Dallas is landlocked. Besides White Rock Lake and Lake Lewisville to the north, it has no real water to speak of. Cutting right through the middle of the city, dividing most of Dallas proper from South Dallas, there’s a big, ugly flood plain with a trickle flow of water called the Trinity River. Although for decades politicians, city planners, and engineers have argued about flooding the Trinity to create a gorgeous outdoor playground for water-desperate Dallasites while maintaining the flood control of the area, the dream of a Trinity River Project never seems able to get off the ground. If Dallas could ever get its act together, this riverfront area, with all of its outdoor space and clear views of the ever-expanding skyline, could be an amazing feature of the city.
Having a longish run on my schedule this past weekend and intrigued by the 4pm Sunday start time, I signed up for the Trinity River Run half marathon. The course promised a ground level look at about six miles south and six miles north of the Margaret Hunt bridge, the new, gleaming white span that connects downtown Dallas with artsy, hipster Oak Cliff. Always curious to see if Dallas is any closer to having a true riverfront, I couldn’t wait to run around the area.
On race day – a beautiful, sunny, fall afternoon – I parked along the levee by Trinity Groves and walked to the start line with a couple hundred other participants, a high percentage of whom were curiously decked out in the event shirt. After a brief calisthenics warm up, courtesy of Orange Theory fitness, we were off.
The first half of the race course was fairly unremarkable, just a windy pathway meandering through the dusty streets, alleys, paths, pavement and bridges around the Trinity. We started down in the flood plain on a paved running path, but quickly turned up a slight incline, crossed one of many bridges that spans the Trinity, cut through the space between the Dallas city courthouse and the jail, and immediately took a sharp right on to “Riverfront” Avenue, the sorely misnamed stretch of asphalt formerly known as Industrial Avenue. The scenery certainly hasn’t caught up to the name. We ran by bail bonds shops, liquor stores, junk yards, and hole-in-the-wall drinking establishments, with curious patrons choosing to venture out on the smoking patios to watch our procession with an open beer and a cigarette. Other than crossing an interesting footbridge which overlooks a small (and slightly foul-smelling) “Dallas Wave” rapids, the first half of the Trinity River Run was pretty much an out-and-back bust.
However, during the second half the Trinity River Run course got a bit more interesting. As we ran passed the city jail (for the second time), the pack continued to head north, this time into the Dallas Design District. I’ve always thought the design district is a true hidden gem in the Big D, a place that people rarely visit, but has some of the most unique stores, restaurants and studios in the city. It was really nice to do a “running tour” of this section of town – and the course took us through a bunch of streets and by a bunch of shops I hadn’t seen before (and made a mental note to return to).
By now it had started to get dark and runners turned on their lights, another redeeming feature of the Trinity River Run. Although by mile 10 the pack had spread out to a thin, single-file line, enough thoughtful participants were wearing blinking lights and headlamps to create a festive, glowing string of runners, cheerily winding through the dark course. The last three miles, south along the floodplain through Trammel Crow Park were pretty enjoyable – with the big, bright lights of the Dallas skyline beaming in the distance and November’s “Super Moon” hanging above it all. With the finish line music blaring and stage lights blinking, happy runners crossed the 13.1 mark, posed for photos under the Hunt Bridget, schlepped their way back out of the basin, and collected their complimentary Michelob Ultras.
Overall, the Trinity River Run is like a mullet: (bail bonds) business in the front, party in the back. I’d probably run it again – just to see if by next year the city has made any more progress toward the Trinity River Project dream.
- The water on the course was pretty minimal – only a few stations and small cups. With temps in the high 70s, I was glad I brought my own
- The course is primarily flat, but there are a few inclines over the bridges
- Don’t forget to wear some lights