Whether you are a local or tourist looking to hone your running chops in San Diego, Step X Step Run Co. has a path to keep you on pace. From Greensboro, North Carolina to New York City to Chicago to San Diego, marathon runner Iman Wilkerson leads the pack with years of expertise, a contagious smile, welcoming demeanor, and insatiable energy to every run.
For locals and tourists, Wilkerson has a variety of guided tour options including a North Park brewery run, Sunset Cliffs at Sunset, Downtown/Little Italy, and Balboa Park runs, all priced at $25 per person. Wilkerson also recently partnered with Eppig Brewery’s new location in Point Loma for Thursday night 5k runs on Shelter Island.
For those wanting to stay on pace for training and fitness while traveling, Wilkerson offers Pace Partners geared for visitors to San Diego. PACIFIC caught up with Wilkerson to find out more about Step X Step, her tips for beginner runners, and her favorite spots for running in San Diego.
PACIFIC: How did a North Carolina girl end up in San Diego and start a running club?
IMAN WILKERSON: In an indirect way, after I left New York. I moved to Chicago for two years, I was training for the Boston Marathon during the worst winters ever — it was called the polar vortex! — and I had to train. While there, I had friends in town visiting, and they wanted to be shown around town on a run. Because of that, I got the idea of having a pace partner, because when you travel you don’t have someone to keep you accountable. I was inspired.
Why San Diego?
I continued to move out West because the weather was better! My plan was to visit for five days. I was so amazed by San Diego; it was what I wish L.A. had. The people are friendly and approachable, the weather is consistent — that is a miracle to me. You can walk out your door and be in a good mood, because the weather will stay the same. That was two and a half years ago. After working in a brewery — my dream job! — I made a list of what I am passionate about. I love pacing people and showing people around. So, I pulled them all together.
Are your runs for all levels?
They are. I offer two services. Run tours are for those looking for something more leisurely to something for someone who has run many races. You can run like a local and less like a tourist. Pace partner runs have intentions, like “I want to go this distance at a certain pace,” like training for a marathon.
Tell us about PacePartners.
It is an opportunity missing when catering to runners. Running is perceived to be a solo activity, and concierges sometimes dismiss it, but what is missing is that safety in an unfamiliar place. Having a gym isn’t always the option people want, and in a city like San Diego you want to see what the city has to offer on foot. So many people pack their shoes and then don’t run, and aren’t held accountable. A Pace Partner addresses all of those issues. A local runner can meet you at your time and pace you, so if you want to run on a beach or trail but don’t know the best one, we arrange that for you.
Are the local runners run through background checks?
There is definitely background check, and if you are a woman and want to run with a woman, that can be arranged. More than half of runners are women, and many women have been catcalled when alone. Something like 40% of all runners don’t feel safe running.
How did you team up with Eppig?
I live in North Park, and Eppig is one of my favorite breweries in San Diego. In a city of IPAs, they dominate lagers. On our running tours, we stop there, and the co-owner Stephanie Eppig had a great idea to do a beer run out of her waterfront brewery. Combining beer and running, that’s the stuff of San Diego.
For beginner runners, what are your recommendations? Top 3 places you suggest?
When you start out, you don’t want the run to be overly challenging and scenery is a great motivator. You are a part of the environment, if you listen to yourself breathe, you get comfortable with your cadence. It’s important to connect with your intention.
- Mission Beach & Mission Bay — there’s a runners path.
- Shelter Island — the distance is about 3 miles.
- Lake Murray — it has slight rolling hills.
Favorite first running shoe for a beginner?
I won’t say a brand, but I highly recommend investing. Shoe range from $90 to $150. To save yourself from injuries, it’s worth spending a little, and you are going to be putting in miles. Identify your gait, like if you pronate, for example. Don’t be persuaded by aesthetics. The style should come at the end.
Favorite run in San Diego?
I was training for a marathon earlier this year and I needed to run 20 miles. Doing those miles alone can be daunting. A friend and I met in La Jolla Shores and ran through La Jolla, P.B., O.B., along the river, by Old Town, Presidio, to North Park. Rough seas make great sailors. You have to be challenged to be a great runner.
What’s coming up for Step X Step?
A Donut Run tour, an Urban Trail Run through Mission Hills, which includes a topiary a la Edward Scissorhands, more runs with Eppig, and we will be doing more fun runs. We did one during SDBW (San Diego Beer Week), and it was amazing.
What is your mantra for running?
Nothing great in life comes easy. Be patient with yourself, respect the distance, and run your own race!
To find out more about the various tours and Pace Partner, and book your spot on a Step X Step tour, visit: stepxsteprun.com.