Despite its harsh winters, Boston is a year-round running city, anchored by the strength of a deep racing history, a diverse variety of running routes and a strong club scene. From the famed Newton Hills on the historic Boston Marathon course to the flat, but densely populated bike path along the Charles River, runners have a myriad of incredible options at their disposal in Massachusetts’ largest city.
If you’re visiting Beantown, here are five must-run routes in and around the city:
The Charles River Bike Path
Known affectionately as “The Rivah” by locals, the Charles River Bike Path is perhaps the most popular—and easily accessible—running route in the city. The paved path runs along both sides of the river, and passes through parts of Boston, Watertown, Waltham and Cambridge with plenty of access points. You can run out and back for as long as you desire, and numerous bridges allow you to cross from one side to the other to create loops of varying lengths. A full loop from the Museum of Science in Boston to Watertown Square will get you 17-18 miles. The path tends to get busy in the warmer months with runners, walkers and cyclists all taking advantage of its skyline views of the city, so heading out early is your best bet to beat the crowds.
The Emerald Necklace
The popular B.A.A. Half Marathon runs along this route every fall, but you can explore it on your own at any time of the year. The Emerald Necklace is a series of winding, paved paths that begins near Downtown Crossing in Boston, runs along the Boston/Brookline border and heads into Jamaica Plain. It ends at the southern part of the Arnold Arboretum in Roslindale. You’ll get about 7 miles by running point-to-point, but you can turn around anytime (or jump on the T to get back to your hotel) to meet your mileage needs.
Boston Marathon legend Bill Rodgers logged many laps around this tiny body of water in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, which is also part of the aforementioned Emerald Necklace. Only 1-1/2 miles around, Jamaica Pond is a paved loop popular with runners and walkers. You can incorporate a lap of the pond as part of a run along the Emerald Necklace, or you could follow in Rodgers’ footsteps and run from Cleveland Circle (where he used to own a running store) to the pond, run a lap, and head back for a nice 6-mile run.
Newton Hills Carriage Road
The carriage road is the narrower, less trafficked road that parallels Commonwealth Avenue along the infamous Newton Hills of the Boston Marathon course. Throughout the year you’ll see runners running up and down the carriage roads toward Boston College, which sits near the 21-mile mark of the historic point-to-point marathon route. From downtown Boston, run west on Beacon Street toward Cleveland Circle (or take a cab to Boston College if you don’t want to run too far). At Cleveland Circle, head up Chestnut Hill Avenue toward Boston College. From BC, you can run 3-5 miles on the carriage road along Commonwealth Avenue toward Wellesley before turning around and finishing with some challenging ups and downs back to your starting point.
Brookline and Chestnut Hill Reservoirs
Looping one of these bodies of waters once doesn’t get you much mileage, but running a few laps of each makes for a fun run that will technically take you through Brookline, Newton and Boston. Starting at the Brookline Reservoir, which is at the intersection of Lee St. and Route 9 in Brookline, run a lap (or 2, or 3) of the crushed gravel path around reservoir, which measures just shy of a mile. From the “Brookline Res” as it’s known by locals, take the sidewalks down Chestnut Hill Ave., toward Cleveland Circle and Boston College, where you will encounter the “Chestnut Hill Res,” a 1-1/2 mile dirt loop that is popular with walkers and runners, including many of Boston’s competitive club teams who use the path for speed workouts on weeknights and weekend mornings.
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