Runners on running… at Stanford

Most of us know that running is associated with health benefits. Running helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, improves mental health, can contribute to weight loss, helps you sleep better and probably reduces your risks of certain cancers.

And Stanford is a great place to run! But not all of us know about the best running routes, where they are located, or what they are like. To find out, HealthySteps to Wellness interviewed a group of Stanford employees and students who just happen to be avid campus runners.

Our runners

We talked with the following Stanford faculty, staff and students. (See their responses, below, organized by each runner’s initials):

  • CC: Christi Cerna is an administrative assistant with the Stanford Health Improvement Program (HIP).
  • NC: Nell Curran is the education coordinator at the Office of Community Engagement.
  • LS: Laura Simons is an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford Medicine.
  • BT: Bernardo Tapia is associate director of marketing and programs at Stanford Recreation & Wellness (Rec).
  • RA: Rachel Anders ’20 is a Stanford student majoring in Human Biology.
  • JD: Juliet Daniel ’19 is a Stanford student majoring in Management Science and Engineering.

What’s your favorite running trail at Stanford, and why is it at the top of your list?

CC: My favorite route in Stanford Research Park is a loop I call “A Visit to the Horses.” I love this run because it’s very pretty (quite green now), has nice views from the top, includes a small hill to run up, is pretty quiet, and you pass horses! The run is about 4 miles starting from the office located at 3300 Hillview Ave. I head towards Page Mill and make a left onto Matadero Creek Trail, which takes me up the hill past the Stanford horses and over to Arastradero. I continue down on the bike path, making a left back on to Hillview. See route here.
NC: Rather than choose prescribed routes, I prefer to plot a series of destinations based on whatever errands are on my to-do list or meetings on my calendar and meander my way from one place to the next.  This strategy allows me to be simultaneously productive and physically active — and when a friend joins the run it becomes a social occasion too.
LS: Matadero Trail is a favorite, and I often run on some of the roads and through Ester Clark Park.
BT: One of my favorite running routes is called Corner Trail of Truth, the easement behind Raimundu Neighborhood (the Stanford Ave. entrance of the Dish).
My favorite place to run is a short drive from Stanford, at Huddart Park in Woodside. The trails there are endless, and you can easily run a couple of hours without running the same way twice!
My running-savvy roommate recently showed me the Matadero Creek Trail, and it’s topped my list for sure. I love the view you get when you climb up the hill and make it to the backside:  it’s a gorgeous scene of rolling grassy hills and forested green hills in the background, with Highway 280 winding through. The Matadero (which I guess literally means “slaugterhouse” in Spanish) is a curious favorite because it’s admittedly painful yet appealing at the same time, which makes it both a challenging and enjoyable workout (hard to find!).

If you want a run that has a climb (hills), which one do you recommend?

CC: I’m a trail runner, so when running the streets around Stanford campus, there is not too much incline around. Running the Dish is the best for some altitude if there is no time to get out on a local trail!
I do like to run the Dish and the charity races hosted on campus in order to gauge my fitness level. I am pleased if I meet my goal time for a 10K or motivated to improve if I’m struggling more than usual to sprint the hills at the Dish (which are the best verticals in the area).
LS: Easy – Stanford Dish.
BT: I used to have my running team at Stanford do hill repeats on Cedro Way to Lathrop Park. Fun times.
RA: I love running up hills! That’s the best type of workout. Running the Dish is a great hill workout, especially in the clockwise direction — where it’s steeper.
JD: My unoriginal and honest opinion: The Dish. The shortest trail up to Skyline in Windy Hill is also a beast, as are the hills in Wunderlich County Park or Huddart Park.

Which running route(s) are the least crowded?

CC: I’ve done a 4-mile out-and-back run from Hillview which takes me past the VA Palo Alto Health Care Center and along the back of the Alta Mesa Memorial Cemetery. Not crowded and quiet! See route here.
LS: The trails over here are never crowded!
BT: The previously mentioned Corner Trail of Truth is fairly uncrowded.
RA: I’ve never had an issue with crowds while running, except for maybe on the Dish on a sunny weekend. 
Everything depends on what time you run, but in general trails are less crowded than sidewalks and roads. Most runs on either surface are uncrowded, so I’ll say which runs are the most  crowded if that’s something you’d like to avoid. I don’t personally mind crowds, but there is a semi-crowded run called “Under the Sea,” which goes underneath the Cal Ave. train station, along Middlefield, and onto University. That run can get quite busy in the mid-morning or late afternoon, but it’s surprisingly quiet earlier in the mornings — the best time of day to go if you want to avoid crowds.

