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The 12 Best U.S. Cities For Runners

We started searching for the best locales with a bracket of 30 and opened up the voting to readers to make this tough call.

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Of course, we all have hometown pride. But let’s be honest: When it comes to running, there are some places with trails so perfect and races so plentiful, we can’t help our legs from experiencing wanderlust. WR started our search for the best locations for runners with a bracket of 30 and opened up the voting to readers to make this tough call—here are your results.

#12 Tampa Bay

Population: 4.2 million

tampa bay

The metropolitan area comprising Tampa (where the party’s at), St. Petersburg (where the money is) and Clearwater (where the beaches are) is collectively known as Tampa Bay. It’s also one of the favored places for professional endurance athletes to call home—thanks to the abundance of bike paths and swimmable water—and the absence of winter and state income tax.

Must Run
Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, providing the platform for 4.5 miles of uninterrupted running alongside the city’s beautiful shore. The 42-mile Suncoast Trail is a go-to for those who prefer a break from the Southeast sun—the former railway is now home to a shaded, paved bike path. Across the bay, St. Petersburg’s Bayshore Drive and Pinellas Trail offer parallel delights.

Get Away From It All
Flat-as-a-pancake Central Florida isn’t known for its trails, but there are a number of  packed-dirt off-roads perfect for runners. Flatwoods Park, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Moccasin Lake Park and Booker Creek are just a few ideas. Bonus (or beware!): You might see an alligator.

Destination Racing
Held in late February, the Gasparilla Distance Classic is the hottest race in town, drawing more than 30,000 participants each year. Named after the pirate festival that is Tampa Bay’s answer to Mardi Gras, the event offers four distances over two days and serves up piping hot rice and beans at the finish line. —JS


“Not only is it in my backyard, but I love the mix of urban and waterside running Tampa offers. Plus, I ran my first marathon in the city, so it will always have a special place in my heart. You always remember your first! (Ha!)” —Kara Deschenes, WR contributor

#11 Honolulu

Population: 953K


This urban paradise on the island of Oahu is not only home to world-famous beaches—it’s also a majestic place to grab miles. If you’re brave enough to fully embrace the laid-back culture, lace up your shoes and explore without any real direction in mind. The friendly locals are happy to steer you toward the best secret spots that even Google Maps can’t find.


Must Run
Try the Leahi (Diamond Head) loop outside of popular Waikiki. It boasts epic views atop the lookout. Up the coast, Ala Moana Beach Park has workout classes where you can find triathletes and runners aplenty.

Get Away From It All
For a dose of history, the Pearl City Bike Path starts at Aloha Stadium and ends in Waipahu, passing the lochs of Pearl Harbor. For a heartier serving of the island’s most intense landmarks, dare to climb 5 miles to the top of 2,014-foot Tantalus, an extinct volcano that attracts more adventurous runners.

Destination Racing
The Honolulu Marathon is the fourth largest marathon in the U.S. and doesn’t have a cutoff time, meaning all paces are truly welcomed! The Hapalua Half Marathon is a shorter option, featuring an out-and-back coastal course that starts and finishes at Waikiki Beach. —CP


“It’s such a great place to unplug and be present. It doesn’t matter if you’re running on the beach or on trails in the forest—it’s impossible not to feel happy or at peace there. I ran 11 miles for the first time while I was in Hawaii, and even though it was 80 degrees, I had a smile on my face the entire time.” —Kelly Roberts, blogger at Run, Selfie, Repeat and WR contributor

#10 Seattle

Population: 668K


A little rain doesn’t stop us from running, but there’s a hidden secret about Seattle—it’s often gorgeous with sunshine. Shhh. The precipitation makes it verdant though. Toss in awesome water views and lots of runner-friendly trails, and you’ll know why this city ranks among the best. Plus it’s the home of the Brooks and Oiselle running brands.


Must Run
The flat 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail offers some great waterside and city views from north Seattle—and the new Brooks HQ in Fremont has a retail store right alongside. You can also easily connect to a path around Green Lake as well as the Washington Park Arboretum.

Get Away From It All
Discovery Park, the city’s largest at 534 acres, overlooks Puget Sound with views of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains—run the trails and then hit the beach for some rest and recovery. Head east to the Redmond Watershed Preserve to sweat among the Douglas firs and moss carpets that define this region.

