Running in La Paz
La Paz is not the easiest city to go for a run in. Step outside the door and you’ll likely find yourself stepping onto a narrow street packed with people and cars. The only escape from the city seems to be up and over the steep, densely populated hills which surround it on every side. Long before you reach them you’ll probably find yourself dizzy and gasping for air as your lungs try desperately to strain oxygen from the thin air. With a bit of planning, however, it is possible to go running in La Paz. Here are some tips.
Running and Altitude
The first thing to be aware of is the altitude. At 3,650 m (11,975 ft) above sea level, La Paz is well above the 2,400 m (8,000 ft) mark at which altitude symptoms can start to show. The standard advice on acclimatizing to altitude applies, but doubly so for running when your body requires even more oxygen. Make sure you give yourself a few days (minimum) to get used to the altitude before venturing out, stay well hydrated, start off slow and easy, and stay near help until you are comfortable that you can handle the altitude. If you start to feel unwell, stop immediately. Altitude sickness is as likely to strike down a marathon runner as anyone else. Remember that altitude sickness can quickly turn fatal so seek medical help sooner rather than later.
La Paz is a fascinating city, and most visits go off without a hitch. However, opportunistic crime does occur in the city and when running it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Be aware that the level of risk can change as you pass from one neighborhood to the next – if you start to feel uncomfortable, backtrack to familiar areas rather than carrying on. Perhaps most importantly, avoid running at night time when visibility is low and crime particularly high.
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Where to Run
Here are some options for running routes in La Paz:
- Running the streets in the center of La Paz is generally difficult as the streets are narrow and heavily congested (with both cars and people). However, if you get out early enough (around sunrise), you can beat the crowds and enjoy the city’s sights. Stick to the main streets within the center and you shouldn’t have any problems. At this time of day there should be enough people around to be safe, without there being so many that your run is spoiled.
- Once a year, usually the first Sunday in September, La Paz is completely closed to traffic. Known as the “Day of the Pedestrian”, it’s a great time to explore the city by foot and fit in a longer run. Sunday in general is the quietest day of the week so even if you’re not in La Paz in September, you may want to schedule your run for Sunday morning.
- For a unique run, consider trying out the spectacular Valley of the Moon. There are several circular tracks, which while not particularly long (a 45 minute walk) pass through some incredible scenery. A few laps will definitely be a run to remember. The roads around the Valley are much quieter than those in the center and would be a good place to extend the run.
- If you’re looking to cover a set distance, here are the route maps of several previous races held in La Paz (note though that they pass through some busy areas and would be best tackled early in the morning or on a Sunday):
- La Paz Marathon Route (2013)
- “President Evo” 10k Route (2013)
- La Paz’s biggest park is Pura Pura, located to the north of the center. A recent addition to the park is a huge skatepark.
- Miraflores is considered to be one of the safest and quietest neighborhoods in La Paz. While it doesn’t have a huge amount of park land, it is perhaps the best place for street running.
Have you been running in La Paz? How did you get on? Let us know in the comments…