The beauty of running is that it requires little – a pair of shoes and an open road. However, there are definitely qualities that make an area more ideal for runners, such as temperate climate, access to trails, and a lively running community. These qualities, and then some, are what make the following ten cities some of the best metropolises for running around the world.
1. Boston, MA
It’s impossible to think of Boston running culture without the Boston Marathon. This New England city is home to the world’s oldest annual marathon which started in 1897. The iconic finish line on Boylston Street can be seen year-round, and over 30,000 runners come from all over the world each April to take place in the prestigious event.
Locals can take advantage of the famed marathon route from Hopkinton to Copley Square, along with scores of other historic and picturesque trails, parks, and routes. The iconic Charles River boasts a 17-mile long path and is just north of the Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of parks in Boston and Brookline.
With the city’s rich running history and ample trails it’s no surprise Boston has a vibrant club running scene, and has had major shoe brands like Reebok and New Balance call the city home. For runners who appreciate tradition and don’t mind colder winters, Boston is a dream.
2. Eugene, OR
A bustling college town, Eugene is the birthplace of Nike and is home to the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials. The city is often referred to as “TrackTown USA,” and many elite collegiate and professional runners call Eugene home.
One of Eugene’s most famous residents was Steve Prefontaine, a former American record holder, Olympian, and face of the 1970s “running boom.” Runners from across the globe visit Eugene to pay tribute to the late running star by running on Pre’s Trail, a four-mile trail near the now memorialized site where Prefontaine died in a car crash. Pre’s Trail connects to the larger Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System which has 14 miles of waterfront for running, walking, and biking.
3. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco’s signature fog, cool summers, and challenging terrain makes it a runner’s playground. The city boasts dozens of trails providing breathtaking ocean views. The crown jewel run starts from the Embarcadero, over Fort Mason, along Crissy Field and toward the Golden Gate Bridge. With centrally located paths it’s easy to incorporate some major sightseeing into your runs.There are a few dozen running clubs that participate in San Francisco’s close to 300 annual races, making it a city packed with running events year-round.
4. New York, NY
Running in New York can be intimidating at first, but locals have created a diverse and dynamic running community despite the city’s gridlock and grind. Most notably, New York is home to the world’s largest marathon, the New York City Marathon, hosted each November by New York Road Runners. Over 50,000 runners and a million spectators participate.
The marathon finishes in Central Park, which has a famed 6-mile loop. Outside of the park runners will take to the Hudson River Greenway, the East River, and likely incorporate one of the city’s near dozen bridges for some hill work.
Again, the community is what makes New York a runner’s fantasy. The city is home to over 80 RRCA or USATF sanctioned running clubs, so there is bound to be one for every type of runner.
5. Boulder, CO
Boulder is a mecca for trail runners. The Colorado city has high altitude, amazing mountain views, and endless miles of trails. Flatirons Vista Loop is a good beginner trail just over 5k in distance. Runners looking to get a tour of downtown can get out the longer 8-mile Boulder Creek Trail that runs through the University of Colorado campus.
For veteran trail runners looking to build strength Mount Sanitas is a local favorite along with Magnolia Road. Magnolia Road, affectionately known as “Mags” by local endurance athletes, is the steepest paved maintained road in the United States. The road runs from Boulder Canyon to Nederland for 13 miles, climbing 3,500 feet.
6. London, UK
London is home to one of the world’s six major marathons. Each April professional runners from around the world compete for one of the sport’s largest prize purses. For local runners the city has plenty of accessible and centrally located paths and parks. The highlight of London’s park system are the Royal Parks – Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St. James Park, and Regents Park – all of which are rich in history and close in proximity. For a run with a view runners can also enjoy the extensive paths along the famous Thames River.
In addition to its extensive trails and parks, London has a fantastic transportation system. It’s a convenient way to plan a creative route and then take the ‘tube’ back to your starting point.
7. Washington, D.C.
The American College of Sports Medicine ranked D.C. America’s fittest city in 2016. That’s no surprise as the city serves as the center of the National Capital Region’s 95-mile trail network. Those looking for a long run can take advantage of the C&O Canal towpath, which starts in D.C. and runs 185 miles, leading into Maryland with glimpses of the Potomac River.
It’s hard to avoid monuments and historic sites when plotting a run through D.C. An ideal run for first-timers is the National Mall loop, which includes the White House, Jefferson Memorial, and the Kennedy Center. After seeing the sites runners can enjoy a change of pace by running in Rock Creek Park, an escape from the city hustle that shuts down its main thruway on the weekends for parkgoers.
8. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is home to one of the world’s greatest urban runs. Waterfront lovers are in for a treat with the city’s 17-mile Seawall Trail, the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. Locals suggest running the Seawall perimeter around Stanley Park, which was the city’s first park and has remained greatly untouched. The park is a testament to British Columbia’s stunning natural setting rather than meticulous landscaping and planning by humans, and has acres of densely forested land, making the city a delight for nature lovers.
9. Seattle, WA
The Emerald City offers 100 trail miles and 5,000 acres of parkland within the city’s iconic seven hills. Despite the drizzle and overcast in the winter, Seattle has ideal temperate running weather especially during the warmer months. Two major running retailers, Brooks and Oiselle, call Seattle home, along with several professional endurance athlete groups. With the city’s diverse landscape set to the backdrop of Mount Rainier it’s no wonder runners have flocked to Seattle.
10. Tampa, FL
Tampa is a dream for warm weather and waterfront runs. Aside from the blazing summer months, the temperature remains a sunny 70-something. It’s hard to map a run in Tampa that doesn’t include some waterfront be it the Tampa Bay or Hillsborough River. Bayshore Boulevard is arguably one of downtown’s most beautiful runs, an 4.5-mile path along the water that is considered the world’s longest continuous sidewalk.
Tampa’s hometown race is the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a weekend-long multi-race event celebrating the city’s pirate-themed Gasparilla tradition.
If you haven’t enjoyed city running before, take a trip to one of these ten cities. With their ample trails, vibrant running communities, and spectacular setting they are hard to beat!