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Ten Best Cities for Running in North America

If you’re a runner and were just informed you have to go to San Francisco or Boston for a business trip, you’re probably thinking, Yippee! Dallas or Orlando? Frown emoticon. At Great Runs, where we’ve assembled running guides for 1,000+ locations worldwide, we have our favorites…and some that could ‘use some improvement’ from a running perspective.

What makes a good running city? Sure, geography and weather have something to do with it. But a city also has to build the proper infrastructure to take advantage of its setting: the parks, paths, transport, and wayfinding that make a city great for running. That said, here are our ten favorites in North America, with suggestions for 2-3 iconic routes in each city. The list is admittedly subjective, is focused on larger cities (we’re saving Boulder and Bend for another piece…) and in no particular order.

San Francisco. One of the most spectacular settings of any city in the world is also a treat for running. Particularly special are the unique running opportunities just outside the city, such as the Marin Headlands. Iconic Routes: Crissy Field to Golden Gate Bridge; Marin Headlands.

San Diego. A runner’s paradise. The combination of great weather, beautifully laid out harbor, beaches, and lovely running trails — all fairly accessible. Iconic Routes: Mission Bay, Torrey Pines & Beaches.

Vancouver (British Columbia).  Vancouver’s planners have taken full advantage of the city’s spectacular geography by building a wonderful network of parks and trails. Fantastic waterfront running and parks in the city core, and then a trail runner’s paradise north of the city. Iconic Routes: The Seawall; Stanley Park.

Chicago. If you’re traveling to Chicago, try to stay downtown, where you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular path along Lake Michigan, gorgeous parks, and wide sidewalks passing the city’s architectural gems. Iconic Routes: Lakefront Path; Millennium Park/Lincoln Park/Grant Park.

Minneapolis-St.Paul. One of the most underrated cities for running. Extensive lakes, paths along the Mississippi River, large parks, and pleasant residential neighborhoods…it’s no wonder the Twin Cities Marathon is claimed to be “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America”. Iconic Route: Chain of Lakes Trail.

Boston. The funny thing about the Boston Marathon is that it doesn’t pass by Boston’s most scenic running routes. Boston’s history, river and oceanfront setting, and walkable scale make it a top running city. Iconic Routes: Charles River Paths, Emerald Necklace.

New York City. There’s more to New York than the famous Central Park loop. There are great paths along the east and west sides of Manhattan, and some great running in nearby Brooklyn and the other boroughs. Iconic Routes: Central Park, Hudson River Greenway.

Philadelphia. Funny thing is, one can’t do the full ‘Rocky Run’. BUT, there’s great running along the Schuykill River, in Fairmont Park, and several routes incorporating the city’s rich history. Also, great running options in Philly’s suburbs. Iconic Routes: Schuykill River Trail, Fairmount Park.

Washington, D.C. A run on The Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, and then out to the FDR and MLK Memorials, is one of the most inspiring runs in the world. Washington is beautifully laid out for runners, with miles of paths around its most visited destinations, and then radiating outward to Virginia and Maryland. Iconic Routes: National Mall/Memorials; Rock Creek Park.

Tampa-St. Petersburg. Our favorite area for running in Florida. Fantastic bayshore paths, runnable beaches, and a good park and trail system. Nearby Clearwater has some great running options too. Iconic Routes: Bayshore Linear Trail (Tampa), St. Petersburg Beach.


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