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The Best Cities for Runners

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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The Best Cities for Runners

If you’re planning to log a few miles on your next vacation, choosing a run-friendly city is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone. Many of the cities that are great for runners are also desirable tourist stops — think New York City on one coast and Seattle on the other — so you can easily get in some extra sightseeing on the run.

We’ve rounded up some of the best cities for runners around the world, based on criteria such as climate, trail availability, opportunities for sightseeing and others. The best part? Many of these cities cater to all runners, whether you are looking to run the streets near your hotel or take a short drive to hit some nearby trails. This guide will help you feel like a local and still make sure you see some of the most breathtaking and interesting sights each city has to offer.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

This capital city is known for its bicycling culture, but that actually works out in runners’ favor. If you’re drawn to views of water you’re in luck, as you can run along the canals that are a main part of the city’s infrastructure; just be ready for the nearby water to add even more of a damp feeling to what will already be a humid run. The four most prominent canals — Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel — can be run all at once or split up into smaller routes (the earlier, the better, before the crowds come out for the day). If you’re looking for a green space, visit Amsterdam’s largest park, Vondelpark, near many museums and scattered with gardens, statues and a historic open-air theater.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA

The ATL may be home to the largest 10K in the world (the annual Peachtree Road Race), but runners enjoy taking to the roads and trails of the city year-round. Known as “the city in a forest” due to the tree canopy spanning much of the city, there is abundant green space to explore. For an extensive experience of the city on foot, the ever-evolving Atlanta BeltLine will eventually span 22 miles and 45 neighborhoods (its current iteration already sees 2 million visitors a year).

AUSTIN, TEXAS

Soaring temperatures never keep Austinites from a day spent on the city’s 10-mile Hike-and-Bike Trail surrounding Lady Bird Lake. Because of this, and many other favorite local routes — including one around the Texas state capitol and through the University of Texas at Austin — the city’s running culture is evident with just a quick drive through downtown. Whether you’re enjoying the city’s parks during visits to South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival or are simply doing a culinary tour of the city’s barbecue restaurants and food trailers by foot, hitting the trails helps you explore like a local.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Entry into the Boston Marathon may be the most coveted of all running accomplishments, but you don’t have to be there on Patriot’s Day to run on Boylston Street, the home of the famed race’s finish line. Of course, there’s more to running in the city than just the marathon, and there’s a route to fit every mood. Get a history lesson running in Charlestown or choose a hillier run to take in views from the top of Prospect Hill. If you’re visiting the city, don’t let the winter months scare you — local runners don’t — and join a group run at a local running store to find the best areas to run (despite the snow).

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

You may not be able to run the streets of Chicago all 365 days of the year thanks to those famous wind gusts, but the city still has some top-notch running trails. If you’re going to run any section of town, most people would direct you to the Chicago Lakefront Trail. The trail spans 18 miles of Lake Michigan, allowing you to take in the views of the city on one side and the lake on the other. Even better? You’re sure to work up an appetite that will be more than satisfied by a slice (or many) of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza.

DENVER, COLORADO

If you’re looking for an ideal running climate year-round, you may not expect Denver to have it — but it delivers. With mild winters and highs averaging 90-degrees in the summer, exploring the city on two feet is completely possible (and enjoyable). Whether you want an urban setting or prefer to head to the nearby mountains, Denver has it all. Run solo through Washington Park along its designated pathways or join more than 50,000 runners (and its 100,000 spectators) for the highly acclaimed BOLDERBoulder 10K that takes place every Memorial Day.

LONDON, ENGLAND (UNITED KINGDOM)

Not only has this city previously hosted three Olympic marathons, it is also home to one of the World Marathon Majors. History buffs will relish exploring London’s four different World Heritage Sites. You can even run from one to another — Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London — on a 2.8-mile course that takes you along the River Thames and past other sites such as the London Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe. For a bit more tranquility, take a run or stroll through Kensington Gardens (where you can try to catch a glimpse of William and Kate at their home in Kensington Palace).

MADISON, WISCONSIN

While the Midwest is known for its rough winter weather, there is plenty of sunshine to go around in spring and summer. The town also has plenty of running routes, including some that pros Shalane Flanagan and Amy Hastings trained on while preparing for the Rio Olympics. This capital city is home to more than the University of Wisconsin-Madison and State Street; while you should run both, you can also hit the trails of the Lake Mendota Path to take in the views from Picnic Point.