Destination Racing
The Lake Union 10K showcases another great place for pedestrians and benefits Girls on the Run of Puget Sound. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Half and 8K celebrate Seattle’s musical culture as runners take over city streets. Trail runners have their share of racing too, with the Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series offering distances from 5K to 50K. —NM


“Since the city is built around several inlets, you get a nice overhead view of the city from crossing one of the many bridges. Plus, it’s green! So much nature throughout an urban landscape can make you feel like you’re on a trail run in a park as opposed to a gritty city run.” —Emily Polachek, WR contributor and Competitor editor

#9 Minneapolis/St. Paul

Population: 3.3 million


With more than 50 miles of trails, many of which are plowed before city streets when it snows, runners have a safe place to stride, no matter the weather. WR contributor Mackenzie Lobby Havey says, “In general people are really outdoorsy here and proud to be hardy folks from the North.” Some say the reason you see so many Minnesotans at the starting line of challenging races is because of the fortitude required to train 365 days a year in Minnesota weather. At least it’s beautiful!

Must Run
The Chain of Lakes, including Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, is right in the middle of the city, with trails around and linking each lake. Even better, there are separate bike and run paths for aerobic harmony. You can also set out along the Mississippi River—be sure to cross the Stone Arch Bridge, which has 23 arches and a great view of St. Anthony Falls.

Get Away From It All
It may be in the heart of the city, but the 51-mile, seven-segment route encompassing the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway includes lakes, woodlands, wetlands, city parks and gardens, making it worthy of a long afternoon of adventurous exploration.

Destination Racing
Billed as “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America,” the point-to-point Twin Cities Marathon winds around four lakes and along both sides of the Mississippi River for a visually refreshing course that’s also popular with beginners (about 30 percent are first-timers). But it isn’t slow—13 percent of the field qualifies for Boston! —AP


“I love the fact that while I was training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I didn’t run the same long-slow-run route twice. I also love that there are SO many people here. Any time I’m lacking motivation to get out and train, I literally just need to look out my window. I live two blocks from a major parkway and people are always running on my street to get to the trails.” —Jennifer Fitzharris-Funk, a writer for Minneapolis Running and member of the United States Running Streak Association

#8 Austin

Population: 913K


The capital of Texas has made great strides recently to become an even better city for runners with its addition of riverside trails—a gift to residents who are as serious about running and cycling as they are about music and barbecue.


Must Run
The new Boardwalk Trail on Lady Bird Lake—part of the Colorado River running alongside downtown—connects existing trails for 10 miles of waterside mileage with towering urban views. Be sure to note the “Belting It Out” installation of 36 bronze belts with music lyrics that will leave you humming. Luke’s Locker running store is just off the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and- Bike Trail if you’re looking for gear and group runs.

Get Away From It All
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is close to the heart of the city—yet will leave you feeling miles away, with plenty of trails to discover and even the opportunity to cool off in a swimming hole.

Destination Racing
Thanks to reliable weather, Austin holds races nearly every weekend. You might not be able to resist the Keep Austin Weird 5K for the eye-candy costumes and antics. The Cap10K, or Capitol 10,000, is the largest 10K in the state with more than 18,000 runners, and the famously hilly Decker Challenge Half Marathon runs around Walter E. Long Lake in east Austin. —NM


“I love running races in Austin, because it’s a beautiful city full of awesomely weird spectators! Every climb, corner and descent reveal unique and often-hilarious signage, talented and eclectic live musicians and droves of costume-wearing cheerleaders. There’s just no opportunity to feel tired or discouraged among all that positive energy!” —Kelly Lyro, Austin resident and half-marathoner


Population: 656K


In spite—or perhaps thanks to?—its harsh winters and humid summers, you can barely walk a block in Boston without seeing a pair or two of New Balance shuffling down the street. As author Dennis Lehane wrote in his beautiful essay after the 2013 marathon bombing, “Bostonians don’t love easy things, they love hard things.” Like running, for example.

Must Run
The path snaking along both banks of the Charles River is a favorite destination for trotting tourists and locals alike. If you enjoy your miles with a side of Minuteman history, stick to the Freedom Trail: Start at Boston Common and follow the 5K-long brick line along Paul Revere’s famous Revolutionary War route.

Get Away From It All
Every young runner who grew up in New England knows the pleasure (and torture) of racing in Franklin Park, where a nice mix of expansive fields and twisting trails are open to the public. Franklin is also one of the nine parks that make up the Emerald Necklace, which links the green patches of Boston with one 9-mile path.

