We're off trail running in El Salvador with our local guide, Stefan!
Tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with running?
I'm from Santa Ana, El Salvador. I'm a photographer, work in IT and I've been running for around 7 years. I was told that some people were running at night in Santa Ana's downtown and started running with them (one of the organisers even gave me a running shirt that night).
As a nature lover, as soon as I discovered trail running, I decided that was my way to go (so most of my guide will be trail-related). I've been able to run up to 48 km on trails so have a long way up to my 100 mile goal ( someday!). I've also been working as a race organiser for a couple of years.
What is the running culture like in El Salvador?
It began as a niche activity but suddenly the community grew, local running groups started in a lot of cities and new groups continue to emerge. Even in my small town, there are four big running groups but also a lot of runners who just enjoy going out for a recreational run without participating in races.
Where are the best places to run in El Salvador?
As El Salvador is such a small country, I can talk about 'local' even when these routes are outside Santa Ana as they are still only 30 mins away.
One of my favorite routes is the trail around Coatepeque Lake. It's a little more than 21 km and you have great views of the lake throughout the trail. Most of the route is accessible by car, except for several kilometres of trail near the Teopán island (which will also add about 370mts of elevation gain to your run...). And no, you won't be able to drive the whole route!
If you are training for a longer distance, you can try a double loop (running it in reverse on the second loop) and if you want to add some elevation, you can climb to the lake's viewpoint. The weather can be a little hot at some points, so remember to bring adequate water with you.
Santa Ana's Volcano (Ilamatepec)
3km and about 600m of elevation is all you need to reach the volcano's summit. As it's a nature protected area, you will need to wait for a hiking group with a local guide and security. When you know the route already (the route is very well marked, but still there are some other trails which can make you take the wrong turn, so beware) you can ask the security officer for their permission to let you go running ahead of the hiking group.
You will enjoy some forest and a sweet view of the Coatepeque Lake and Izalco volcano from the summit (if there's no fog of course, which can block the view). The weather is very variable, it can be cold and windy up there, comfortably cool or hot!
If you are training for distance, there are other trails you can take whilst waiting for the hiking group to arrive or you can run what we call "Volcanoes tri", running the Ilamatepec, Izalco and Cerro Verde volcanos, which would give you around 21 km distance covered and 1600m of elevation gain.
Cerro El Aguila
In one of the coldest areas in the east side of El Salvador, there's a town called Los Naranjos, which is surrounded with beautiful mountains. You can take a trail up to Cerro El Aguila (The eagle hill), which will take you through a misty forest. There are lots of different routes (a guide is strongly recommended if you don't know the area) which you can choose depending whether you are training for distance or elevation. The most popular trail will take you about 12km for the whole loop with around 600m of elevation gain.
Are you a member of a running club in El Salvador?
I guess my friend and I can be called a group/club. We call ourselves 'Trail Runners Legion'. We are nature lovers, we like the simple things and extremely tough routes (we are also organizers of the Kinkajú Trail Race - which definitely has our signature on it). Our core values are self respect, respect for each other, respect for mother nature and responsible training. If you run with us, we will always carry some extra food/electrolytes for you.
As we have been part of the country´s running community since it began, we have a good relationship with most of the running groups. We run their races, we invite them to some of our training sessions and we are happy to share our little knowledge and experience.
Where is the best place to buy running gear in El Salvador?
We don't have many options, but AC Sports and Run El Salvador will cover your needs.
Tell us about the best local races in El Salvador?
Reto Powerade (urban)
This race is organised by non-profit Running4Help and offers distances of 1Km, 2.5km, 7Km, 14Km, 21Km and 42Km. It has great organisation, security and hydration stations.
La Cordillera Challenge (Trail)
La Cordillera Challenge is organised by Trail Runners El Salvador. A 128km ultra with 6373m of climbing, it offers 3 separate daily stages which can be run independently. You start with the 'Volcanos Trilogy' (40 km), a second stage of 45.7 km and the final stage finishing in the beach with 42 km.
Great organization and the route is a wonderful showcase for the different weather and biodiversity in El Salvador.
Kinkajú Trail is a pure trail race with distances of 8km, 12km, 26km and 42km. As an organising team, we try to give our best and if you like hard/extreme trail routes - you will love it.
Can you recommend a local dish/venue to eat after a long run in El Salvador?
If you come to El Salvador, you must try our typical food - pupusas. In San Salvador I would recommend going to Plaza El Volcán where you will find great restaurants serving pupusas and also enjoy a spectacular view from San Salvador's volcano "El Boquerón".
In Los Naranjos, there is a great restaurant called Kaltepet, they serve excellent food and pupusas!
Being a pizza guy, I will always recommend getting a well deserved pizza! In Los Naranjos, you can find the perfect spot for pizza, beer and more, by stopping by 1961 Bar & Cafe. In San Salvador, I would recommend Pizzeria La Clásica.
Thanks to Stefan for a great job taking us for a run (and pupusas) in El Salvador!
One last thing...
If you've enjoyed the content on this site and would like to support me by buying me a coffee, I would really appreciate it.