A Wickedly Difficult Birthday Challenge: Five Runs. Five Counties. One Day!

My birthday was on Sunday, and I celebrated by undertaking a big fitness challenge: by going on five runs, in five different counties, all in one day! This idea has been rolling around in my head for a few years. It was a different type of running challenge – one that would push me, and, at the same time, introduce me to new areas of southern California. This year it was time to finally bite the bullet! I gave myself a couple rules:

  • Each run had to be a location I had never been to before.
  • Each run had to be at least two miles long.

I spent plenty of time researching locations, and came up with a list that, in addition to being in different counties, were also different types of venues. And then I figured out how far apart they were from each other, and put together an itinerary for the day.

My friends Tavi and Madeleine came along for the adventure, and we got on the road at 8:30am.

First Leg. Ventura County. Corriganville Regional Park, Simi Valley, 9:00am.

Our first stop was a park that used to be a big Hollywood filming location called Corriganville Movie Ranch. Tons of westerns were filmed here from the ’30s-’60s, including episodes of “The Lone Ranger” and a John Wayne movie called “Fort Apache.” Bob Hope owned the land from the ’60s to the ’80s, and sold off part of it to developers, who built a neighborhood called Hopetown. There used to a fake wild west town, but it burned down in the ’70s, and only the concrete and stone foundations remain (which you can see on the right):

There’s a loop trail around Corriganville that’s about a mile, so we ran that, and then down the street, past another Hollywood backlot that’s very much in use (although they weren’t filming anything that day.) We would’ve explored it more, but it was securely fenced off.

It was a beautiful place to start this challenge. Mountains, rock formations, and all of it very green, thanks to the astronomical amounts of rain we’ve been getting this year. I scampered up a rock for a photo op…

…and afterward, all three of us posed with the ruins:

The run felt good, and on solid, well-defined dirt trails. We stopped once or twice, briefly, for photos, but ran all the rest.

On to the next county!

Second Leg. Los Angeles County. 28th Street and Peck, San Pedro, 11:00am.

I love exercising on Eldred Streetit’s one of the steepest streets in the country. I’ve been there many times, but there’s an even steeper street, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of San Pedro, that I’d never been to. And that’s why I chose this location for the next leg.

28th Street, for the one-block stretch between Peck and Gaffey, is the third-steepest street in the country. It has a 33.3% grade – slightly higher than the 33% grade at Eldred. Some sources, though, don’t include 28th Street on the list of steepest streets, and that’s because the steep section is incredibly short: only about 50 feet. In fact, when we got there, it was almost comically short. Hard to imagine this street holds any records at all!

A stranger walking his dog took a picture of us before we started our run.

We started this leg by running up 28th Street, and while challenging and certainly steep, it was over in a flash. We continued running around that part of San Pedro, including up a couple bigger (though not steeper) hills. Tavi got a nice action shot of me and Madeleine.

Our turnaround point was the Korean Bell, a gorgeous monument in a park overlooking the ocean, given to the US by the people of South Korea in honor of our bicentennial in 1976. So we stopped for a couple photos!

It was a cloudy day, but the views of the Port of Los Angeles on the way back were fantastic. This is the largest port in the country!

It was also on the way back that Madeleine wiped out on the sidewalk, tripping over a raised lip between two concrete slabs, resulting in some cuts and scrapes but thankfully nothing more serious. She played it safe the rest of the day, running occasionally, but resting when she needed to.

This run was the warmest and brightest, and the hills provided a nice challenge. Tavi and I ended this leg by running up 28th Street two more times.

Third Leg. Orange County. Sunset Beach, 12:45pm.

I live in Los Angeles, so I had to include a beach run! Sunset Beach is technically part of Huntington Beach, and dates back nearly 100 years, when people settled there after discovering oil nearby. The beach is wide, and while it was gloomy while we were there, it was easy to imagine how nice it would be on a good day.

A lot of beaches in the area have boardwalks, but Sunset Beach doesn’t, so we ran barefoot, at the water’s edge.

The beach was pretty quiet, although it was fun watching a couple kite surfers in action. It was very windy – perfect for them!

Tavi and I ran a mile down the beach and back, and Madeleine left me a message in the sand:

This was by far the most challenging run, because running on sand is so incredibly difficult. But it’s an excellent workout – and engages parts of your feet, legs, and core that might not get engaged while running on a sidewalk.

It started to rain towards the end, but we got in a selfie before it got too wet.

Our timing was perfect: the skies opened up just after we got back to the car. Perfect!

I should add that I had packed a cooler bag and a regular bag full of provisions, and Madeleine brought a bunch of stuff too, so we were snacking and hydrating after every run: water, protein drinks, coconut water, veggies, fruit, jerky, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, fig bars. We weren’t lacking for anything!     

