TITLE: Running on the Road: Houston, Texas
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: March 03, 2006 6:15 PM
(The fifth stop in the Running on the Road series.
The first four were
Allerton Park, Illinois,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
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
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.
The conference was at the
but I stayed 2/3 a mile away at the
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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.