by Bob Cooper
One of the reasons Salt Lake City snagged the 2002 Winter Olympic Games is the same reason why SLC and nearby Park City are spectacular places to run: their proximity to the stunning Wasatch Range.
Most of the Olympic sports were contested in either SLC or PC, so why not visit? Now is a great time to go, and it's neat to see all of the venues that were used on the run.
If running and traveling are favorite pastimes for you, too, you have surely discovered that combining them is an ideal way to see a place, whether a teeming city like SLC or a mountain resort town like Park City. On a touring run, you cover more ground than on a walk (although you can stop to stroll any time your curiosity demands it), yet don't miss out on the sights, sounds and smells that are sealed off during a car, bus or train ride.
SALT LAKE CITY RUN (9.6 miles)
SLC is a runner-friendly city. On this running tour, you'll see more historic sites than you can shake a ski pole at. Even in the heart of downtown at mid-route, you get to run on wide sidewalks and pedestrian malls. Most of the way, you'll cruise past stately brick homes with big lawns and shade trees.
Getting to the start: From SLC Airport, drive nine miles on I-80 East, exit 1300 East and turn left, going 2.8 miles to R-400 South (which becomes So. Campus Dr., then Hempstead). Drive 1.2 miles, turn left on Ft. Douglas Blvd. (at traffic island) and take the first right into the metered Visitor Parking lot (25 cents per 20 minutes, up to 2 hours).
Running the route: Start by retracing the last mile of your drive through the University of Utah campus on Fort Douglas Blvd.; turn right on Hempstead/So. Campus and run a mile to University Street. Just before leaving campus, a 56,000-seat college football stadium towers over the street on your left. This stadium held the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Now turn right onto University, run a half-mile alongside the campus to So. Temple. Turn left and run 2.7 miles to the end at 400 West. At this intersection, the parking lot on your right served as the Medals Plaza, where nightly medal presentations accompanied celebrations. Diagonally across the street is the Delta Center, the 20,700-seat home of the NBA's Utah Jazz, which also housed figure skating and speed skating competitions during the Games.
Head back on So. Temple a half-mile (past Symphony Hall) to the second set of iron gates into Temple Square on your left. The Brigham Young statue and reflecting pool lead you into the Square, filled with gardens, fountains and its world-famous Tabernacle. Turn right at the second reflecting pool, past more Mormon buildings and statues to State Street.
Turn left on State to confront the route's only significant climb, a quarter-mile pitch to the State Capitol. Ascend the 40 steps to the impressive Capitol (open dawn to dusk) to behold its 165-foot rotunda, supported by the largest marble columns in America and adorned with murals and a 6,000-pound chandelier.
Take time to admire the gardens, museum and historic chapel across the street before jogging four blocks back down State St. to 2nd Avenue. Make a left and proceed 1.9 miles to Virginia/University, turn right and run three-quarters of a mile to West Campus. Turn left and retrace the first mile of the run.
Post-run possibilities: Walk up the arcing road you parked on to the Heritage Center, a modern edifice on your right that's surrounded by 70 acres of renovated fort buildings. The Center is currently the U-of-U's Student Union and the buildings are student dorms, which served as the Olympic Village for 3,500 athletes, coaches and officials. The Center's upstairs dining hall windows offer a wall-to-wall panorama of SLC and the adjacent Wasatch mountains. Across the field from where you parked is the Fort Douglas Museum (free, 12-4p.m.), where you can learn all about the decommissioned 1862 fort.
Info: Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-541-4955, www.visitsaltlake.com.
PARK CITY RUN (3.8 miles)
Park City is the home of the U.S. Ski Team, but it's also a fine running town. This 3.8-miler connects Park City Mountain Resort, which hosted the Games' snowboard and Giant Slalom ski races, with Deer Valley Resort, the former Olympic slalom, mogul and aerials venue.
Getting to the start: From SLC Airport, drive 25 miles on I-80 East, exit Hwy. 224/Kimball Junction and drive five miles to Empire Ave. Turn right and follow Empire as it curves left four blocks to the free lot on the right and park.
Running the route: Walk to the far corner of the lot (Empire & Manor) and continue 50 yards down Empire to a stairway on the left. Walk down the 72 stairs and start running at the bottom (13th Ave.). Continue straight two blocks to the end, turning right on Park Ave. for five blocks, then left on Heber Ave. for three blocks (angle left to the traffic circle). Make a right on Deer Valley Dr., then it's 1.1 miles on the asphalt path alongside Deer Valley to Snow Park Lodge.
