*Original post updated 2019*

It’s hot out there. The kind of hot that makes people tired, grumpy, and unmotivated to venture beyond the sweet relief of their AC. As a Charlotte native, you’d think I’d be used to it by now, but after 31 years sprinkled with stints in Chapel Hill and DC, I am most definitely not. Whenever I make small talk about the weather and mention the oppressive heat and soupy humidity, the victim of my complaining will often ask “Where are you from originally?” as if to say, “Suck it up, buttercup. Welcome to the South in August.”

One comfort is that we’re all in this together. You’re not the only one mentally functioning below your usual 110%, having your blowout ruined in record time, or getting a bit “shiny” during your march from car to office. We’ve got you, girlfriend. In the name of all things cool, we’re bringing back our favorite shady running routes plus a few new additions. Because, let’s face it, all we want to do after work these days is go home, immediately change into something comfy (and generally socially unacceptable), then dive into a tub of ice cream. Don’t do that.

You can endure the heat in the height of fall race season training with some careful planning (pack water everywhere you go, dress appropriately, etc.). The fall race season offers near-perfect conditions, but training for those puppies is brutal. Picked out the perfect late September half marathon? Great, have fun training for it in 100+ degree weather. But not to fear, we have you covered (literally) with some shady picks for local running routes plus some tips for making your workout even cooler.

Shady Charlotte Routes:

Little Sugar Creek Greenway (Morehead St to Brandywine Road) – 3 miles – This urban trail will eventually feature 19 consecutive miles linking North Tryon Street all the way to our neighbors over the border in SC. This particular section of the greenway brings you through Myers Park and Dilworth to just behind Park Road Shopping Center- perfect for a post-run salad at Chopt or a fruit-infused lemonade from Amelie’s if you park in the shopping center.

Pasta and Provisions Run Club Route – 5k – Join the folks at the Park Road location of Pasta and Provisions where their motto is “Eat pasta, run fasta.” They head out on the shaded (but hilly) route at 6:30pm each Thursday.

Sycamore Brewing Run Club – 1, 3, or 5 miles – If you’re the post-run beer type, this one is for you. Every Wednesday at 6:30pm, you can meet other beer and/or running enthusiasts on the back side of the building to get started on the Rail Trail before hitting Latta Park and Dilworth for the 3 and 5 miles routes (both so, so mercifully shady). Check out a few other local run clubs (shady and… otherwise) here.

Col Francis Beatty Park – 7 miles – Although it is known more as mountain biking destination, the trails at Col Francis Beatty Park in South Charlotte are multi-use. Find sweet relief under shady trees on the area’s trails and keep cool during your runs.

Mallard Creek Greenway – 7.4 miles- Mallard Creek Greenway is part of the Cross-Charlotte Trail, a partnership between Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte that strives to develop a 26 mile contiguous trail to connect the SC/NC State line to Cabarrus County.  The western end of these greenways is a paved trail through University City neighborhoods.  In the middle is a gravel trail through University Research Park. The eastern end is a paved trail passing through mature floodplain forest, under I-85 and Highway 29, and on to the Kirk Farm soccer fields near UNC-Charlotte.  Near Kirk Farm Fields, it connects to Toby Creek Greenway, where the system extends for an additional 2.64 miles to W. Rocky River Rd. 

Anne Springs Close Greenway – You certainly don’t have to run all 40 miles, but each and every inch of the trails at ASCGW is open to runners. You’ll find everything you could possibly wish for from sand to gravel, hills to flat. The variation of these trails cannot be matched as you build your customized workout and vary your distance using the many loops.

Plaza Midwood – Make up your own route here and rest assured that historical neighborhoods value their historic trees and historic things are old and old trees are big- feel me? An excellent rule of thumb for our other treasured historic areas too.

Elizabeth – I miss my old ‘hood and routes dearly. Although there is a stretch on Caswell that is not heavily shaded, your tour through Chantilly and Myers Park more than make up for it. Looping through neighborhoods and down tree-lined roads is a great way to stay cool and also explore parts of town you might not otherwise have found.

