TITLE: Running on the Road: Houston, Texas AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 03, 2006 6:15 PM DESC: ----- BODY: (The fifth stop in the Running on the Road series. The first four were Allerton Park, Illinois, Muncie, Indiana, Vancouver, British Columbia, and St. Louis, Missouri.) My Running on the Road series has lain dormant since last year's SIGCSE. It's not that I haven't been running on the road... I've had some great runs in Carefree, Arizona; San Diego (twice); Plainfield, Indiana; Portland, Oregon; and Knoxville, Tennessee. But some of these runs weren't ones that I wanted a long-term record of, and others came at times that found me so busy that I never got around to blogging. For one, Carefree, I'd like to write to something more than a routine few paragraphs, and so I saved it for this year's ChiliPLoP. County Courthouse This week at SIGCSE I had a chance to run in downtown Houston, Texas. I've not spent much time in Texas, and both major visits have been for SIGCSE. For a midwesterner, Houston is a great place to visit in February or early March. It's generally cold at home, and Houston is not yet rainy or oppressively hot and humid as it will be later in the year. Many downtown conferences are not ideal for a runner, though, because some downtowns are concrete jungles. Houston is like that. I'm sure there are some scenic runs out in the neighborhoods and suburbs that ring the city, but they are hard to get to you easily, because Houston is a town for drivers. Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised to cobble together a nice little loop around downtown Houston that met my needs. City Hall The conference was at the Hilton Americas, but I stayed 2/3 a mile away at the Club Quarters, which is a members-oriented hotel. When I booked my reservation, I did not realize that this hotel is right in the center of Houston's downtown. I studied the local map I was given at check-in and found what looked to a big rectangle around the perimeter of the area that was just the right size: small enough that I could run multiple loops to assemble runs of different lengths and always be within reach of my hotel (in case nature calls and won't take 'no' for an answer), but large enough that I didn't feel like I was running laps on a track. The loop was bounded by Dallas on the south, Crawford on the east, Preston on the north, and Bagby on the west. This route turned out to be nearly ideal as it took me by most of the landmarks of the downtown area. I saw the old county courthouse (first picture above) and Houston City Hall (picture on left). Near the northeast corner of my loop, I passed the second oldest church in Houston, the Church of the Annunciation (picture below), and one of the newer ball parks in major league baseball, Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros (pictured near the bottom of the post). These landmarks are across the street from each other, which may be convenient some game days! Near the southwest corner of the loop I ran past the scenic attraction Downtown Aquarium-Houston. Church of the Annunciation For both of my runs, I also ran from the Club Quarters south to Dallas and then back up Main to Capitol. This access route paralleled Houston's light rail line. MapQuest tells me that my loop is about 2.9 miles, plus 0.3 miles for parts of the hotel access. But my instincts and body tell me that I was running closer to 3.0 miles total for the whole circuit. On Wednesday, I ran the three passes for a total of about nine miles, and on Thursday twice for about six. As with most big cities, the time of a run has a large effect on how traffic a runner must deal with. My first morning out, I didn't start until almost 7:00 AM, and traffic was heavy on nearly every street. On my second morning, I hit the pavement at about 5:45 AM and found mostly deserted streets. As a result, I was able to cross on most red lights without affecting traffic or endangering myself. Minute Maid Park Running in morning rush hour traffic the first day had two effects on my run that I hadn't anticipated. First was on my elapsed time. I ran for 75 minutes, but I was on the road for 98! I hadn't considered that while I was stopped waiting for a traffic light to change that the earth continued to revolve beneath me. This surprise left me running late for my heads workshop the first day. Second was on my speed. Because I was stopping every few blocks for a light, I was starting up every few blocks. It's natural for me to take off just a wee bit faster than the pace I plan to maintain, and besides all of those little breathers kept me a bit fresher than I would have felt over nine miles of non-stop running. This surprise left me a bit sorer than I would ordinarily be after an easy run, much like a track workout does. Given that I don't have much experience running in town, I am not really surprised that these runs went differently than I had expected. As is often the case, I learned something new. All in all, downtown Houston was an enjoyable place to stay, eat, work, and run, and much fun was had. -----