The terrain is generally tame, but gradually uphill on Deer Valley, so catch your breath in the 7,000-foot air by going inside Snow Park Lodge. The second-floor restaurant deck and ski-area base afford splendid views of the Deer Valley Resort slopes.
Head back the same way to the start, past a mixture of modern ski condos and century-old cottages and shops.
Post-run possibilities: Walk uphill from your car to the Park City Ski Area, which is tucked behind Legacy Lodge and numerous outfitters shops and restaurants. Now walk or drive to Historic Main Street, which you crossed at the three-quarter-mile mark of the run (on Heber), to investigate any of the dozens of restaurants and shops, art galleries and dance clubs. Most of these buildings date back to Park City's 19th-century Silver Rush days.
Info: Park City Chamber/Visitors Bureau, 800-453-1360, www.parkcityinfo.com
Park City Mountain Resort: 800-222-PARK, www.parkcitymountain.com
Deer Valley Resort: 800-424-3337, www.deervalley.com.
OLYMPIC PARK RUN (3.1 or 5.8 miles)Wanna see what your heart rate monitor's made of? This 5.8-mile Achilles-buster at 7,000-foot altitude starts out flat for a quarter-mile, then it's all uphill for 1.3 miles on a 7-9% grade to the turnaround.
Congrats. You've made it to the entrance of 387-acre Utah Olympic Park. Let your heart rate flutter below 200 while you check out the shared finish line of the bobsled, luge and skeleton (luge-on-your-stomach) runs. A jumbo scoreboard marks the spot. The 17-turn, nearly mile-long track is open for public use year-round, for 65-mph bobsled and luge rides in the winter and bobsled-like rides once the cement course thaws in April.
Olympic Park was also the ski jumping venue; you can see the base of the jumps 200 meters to your left and the human launching pads high above them.
Had enough? Head back down and you've bagged 3.1 miles, a hard-earned 5K. Otherwise, keep ascending the ski-area road as it twists more gradually another 300 elevation-feet - with the luge course making spaghetti turns within yards of the road and passing directly overhead at one point - to the 7,326-foot summit.
Getting to the start: From SLC Airport, drive 25 miles on I-80 East, exit Hwy. 224/Kimball Junction and go a quarter-mile to "Utah Olympic Park" (Bear Hollow Dr.). Turn right and park immediately.
Running the route: Just follow the ski-area road on the left and turn back at the top or when your oxygen supplies hit "E," whichever comes first.
Post-run possibilities: You'll be so galoomped by this run, all you'll want is a drink and a dip in the hotel spa.
Info: Utah Olympic Park, 435-658-4200, www.saltlake2002.com.
U-DO IN UTAH
Training: Besides our Olympic venue tour-runs, you'll love the City Creek Canyon paved path that commences at Memory Grove, near the Capitol. Along its five-mile gradual climb, dirt trails shoot off in different directions.
Cross-training: In Park City, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter (435-649-8710, 435-649-5322), ride a rental bike in the summer (800-345-2938) or hit the climbing gym any old time (435-649-8709).
Road racing: The Salt Lake City Track Club keeps tabs on local races and weekly fun runs. Mega-races you can build a visit around are the 5,000-finisher Race for the Cure 5K in early May, Salt Lake City Classic 5K/10K in early June and Deseret News Marathon/10K in late July.
Temple Square: has free concerts, tours and activities, highlighted by weekly rehearsals and performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Great Salt Lake, where the high salinity lets even the skinniest runner float like an air mattress, is best appreciated by driving 30 minutes north to Antelope Island State Park. The lake's largest island is crisscrossed with trails and inhabited by 600 bison, so be ready to sprint.
Lagoon Park (17 miles north of SLC) is the largest amusement park between Kansas City and the West Coast. www.lagoonpark.com.
For the kids: Wheeler Historic Farm and the Children's Museum of Utah.
Thanksgiving Point (25 miles south of SLC) is a popular botanical garden and animal park. It boasts the world's largest dinosaur museum.
Wasatch-Cache National Forest offers over 1,000 miles of trails for hikers and trail runners, spread out over 1.2 million acres.
National Parks: 80% of Utah is set aside as federal and state parklands, with nine national parks and monuments from Arches to Zion in spectacular, red-rock canyonlands.
Also within a day's drive are Native American cliff dwellings, archaeological digs and dinosaur bones.