From Sunset Beach we headed inland, on our longest drive between legs.

Fourth Leg. Riverside County. Mount Rubidoux Park, Riverside, 2:30pm.

I had never been to Riverside, California before, and what a charming place! A cute downtown area, lovely, well-maintained neighborhoods, bike paths everywhere, and an incredible mountain park in the heart of town. Mt. Rubidoux is small for a mountain – the summit has an elevation of 1,331 feet – but the entire thing is a city park that was developed over 100 years ago. There’s a Easter service on top of the mountain that’s happened every year since 1909.

There’s over 3 miles of paved trails up, down, and around the mountain, but the trailheads are in residential areas, so we parked a few blocks away, and walked to a trailhead before starting to run. The walk was welcomed – we were all starting to get stiff, tired and sore from the running and driving. And the rain cleared up by the time we got there, too!

I love Mt. Rubidoux. It was the most crowded of the run venues, plenty of people running and hiking. There are pretty rock formations.

The views would probably be more breathtaking on a less-dreary day!

The park is immaculate, with lots of benches, maintained trails, and a couple stone bridges. The picture at the beginning of this post, with me and the giant flag, was taken at the top. There was also a stone arch bridge and tower, which I later read was a recreation of a landmark in western Spain.

Another friendly stranger took a picture of us, in the midst of looking for her keys, which she dropped somewhere along the trail:

This was the longest run, at 2.6 miles, and it featured the biggest vertical gain, about 750 feet. My legs were definitely starting to feel heavy, but I pushed through. This leg also included half a mile of walking to and from the car, but I didn’t count that towards the challenge because it wasn’t part of the run.

One leg left!

Fifth Leg. San Bernardino County. Colton Plunge Park, Colton, 4:30pm.

My original idea for San Bernardino County turned out to be a bust. I had planned on us going to a stretch of the Santa Ana River Trail in Colton, California. The Santa Ana River Trail will ultimately go over 100 miles, from the mouth of the river to the San Gabriel Mountains, but not all of it is done yet. The part in Colton was supposed to be finished, but when we pulled up, it was fenced and barricaded. No access. We also noted a sign, pointing the way to a nearby dump, so maybe it wasn’t the best place for a run anyway.

I started looking at a Plan B, and saw, on the map, a big area nearby called “Open Space Park,” so we headed there, and that turned out to be a bust, too. It was hardly a park. It was, more accurately, vacant land covered in piles of dirt and busted up concrete, next to a factory that was under construction. We weren’t gonna run there, either.

So we went back to a small park we passed along the way. By this point we were all sore and exhausted and wanted to finish the final leg, so we pulled into the parking lot for the Lawrence A. Hutton Community Center, and decided to run laps.

It was a crummy run, but we were happy to finish. There weren’t even sidewalks around the entire parameter, so I ran on the street for a lot of it.

The nicest thing in the park was the baseball diamond, and it worked out so we reached the end of our final 2-mile run by crossing home plate.

It was a nice way to wrap up this challenge, but would’ve been nicer if I cared one lick about baseball.

It felt great to finish the challenge. It had taken about 8 hours from the start of the first run to the end of the last, and included 11 miles of running, during which I burned over 2,000 calories. It was by far the most I ever ran in one day, and the long breaks made the final two runs pretty freakin’ hard.

But I ran the whole thing (minus the pauses for photo ops) – I didn’t walk any of it. And I’m very proud of that.

We were 80 miles from home when we finished that last run, and on the way back, we stopped for dinner at Golden Road Brewery in Glendale, where we were joined by another friend, Dave. I ordered a burger with sweet potato fries.

Then I went home and crashed. Turns out 11 miles of running and 240 miles of driving can really knock the wind from my sails!

It was an incredible day, with awesome friends that indulged me and my nerdy little challenge by coming along for a pretty sweet trek through the Southland.

And now, if anyone asks “Have you ever gone for five runs in five counties in one day,” I can unequivocally say “YES, ON MY BIRTHDAY!” And I don’t even care that no one will ever ask me that question!

Keep it up, David!

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10 Responses to A Wickedly Difficult Birthday Challenge: Five Runs. Five Counties. One Day!

  1. PennSmiths says:

    What a fantastic idea! Nice that you had friends with you, too! I lived reading about your day!

  2. Karen Geninatti says:

    Super cool DAVID!

  3. Charlotte Cavaluzzi says:

    Happy Belated Birthday David!!

  4. Sarah says:

    Wow! That’s awesome! Looks so much fun. Happy Birthday

  5. Tavi says:

    So glad that when I’m asked, “have you ever gone for five runs in five counties in one day,” I can unequivocally say “YES, ON DAVID’S BIRTHDAY!”

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