Destination Racing
Do we even need to say it? The Boston Marathon is a cornerstone of running culture. If the 26-plus-mile race isn’t your idea of a tea party, sign up for the BAA 5K. Held on the Saturday of marathon weekend, you can cover much less distance while still experiencing a slice of the excitement. —JS


“Running along the Charles River is stunning throughout the year. You pass quaint pedestrian bridges, Boston University, MIT and Harvard. You can look at ducks and geese. I like to watch the geese grow up.”—Shelby Grossman, WR subscriber and half-marathon finisher

#6 Boulder, CO

Population: 97K


Sweat has long been the “new black” when it comes to the fashion of this adrenaline-fueled mountain town of a city. Nestled against the majestic Flatirons at an elevation of 5,430 feet, Boulder has more than 200 miles of paths and trails, a diverse array of running clubs and a dizzying variety of healthy eating joints for pre- and post-run.

Must Run
Hot summer days feel cooler when running on the 5.5-mile paved Boulder Creek Path aside the bubbling water. For a more adventurous run-hike—that’s still within city limits—hoof it up and down Mount Sanitas for a rugged 5K trail loop with 1,343 feet of gain and sweeping views stretching from Long’s Peak to Denver, Pikes Peak and beyond.

Get Away From It All
The 8-mile Walker Ranch Loop is a quick drive from town with single track trails and terrain worthy of a national park—think wildflowers, meadows, long climbs and descents.  If you need a bit of solace, the Switzerland Trail, with 14 miles of sweet dirt and gravel running, doesn’t get quite as much traffic.

Destination Racing
Of all the neighborhood 5Ks, club runs and USATF-sanctioned events, the ultimate is the BolderBoulder 10K. First run in 1979, this race blends festive and fast as more than 50,000 people and even larger throngs of spectators take to the streets to kick off summer. If you want more miles, check out the Boulder Back Roads Marathon and Half Marathon for rural running (mostly dirt) and big-sky views. —AP


“The Boulder running scene is unique, because it is so large. I have never lived in a town that had so many run-focused people, let alone athletes.” —Gina Lucrezi, professional ultrarunner living in Boulder

#5 New York

Population: 8.4 million

New York

If Alicia Key’s description of a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” only sounds half-appealing to your runner sensibility (umm, concrete?), consider this: NYC is the birthplace of toilet paper, American pizza and air conditioning. We shudder to think what running would be like without these necessities. The city’s kinetic energy, gorgeous parks, pedestrian-friendly paths and show-stopping marathon are a few more reasons that Gotham ranks high on our list.


Must Run
Central Park is a mecca for city striders. The full perimeter of the green space delivers a lovely 6.1-mile paved tour of Manhattan. Locals head to the park’s interior for the best dirt paths the metropolis offers, thanks to the 1.7-mile Reservoir Loop and switchback Bridle Path.

Get Away From It All
Nearly the entire perimeter of Manhattan is lined with runner-friendly paths linking the Hudson River (west), East River and Harlem River (north). Head to where the first two greenways converge for an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty. For a backwoods adventure that’s only a train ride away, buy a ticket to Sloatsburg and explore Bear Mountain State Park, which turns verdant in spring and fire-orange come fall.

Destination Racing
The New York City Marathon is the Big Apple’s marquee event—and the largest 26.2-miler in the world. But the New York Mini 10K (one of the first women’s-specific races in the country), the New York Pizza Run (think: 1 mile, four slices) and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon are also excellent choices. —JS


“I love running in NYC because it feels like a video game to me—dodging people, trying to gauge lights turning green and red, jumping over sidewalk obstacles!” —Lizzie Post, WR running etiquette columnist

#4 Chicago

Population: 2.7 million


Diverse architecture abutting lakefront paths, flat and fast terrain and a well-established running culture make for a lively running scene. In case the Windy City moniker has you worried—while Chicago does get breezy, some say the nickname actually originated way back in the 1800s in reference to the city’s politicians being full of hot air.

Must Run
Hit the iconic 18.5-mile path along the shores of Lake Michigan for a point-to-point, out-and-back or incorporate it into a long loop of the city for the ultimate urban experience—as an added bonus, the easy-to-access path has mileage markers and bathrooms. Chicago also has 700 public works of art, and The Bean in Millennium Park is easily accessible from the lakefront route.

Get Away From It All
Head north to Cricket Hill in the Uptown neighborhood for soft, grassy hill repeats (the gain is about 45 vertical feet) and expansive views of the lake from the summit. Chicago Parks and Recreation recently added an eight-lane track near the base of the hill, making it “easy” to combine sprints and hill work!

Destination Racing
Tour every facet of the city at the Chicago Marathon, a runner favorite not only for its energy (Chicagoans are enthusiastic spectators!), but also for its logistical ease. The annual Lakefront 10-Miler and 5K is a popular way to welcome the spring and shake out winter legs. —AP


“You can tell you’re in a city that embraces runners. There’s always something to catch your interest and help the miles fly by—not to mention all that amazing food to refuel on!” —Danielle Cemprola, WR columnist and founder of T-Rex Runner

#3 San Francisco

Population: 852K

San Francisco

Sitting at the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific and the bay, San Francisco feels much larger than its 7-by-7-mile dimensions.


