Forbidden Runs: 10 Alluring-Yet-Prohibited Places

Plenty of people want what they can’t have. Forbidden fruit is oh-so tempting.

This is especially true for runners. We constantly push ourselves: a faster time, a more challenging course and few breaks. That bar bumps a little higher with every run.

But have you ever wanted to run somewhere truly restricted? Like a place that’s roped off, fenced in or surrounded by armed security? We researched some of these top do-not-enter locations well-suited for adventurous runners. See if your favorite forbidden run made the list.

Editor’s note: These are purely what-if scenarios. Adventures as risky as these could result injury, death, imprisonment or much worse. Needless to say, don’t even try these running excursions.

1. Private Radioactive Course


Where: Pripyat, Central Ukraine

Why forbidden? Guarded, exposure to radioactivity

Resist it: Physical side effects of too much exposure to radiation include thyroid cancer, leukemia and non-thyroid cancer, cataracts, cardiovascular disease, damage to the nervous system, tumors, congenital deformations, endocrinal and metabolic illnesses. And death, of course.

If you crave a radioactive run, perhaps this Chernobyl-adjacent town is the place for you. Navigating through the apocalyptic landscape definitely calls to the adrenaline junkie. Aside from the occasional clean-up worker or guard, you’ll have the town to yourself and plenty of room to run. Obstacles like overgrown backstreets, debris and abandoned vehicles will litter your path, so be aware of your surroundings. Oh, and don’t mind that cloud of radioactive particles. It’s nothing a thorough biohazard scrub-down can’t fix.

2. Apple’s Mother Ship

Where: Cuptertino, Calif.

Why forbidden? Even though it doesn’t exist yet, this office campus will be restricted to Apple employees only.

Risk it: Who doesn’t want to frolic in the same vicinity as Steve Jobs?

You can’t run without your iPod. You track your progress with iPhone apps like Nike Plus GPS. You can’t seem to get enough Apple. Take that fandom just a bit farther by running laps in the new Apple HQ. There’s a tiny hiccup–it doesn’t quite exist yet. Steve Jobs joked that the massive, circular glass building will look like a UFO. Not a straight edge of glass in the place. Wouldn’t it be nice to lap it up in the Apple Mother Ship? Think of the Facebook and Foursquare check-ins. Beam us up, Scotty!

3. Area 51: The Military Base

Where: Nevada, north-northwest of Las Vegas

Why forbidden? Houses top secret info; authorized military/political personnel only

Resist it: If you trespass, you might just disappear… just kidding! Security personnel are authorized to use deadly force in the case of particularly unsavory transgressors. However, most offenders will be detained, pay a hefty fine and spend some quality time in the local jail.

Located within the U.S. Air Force’s vast Nevada Test and Training Range (formerly Nellis Air Force Range), Area 51 is a place so shrouded in secrecy that it wasn’t until 2003 that the U.S. government even acknowledged its existence. It’s rumored to contain aliens, UFOs and top secret military aircraft. Any super sleuth would enjoy running from laboratories to hangers for a glimpse of the rumored experiments dealing with time travel, teleportation, weather control and energy weapons. Not to mention you might even be able to hang with E.T. and snack on some Reece’s Pieces.

4. The Republic of Cuba

Where: An island in the Caribbean

Why forbidden? Trade embargo; lingering Cuban Missile Crisis awkwardness

Risk it: Time heals all wounds—even those caused by threats of a nuclear war against the U.S. Well, at least try to ignore those feelings of malcontent, and enjoy this island full of lush vegetation, exotically delicious food and a vibrant culture. Cuba actually encourages American tourism through educational, guided People-to-People Groups. You might want to keep your thoughts of democracy to yourself here. One American tourist, Alan Gross, was arrested for trying to establish an Internet platform in Cuba. Jailed in 2009, Mr. Gross, 62, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his pro-democracy efforts.

Don’t let a little thing like trade embargos and the occasional imprisonment deter you from considering vibrant, beautiful Cuba for a run-cation. At its narrowest point, Cuba only measures 21.8 miles wide. Essentially, if you have ever put down a marathon, you can easily run the breadth of this island. After that cross-country run, you can kickback at a beachside cantina and take in the sunset.

5. Journey to the Stars

Where: International Space Station, Space

Why forbidden? Astronauts only; dangerous living

Risk it: Stellar sights; major bragging rights. How would you like to be the Mayor of ISS?

