you definitely need to be aware of falling tree branches if it's windy.

This should give you a few ideas of what to run at Lake Chabot. If you have other favorite running locations you'd like me to cover, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment. If I know the place, I'll write about it; if not, I'll go check it out.

To get to Lake Chabot from Alameda, take the I-880 down to I-238, then double back onto westbound I-580 back toward Oakland. Take the second exit to Fairmont Drive, turn right onto Fairmont at the signal, and follow it up and over the big hill. When you get to the bottom on the other side, turn left into the park. It costs five bucks to park there, which some people avoid by parking on the street outside the park. Knowing that the five bucks pays for the features that I use in the park (restrooms, etc.), I gladly pay to get in.

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. Marty still wants your opinions about his idea for a running retreat - he created a brief survey that you can complete here to help him out; he can be reached at