Sunset Cliffs, Doughnuts and Beer: Discover San Diego with Guided Runs from Step By Step Run Company

Sunset cliffs running tour | San Diego | Step By Step Run Co
Our Sunset Cliffs Run Tour at Sunset is one of our most popular tours.

From Polar Vortex to West Coast Warmth

I moved to San Diego from Chicago 2 1/2 years ago. For the 2 years I lived in Chicago, it was during the city’s coldest Polar Vortex and I was training for Boston 2014. That winter rocked my world. I had to make decisions about whether I wanted run 15 miles in zero degrees or on the treadmill.

It was during that winter I saw my toes turn purple after a 10k race on the lakefront path and my hair freeze into sweatlocks. I knew that if running was going to be a permanent fixture in my life that I needed a change of scenery.

I had dreams of moving to the Pacific Northwest, where the running culture is everywhere and companies like Nike, Brooks, Adidas, Oiselle and other athletic brands live and breed talent. But it’s gray and rains—too much for my liking.

So I set my sights on southern California and after some discovery, I happened upon San Diego. I had only planned to stay for five days and a friend recommended that I stay longer. Rolling my eyes, I wondered what could this place possibly offer other than Sea World and surf?

An Idea for a Business is Born

That weekend she took me on a trail run through Torrey Pines, and it was on that run I fell in love. Maybe it was because I had lived in concrete jungles for 14 years, but I felt as though I wanted to be within proximity to such natural beauty. I didn’t have to see it everyday, but I wanted to be within reach of it. It was then standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean I realized that I wanted to make San Diego my home.

I should note that the time of year is very important because I was visiting in March. It was still frigid in Chicago, and by comparison, I was running around in shorts and a tank. When the sun set, I reached for a hoodie to keep warm. When I lived on the East coast and Midwest, I had sworn off training in the winter for spring races, but in San Diego, I could run year-round without having to trudge through the snow, suffocate on my balaclava or soothe bruised body parts because of unseen icy patches.

Soon after my first trip to San Diego, I moved here permanently. A couple years in, I started a running company called Step By Step Run Co. because I recognized that when I was living in Chicago and San Diego, I had friends visit who wanted to get in a run and be shown around like a local. I would end up tempoing a run, while playing tour guide.

When I was training for a race in Chicago, I wasn’t connected enough with a group of friends to just ask anyone to run with me, and I had wished I could hire someone to run 20 miles to keep me accountable. So I came up with Step By Step Run, where we provide guided runs for people visiting San Diego .We offer unique run tours and like to connect runners with local PacePartners to keep them accountable to their training while they travel.

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San Diego from a Local’s Point of View

San Diego is made up of many different neighborhoods, and by car, it takes about 15 minutes to get just about anywhere in the city.

When I moved to San Diego, I settled in North Park. This is the cool gentrified neighborhood that was once a home for ladies of the night and other questionable activity. It has since been replaced by microbreweries, coffee shops, beards and boutiques. North Park is named for its navigational location to Balboa Park. San Diego is THE craft beer capital of the country and in a city with more than 150 breweries, North Park has become home to many award-winning breweries, tap rooms, tasting rooms and bars. (Check out our North Park Brewery and Doughnut Run Tours.)

North Park connects to South Park, which borders Balboa Park—home to 17 museums, 65 miles of trails, a velodrome, the Prado, as well as the famous San Diego Zoo. The city’s longest consecutively run race (65 years!) is held here—the Balboa Park 8 Miler.

Downtown also borders Balboa Park, and stretches all the way to the harbor. Downtown is the most urban city-like environment in all of San Diego. It’s bustling with office buildings, hotels, night clubs, restaurants, the convention center, and the Padres baseball stadium. If you’re not used to urban running, be prepared for the stop and go pace of running into red lights. Often, we’ll see visitors running along the harbor path, which extends from Seaport Village to Shelter Island in Point Loma. The views on the harbor are beautiful. They capture a postcard-like scene of Coronado Island in the distance, sprinkled with a variety of maritime vessels, aircraft carriers and Cabrillo National Monument at the southern tip of Point Loma.

San Diego’s Sunset Cliffs

Mission Hills is a gem of a neighborhood that overlooks Old Town, Downtown, and the San Diego Bay. Mission Hills may not be a popular go-to location for tourists. However, you’ll discover beautiful historic Spanish style homes from the early 1900s, trails that take you through canyons and across suspension bridges, and an unexpected sighting of a topiary garden on a quiet street that overlooks the airport. (Learn about our Mission Hills Urban Trail Run Tour.)

The most popular run tour that I offer is Sunset Cliffs at Sunset. I’ve witnessed people cry at the sight of the sun setting at the end of our run. Some have said a little prayer as they watch the sun set below the Pacific Ocean.

Remember when I said that I want to be within reach to such beauty? This is my way of sharing that with people who visit San Diego. The run is an experience that begins in the free-spirited neighborhood of Ocean Beach. As we make our way through the streets and the off-beaten paths, visitors are introduced to the neighborhood’s whimsical charm. This run has sparked curiosity, introspection, and deep conversation for what is only a 3.5 mile run.

As we emerge on the cliffs, the environment from Ocean Beach to Sunset Cliffs changes. Amazement is cast on the faces of many runners. I’ll just say that it’s a moving experience that I am happy to share with others. I am very grateful that I can call San Diego home and that all of this is within reach.

You can discover these neighborhood gems during our guided runs. Check them all out on our website:

Traveling for work and need a longer, more rigorous run? Schedule a Pace Partner run!

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