Dilworth – 3-5 miles – This route is really fun to play with and improvise. Take a turn down a road that looks interesting and rest assured that you’ll be covered by the leafy Dilworth canopy along the way.

Booty Loop – 3 miles – Real estate day dreaming pairs wonderfully with a jaunt on the Booty Loop. Regardless of the school of thought to which you subscribe about the origins of this route’s name, its large oaks give you plenty of shade to tone your backside. Some people think it’s called the Booty Loop because of the… ahem… eye candy that frequents this area, others (myself included) prefer the idea that it’s because it whips your butt into shape with a few challenging hills and rewarding valleys. Explore Myers Park off the loop for more shade from the pride of The Queen City – our expansive canopy thanks to our beautiful established trees.

Whitewater Center – The USNWC’s system of trails will keep you cool and covered, even when temps soar. Stick around for one of their popular summer concerts during their festivals or River Jam and you won’t be the only one jamming in your workout gear.

Irwin Creek Greenway – located in 3rd/4th Ward, this greenway has plenty of mature trees. I love riding my bike here because there are parts that feel like you’re in the mountains thanks to a few gently rolling hills. Use caution when running alone, ladies. This area doesn’t have heavy traffic/crowds!

4 Mile Creek – 4 miles… duh – a true gem in Matthews. Parking is available at Squirrel Lake Park located at: 1631 Pleasant Plains Road Matthews, NC 28105.

OrthoCarolina 10k Classic – Join us again this year for our favorite race of the season, August 18th at 7:30am. For the past few Augusts, I’ve dragged my tired bones to an office building on Randolph Road at the crack of dawn on what has traditionally been a steamy and distinctly-Carolina summer morning: hot, bright, sticky. It sounds miserable, right? But it has become one of my favorite mornings each year. The OrthoCarolina 10k Classic brings runners from Charlotte and beyond together for a 6.2 mile hilly course through Plaza-Midwood and Elizabeth.  At the finish, there is beer. And not just beer, but a beer fest complete with local breweries and restaurants offering everything from booze to baked goods to help you refuel. If a 10k seems out of reach, there are other options including a 5k, an un-timed Rookie Run designed to take some of the stress out of running for beginners, and a kid’s 50-yard dash. The course is challenging (but you get a healthy dose of the famous Elizabeth/Plaza Midwood/Noda historic tress), the t-shirt is always a little better than your typical race shirt (can I get a hallelujah for tech fabrics), and the charity beneficiaries are top-notch (Care Ring, Running Works, and the Harris YMCA).  

Pro Tips:
1. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Make sure it can last through an especially sweaty session too.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. But remember to also replace electrolytes! Plan for water stops or BYO. From belts to handheld hydration helpers, there are a plethora of products available for your preferences. Don’t forget post-run hydration either. It’s extremely important to replace electrolytes you’ve lost during your sweat sesh too. For a refreshing, easy, and healthy treat, try this crazy sounding but actually crazy delicious blender lemonade recipe:

  • Scrub a whole lemon, rind and all, until you’re confident that you’ve now also gotten a great arm workout.
  • Quarter the lemon, removing the seeds and the thickest part of the pith (the white part of the lemon).
  • Add your lemon quarters to a blender with 2 cups of cold water, several ice cubes, and drop or two of liquid stevia (sugar, agave, or honey will also work).
  • Blend the whole she-bang for a full minute, then pour over ice. Viola! You have an easy, delicious lemonade slushy.

If you’re feeling fancy, add additional fruit (like strawberries, blueberries, etc.) to flavor your lemonade.

3. Run early if you can. I used to be a pro at this pro tip, but now I like my beauty sleep. Kudos to you early birds!
4. Slow down. Make your movements intentional and controlled rather than sprinting at your top speed. At first, your body needs time to get used to heat training.
5. Take it inside. Indoor cardio is one of my least favorite workouts, but I’ve found a hack! Apps like Aaptiv and Peloton that give you coached cardio workouts that keep motivation high when temps are higher are a saving grace when the weather is straight-up offensive. For someone that typically loathes the treadmill, I actually have enjoyed my indoor runs with these apps. You can filter workouts by time, distance, top speed, and more.