Healthy Travel Tip from Residence Inn: 
Residence Inn makes it easy to stay active while traveling with their RI Runs program, 2- to 4-mile local mapped running routes that start and end at the hotel. Find the routes in the MapMyFitness app, and explore the city while you exercise.


MUNICH, GERMANY

Perhaps one of the most iconic running routes is Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Summer Olympics that’s frequented by locals and visitors alike. When you’re not running the 5-mile paved loop, you can play mini-golf, visit the Munich Aquarium, stroll through the BMW museum or even get tickets to one of the many concerts or shows that happen in different arenas right in the park. Of course, be sure to cool down afterward with a beer and giant pretzel from the Hofbräuhaus München, one of the most legendary beer halls in the world.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

If you really want to see the whole city by foot, taking on the TCS New York City Marathon is the way to do it. If you aren’t quite ready for 26.2 or want to experience summer in the city, there are still plenty of must-run routes. Combine a mandatory NYC experience with your run by taking on the hills of Central Park, which are best to run in the early morning or early evening. If you’re looking for sweeping city views and a quintessential New York experience, head out a bit early and run the Manhattan Bridge (before it gets too crowded) and watch the sun rise over the skyline.

PORTLAND, OREGON

This city has something for every runner, whether you prefer paved roads or want to take advantage of more than 150 miles of beautifully wooded trails. Portland has an ideal climate for running, so you can expect to lace up your shoes year-round (though they may get a little wet). The city has made efforts to prioritize bike and pedestrian accessibility, so there aren’t many places off-limits — including bridges. That’s why we recommend running along the Willamette River, which offers many different distances depending on the bridges you choose to traverse. If you’re looking to go more green, head into Forest Park to run gravel trails shaded by fir and maple trees.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

The city may be most widely known for its mountaintop Christ the Redeemer statue (after all, it is almost 100 feet tall), but it’s also a very popular destination for international tourists. If you’re a runner who likes it hot-hot-hot you are in luck, as temperatures sit at 80–90°F year round. Ipanema beach — recognized as one of the best in the world — is a popular running spot and provides views of white, sandy beaches and nearby islands.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

If you’ve never been to San Diego, what are you waiting for? It is a runner’s dream thanks to the perfect weather and excess of stunning ocean views. Sunset Cliffs offers a short run perfect for taking in the seascapes from the cliffside, whereas Torrey Pines appeals to those looking for a more technical trail experience without sacrificing views. If you’re headed to the zoo or museums, Balboa Park also offers more than 60 miles of nearby trails so you can get in a workout in between. Whether you’re running downtown along the Embarcadero or sneaking in views of the million dollar homes in La Jolla, you will find a picturesque run every step of the way.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Don’t let the chance of rain scare you off from some of the best running routes a city has to offer. One of the most popular is Green Lake, where you’ll find a 2.8-mile inner loop or 3.1-mile outer loop, offering both urban and waterfront views. If you’re looking to get out of the city and take on a more technical route, Rattlesnake Ledge is a must-do. The switchbacks and climbing are worth it once you hit the views of Rattlesnake Lake and the surrounding mountains. If you were instead hoping to stick to the popular tourist areas, early risers can take in Pike Place Market before the hustle and bustle of the day begins.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

When the weather is just right — which admittedly can be a gamble — Vancouver is one of the world’s best cities for running. If you happen to be there on a sunny summer day or even during a fall drizzle, Stanley Park is where you should be. There are all kinds of routes in the park, including the famous Seawall Loop with views of the skyline, water and mountains or the Western Rainforest Trails that take up the inner areas. Because the park is easily accessible from downtown, it is great for both residents running on their lunch break or visitors wanting an iconic view of the city.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As it turns out, one of the best ways to explore the nation’s capital is on foot. In fact, if you run through the National Mall, you’ll easily see some of the most iconic monuments, such as the Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Washington Monument. If you need a break, stop to visit one of the many gardens and museums, as well. The White House can’t be seen from the National Mall but is roughly a mile away, so it can easily be added to your route to extend your mileage.

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Sponsored by - Residence Inn
About Residence Inn

At Residence Inn, we provide a hotel experience that makes it easy to make the most of your time away. Whether that’s meeting new people, discovering new things or just taking some time for yourself. And when you’re ready to explore the area, we’ve got you covered with our RI Runs program – custom local running routes, found on the MapMyFitness app powered by Under Armour.

About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.

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