Who wouldn’t want to look at the stars while they’re running? Errr … we mean planet. Imagine running on an escalator and gazing on the blue and green beauty of the Earth—from space! It’s much more complicated to run in a weightless state than you would think. It’s not even possible to run on the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System (TVIS) without being strapped in with a bungee harness.

There’s one catch… this particular TVIS is on board the International Space Station. So if you want to run in space, you may have to consider a career change and years of training. It’s OK … we hear NASA is looking for more astronauts.

6. The Holy See Library

Where: Vatican City, Italy

Why forbidden? Houses all the dirty (and not-so-dirty) secrets of the Catholic Church

Risk it: Knowledge. Reportedly, the oldest document goes back to the eighth century, but some theories state that pre-eighth century documents outlined heresies. It would be nice to know if Dan Brown was on to something…

Unlike many of the other places on this list, the Vatican Secret Archives would necessitate indoor running. Especially appealing to those Da Vinci Code fans, the rows and rows of ancient Catholic Church documentation goes back hundreds of years. Racing down the aisles of these historical documents is certainly more than frowned upon. You may be repenting in a jail cell.

7. Korean DMZ

Where: Border at North Korea and South Korea

Why forbidden? Independent travel into North Korea is prohibited.

Resist it: The checkpoints along this border are guarded and unauthorized entry, particularly into North Korea, is not recommended as it may result in death, injury or imprisonment. Even after countless reconciliation efforts, there is a high political tension between North and South Korea.

With the history of violence between the two countries, it’s not really unreasonable that both countries feel the need to stop anyone from entering. North Korea has allegedly kidnapped four high-ranking South Korean military officers, fired on a South Korean island, sunk a naval vessel and been behind numerous bombs. Obviously, running from one side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone to the other is not just a legal liability–it could get you killed! Guards are armed on the North Korean side, and they have been reported as firing at those trying to escape or enter without authorization. While accounting for all the dangers running across the DMZ presents, you have to wonder how cool it would be to high-five the guard upon reaching the other side.

8. The Abandoned Resort Town

Where: Varosha, Cyprus

Why forbidden? Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in response to Greek military coup; shut down town

Resist it: Probably one of THE places to go for a little peace and quiet, the beautiful desert beach will have only one minor drawback… jail time in a Turkish prison.

Just a few decades ago, Varosha was the resort spot in the Eastern Mediterranean. Celebs such as Elizabeth Taylor vacationed here. Alas, in 1974 Turkish forces occupied the booming site and established a strict no-entry order. The entire area is surrounded by fences, guards and “Forbidden Zone” signs. But it seems to call your name, doesn’t it? Running on the clean, warm sand without all that usual beach-associated noise seems like a daydream come to life. Although the exact punishment is case-dependent, cell time in a foreign country cannot be a good thing for the vacationing runner.

9. White House Green

Where: Washington D.C.

Why forbidden? Presidential security

Resist it: You might be shot or, at the very least, fined.

Every person who has stood on the sidewalk along the White House has imagined running across the lawn on the other side of the fence. Tennis shoes wouldn’t even be necessary. The plush green grass would be enough cushion impact of your foot strike. Unfortunately, that brief ecstasy of sprinting across the South Lawn would be short lived. Secret Service agents would swarm the area moments after you set foot on the green.

Trespassing would be the least of your legal worries here. Just ask James Dirk Crudup, the homeless man who jumped the White House fence and was immediately apprehended by assault rifle-toting agents. He was taken to the Washington police station and charged for unlawful entry.

10. The Neverland Ranch

Where: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Why forbidden? Although it’s now closed to the public, the over-the-top, kid-inspired utopia was only open to select guests. And Michael Jackson had a very strict V.I.P. list. No adults allowed.

Resist it: Does this really need an explanation?

The Neverland Valley Ranch is the prime running location for the kid at heart, especially during the reign of the King of Pop. Michael Jackson appropriately named the 3,000-acre amusement park/mansion after the fantasy island of the ever adolescent Peter Pan. In its prime, the estate housed a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, zoo buildings and an assortment of other rides and attractions. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, Jackson generally only encouraged the attendance of children. No adults allowed.

Upon Jackson’s financial problems and then subsequent death, the majority of the property now belongs to Colony Capital. Basically, you aren’t getting to run the course of this estate unless you’re attending the Colony Capital Christmas party.

What’s your Holy Grail of  “off-limits” running locations?

One Comment on “Forbidden Runs: 10 Alluring-Yet-Prohibited Places

  1. I went to Neverland Ranch my freshmen year in HS. Our whole HS went, actually. The HS was right across the street. And some faculty, and some seniors were 18. So technically… adults went.

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