A Few of My Favorite Runs

(Email me your favorites too!)

Montana de Oro State Park, San Luis Obispo
This is a remarkable spot for hiking running, just south of majestic Morro Rock. The long sand spit is blustery and deserted in winter, expansive and peaceful in the summer. Run on the firmer sand at the water's edge alongside miles of successive sand dunes that can get close to 100 feet in height. if you make it all the way to the harbor wall at the end of the spit (5 or 6 miles from the entrance—there are mile markers at the base of the sand dunes), enjoy a hard workout scrambling up the sand dunes and take delight the crazy surfers riding huge winter waves and playing chicken with the sea wall before you turn for home!

Getting there:
Montana de Oro is located seven miles south of Morro Bay at the end of Pecho Valley Road. From Morro Bay, take South Bay Boulevard to Los Osos Valley Road. Turn right. Follow the road through Los Osos after which it narrows and becomes Pecho Valley Road.

Along the Mississippi, New Orleans
I have not had the opportunity to run in New Orleans post-Katrina, so things may be very different now. I feature this run in the book (Chapter 20 is part of the free downloadable PDF excerpts). "Ol' Man River" and the community that has grown up around it has a unique flavor. One that I don't think even the flood waters could have washed away. This is certainly one of my favorite city runs.

Del Mar Beach through to La Jolla Cove
Another awesome long beach run, especially if you can get up a little early and beat the crowds. Pick your distance from Del Mar Beach, past Torrey Pines State Beach, along Black's Beach, and all the way to La Jolla Cove if you wish, where the beach ends at the cliffs (about 6.5 miles one way).

In the summer, the first mile of the beach can be busy, but once you head south and scramble around the rocks towards Black's Beach (one of Southern California's better know nudist beaches in the summer month's), you'll be virtually on your own. Overall, my experience is there are usually more surfers than nudists—and the occasional nude surfers! Beautiful, big, clear surf is a regular feature (see above picture). From Del Mar to La Jolla and back is close to a half-marathon length. By the time you get home, your lungs will be full of fresh sea air, and your spirit refreshed from this bright, breezy trail. As noted, there are a couple of spots where scrambling over rocks gets you further down the coast: watch the tides and make sure you can get back!

Getting there:
Del Mar is about 20 miles north of San Diego. Reachable from exits off the Interstate 5. Park on the coast road in designated areas and the beach os a few strides away. Head south! more information on the beaches here.

Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
How long have you got?! This is my idea of god's country—clean, crisp, moist, green, snowy, fresh, etc, etc! (Last time I was there, we stayed at the Red Lion hotel, on water's edge in Port Angeles.)

ROUTE 1: Right outside the hotel is a paved path that heads east along the coast and off into the Sequim Bay State Park (unpaved) and into the woods, up and over to Discovery Bay. As far as I can tell, you could run all the way to Seattle. A section of this trail is the route for the stunning North Olympic Discovery Marathon. Furthest I turned at was around 7 miles, for a 14 mile run, and it took all the will power I had to turn; it is so beautiful here I could have just run and run and run. to be honest, anywhere on this peninsula will bring you closer to the divine. Currently, this gets my vote for the most beautiful place on earth.

ROUTE 2: Head west, following the water around to Ediz Hook, an enormous spit that juts out a couple of miles towards Canada. As you venture out along the spit on your way, British Columbia beckons to your left across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the huge Olympic mountains, reaching 7,000 feet and more are behind you and to the right. A GREAT place to gain perspective!

For information on the North Olympic Discovery Marathon and other great runners' info for this area, click here.

Long Beach, California
The entire stretch of beach from downtown to the end of the peninsula near Alamitos Bay has been one of my staple runs for almost ten years. There is a paved bike path about 100 yards in from the beach which means that the area close to the shore remains relatively deserted. That's where I like to run.

Head in the other direction, and there is more than 50 miles of bike path along the L.A. River, leading all the way to Pasadena.

This beach is an old friend, and the setting for many of the chapters in Running Home. Remember that guy or girl in High School who was kinda quiet and homely, and nobody saw anything special in them? And then 10 years later at the reunion, they have blossomed into a beautiful, creative, magical being? That's Long Beach's shoreline to me! There's a lot more than meets the eye at first glance. For info on Long Beach, including maps, click here.

Bulldog Trail, Malibu Creek State Park, CA
I have quite an evolving relationship with this trail run. One circuit will give you about a 16-mile run with 4,000 ft of elevation change and some wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean and Malibu area mountains.

It's both kicked my butt and taught me a lot! No water available except in the parking area, so be well-prepared. Make sure you have enough water for the entire loop, averaging about 20-25 oz per hour. In the summer, temperatures can get into triple digits. For details about the annual 25k and 50k events, directions, and more, click here.

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TOP THREE EVENTS NOT TO MISS

Here's my pick of favorite runs at three different distances: Marathon, 50k and 100k. These are three for your bucket list. Send me yours!

San Francisco Marathon
My favorite of the big city marathons in California. Running over the Golden Gate bridge is a gorgeous experience, and the rest of the route is varied, with a couple of testing hills and some animal surprises!

Bulldog 50k
One of the toughest 50ks out there, run in the hills and canyons above the Malibu coast, this event starts with a deceptively cool, misty dawn start, only to evolve into a testing, hot, 90+ degree trail run with 8,000 feet of elevation change over the two-loop course. Gorgeous views of the California coast and surrounding villages nestled in the mountains.

Miwok 100k
You'll need to get into the lottery in December to have a shot at a place in this most popular event. The course is famous for being runable it's entire length (for some at least!). You'll get to run with some of ultra running's biggest names along some wonderfully deserted trails along the central california coast in the Marin Headlands. This is a great event for those considering a first 100k - the aid stations and event support are unpralelled and the goody bag is something Santa would be proud to give you. Still give it the respect it deserves, with approxiamtely 10,000ft of elevation change over the 62+ miles.

RUNNING HOME: THE BOOK

“Toby Estler’s revealing and engaging personal stories illustrate that the outer journey of life is a mirror reflection of the even greater, inner journey of the Soul. A captivating read, this book will inspire you to greater physical fitness and deeper spiritual growth.”

Iyanla Vanzant, Author
One Day My Soul Just Opened Up.

And yes . . . that is me on the cover! Since publication, I have dropped 25 pounds, started running ultras, shaved the beard, and grown a head of hair! That’s one powerful book!