Must Run
No San Fran visit is complete without a run or walk across the 1.7-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge. It’s always busy, so be prepped to encounter a crowd. If you prefer to stay inside city limits, travel along the Embarcadero and absorb the scents of busy Fisherman’s Wharf, see street performers wowing crowds and take a quick water stop at the old Ferry Building, now a local marketplace. Runners can also seek some solace with a picnic and run through Golden Gate Park—then head to next-door Haight-Ashbury for funky shopping options!

Get Away From It All
Drive across the Golden Gate to explore the nearby Marin Headlands—the trails to the top are outstanding, and the views of the city are more than Instagram-worthy.

Destination Racing
April’s Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon offers runners a unique opportunity to stride through the Presidio and over the bridge while it’s partially closed to traffic. The Bay to Breakers 12K is less like a race than a moving party that takes athletes (many wearing costumes and some sporting nothing at all) from the tip of the bay down at the coastline to the breakers. —CP


“S.F. is a great place to run because it offers a little bit of everything—a runner can find any terrain or scenery that he or she desires!” —Christine Gould, avid runner and triathlete living in nearby San Mateo

#2 San Diego

Population: 1.4 million

san diego

Waterside runs are not difficult to find in San Diego, especially with fun beach towns lining the coast from historic Camp Pendleton to the downtown Gaslamp Quarter and all the way to Mexico.

Must Run
If you’re visiting, everyone will recommend a run or hike at Torrey Pines. The reserve is cluttered with eager tourists on weekends, so go early to minimize weaving and maximize Zen. If you’re hanging out downtown, run from Seaport Village to Spanish Landing Park along the beautiful bay. A second option is pancake-flat Mission Bay, a quick Uber ride from downtown. Head a bit north and make like a local: Cruise through coastal beach communities (La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas) and wave at the friendly folks who reside in every nook along the way.

Get Away From It All
If you’re itching for a workout, seek out Lake Miramar, where you can follow a 5-mile paved loop that’s marked every quarter mile. For a bit more elevation and complete solitude, drive an hour east, park on Sunset Highway and trot along the trails of Mount Laguna.

Destination Racing
Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and Half brings thousands of runners to the Balboa Park start line. For an earlier spring option, the San Diego Half is a fun way to sightsee as you sweat. The Cardiff Kook 10K/5K helps hundreds of football fanatics kick off Super Bowl Sunday, just a few miles north of the city proper in the surfing community of Encinitas. —CP


“San Diego is an epic place to run! There are endless amounts of scenery to take in. It’s a great motivator to also always see others run in this beautiful area. Bonus: The weather is close to perfect year-round.” —Fara Rosenzweig, WR contributor

#1 Washington, DC

Population: 659K

washington dc

The Nation’s Capital tops our list for its views of historic monuments and the sparkling Potomac River, choices of flat and hilly terrain, weather and more. With its admission-free museums and parks, if you throw in a run, you’ve got a jam-packed day of sightseeing and exercise with barely a swipe of your debit card.


Must Run
The race for the White House has a different meaning when you lace up for a run around the National Mall—the wide, gravel paths between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial (2 miles) have plenty of offshoots to nearby sites. Not far away in Georgetown is the start of another go-to run along the C&O Canal, where you can choose between the dirt towpath and the paved Capital Crescent Trail.

Get Away From It All
Head to Rock Creek Park, where the main roads are closed to motorized vehicles on weekends and holidays. Relish the shady streets and waterside views, and detour to the National Zoo, which along with free entry offers some nice inclines for a little safari hill training. Across town, the U.S. National Arboretum’s rewards include the springtime azaleas and the former U.S. Capitol columns as hilltop sculpture.

Destination Racing
The Marine Corps Marathon is the regional granddaddy, but the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is another local favorite, especially when the timing coincides with the short-but-sweet blooms. —NM


“There are four distinct seasons here, so you get to wear all your favorite running gear and it’s never boring. D.C. is such a running city that you will always see friendly runners out while you are getting it done. I love that!” —Courtney Dredden Carter, WR blogger and founder of Eat Pray Run DC

These Runners Were Not Prepared to Love Non-Alcoholic Beer

L. Renee Blount and Outside TV host Pat Parnell posted up at a popular trailhead, handed out free Athletic Brewing craft non-alcoholic beer, and then recorded runners’ live reactions. Want to find out what all the hype’s about? Click here to discover a world without compromise.


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