If you were advising a new or beginning runner, where would you suggest they run?

CC: Another favorite route is a visit to see the Barron Park donkeys  — also a great beginner route, with only one small rise (not even big enough to call a hill) and a rest stop to say hello to the donkeys! Plus, walking through Bol park is an option if you start out with a run/walk interval. The donkeys are often near the fence and love a good scratch, and they are very cute! I often stop to take a picture. Here is the route.
NC: I recommend that new runners adopt my approach: run with a partner and a purpose to keep the exercise interesting, but track at least one consistent route to measure progress.
LS: Anywhere around campus, as you will have plenty of spots to grab water and it is flat.
BT: The Athletic fields loop is 2 miles, continuous, and is well-suited for beginners.
RA: A fun beginner run is just running a lap through campus. For example, I may start from my dorm, run to the Oval, then to the medical school, and back — taking whatever turns I feel like at the moment. It’s easily a good 2 or 3 miles, depending on where you go.
JD: Stanford Running Club has an awesome compilation of routes at You can filter by mileage, which is friendly to new/beginning runners and others too. Flat runs like Lake Lag and Campus Drive are true classics, so definitely try those! And other than that, run wherever your friends take you! Running with friends is one of the best things ever, and if you can find a friend who already has some favorite routes, it can be fun to tag along. If you prefer running alone, that’s fun, too!

In summary, what do you love most about running?

CC: Running makes me feel alive! I love hearing the wind, the birds, even a light rain on my face sometimes. I feel stronger and more alert after a short lunch run break. If the morning was stressful, I feel much more grounded and peaceful after my runs. I love running at Stanford — there is variety and it’s beautiful! And, as my boss said, “You can be sweaty at work!” I work for Stanford’s Health Improvement Program and feel it is a good testament to our participants if the HIP staff practices what we teach; plus, sometimes I see other Stanford staff out exercising at lunch and I get to say hello!
NC: I first became hooked on running after participating in a 600-yard dash event during a middle school gym class, and I continue to love running for the exercise and social benefits it provides me.
LS: Running is a great way to recharge, let my mind wander, and unplug. As a mom, squeezing in the runs during the day is sometimes the only option. My office at 1070 Arastradero is situated among some beautiful trails.
BT: I love the simplicity and freedom I get when running. I especially love  running to and through the beautiful spaces between places. Think: Portola State Park, Big Basin, The Skyline Trail, Sanborn, John Nichols Trail, Skyline to the Sea.
RA: I started running with my aunt when I was 13 or 14. She was training for a marathon, and she convinced me to do a half. We trained and competed at the Las Vegas Rock n Roll race together. I love how great a running workout makes you feel, and that you can get almost anywhere on your own two feet.
JD: I started running in middle school and did a few seasons of track and cross country, but I started running for my own enjoyment after I graduated from high school and went on a summer trip. Running is such a fun way to sightsee in a new place, which makes it the perfect sport for travel!

Other running routes

Check out these resources for other ideas on running route selection, on or near the Stanford campus:

Stanford Running Club (Runs)
Stanford Running Trails (Map My Run)
Great Runs (Stanford University)
ASICS Runkeeper Blog (Where to run in Silicon Valley)

Run a race, earn points

Did you know?
HealthySteps to Wellness participants can earn 25 points by running/walking in any “organized races” of any length. Join the “Finish the Race: Lace Up Your Sneakers” in your add programs and complete the activity to receive 25 points. Login to Program

Stanford’s biggest races include:
Summer Scamper – June 23, 2019
The Dish Race – Feb. 25, 2019; next year’s date TBA

Interested in other races around the Bay Area?
Raceplace is a great resource for race events, times, locations, descriptions.

Concerned about running safety? See our addendum for some helpful tips.

Beyond running (exercise options for all)

Not sure you’re ready, willing or able to become a consistent runner?

That’s OK! – HealthySteps to Wellness has plenty of other exercise options you can consider:

Can a gadget help me be a better runner, walker or mover?
Exercise and technology: Pros and cons

Prefer running as part of a larger exercise plan?
Your guide to a well-rounded workout

Just don’t like running much?
Tree Maps and Tree Walks

Need to be at your desk, but still wish you could move a bit?
Sit too much?

When injured or ill, shouldn’t I stop exercising altogether?
Exercising with limitations

Having trouble sticking to your plan?
Resolutions that Stick

Lane McKenna
March 2019