Sunday Seven – Seven Great Cities for Running

While brainstorming topics for this week I thought about how travellers are often referred to as running “away” from something (“life”, “responsibilities” and the like), although I think it’s more of a situation of running towards something. And then a lightbulb went off in my brain and I thought running + travel = this week’s Sunday Seven.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with running for a few years, but am really keen to get back on its good side. So much so that I am (slowly) training for my first-ever half-marathon in the fall. Writing those words just made me shudder, but public accountability! Therefore, if I write it – it WILL happen. Just don’t tell my left hip as I don’t think it will support the idea.

At any rate I always like to pack some runners and gym clothes I’m not mortified to be seen in public in when I travel, particularly if it’s for work and I can squeeze in a quick jog. It’s a fun way to get some exercise, check out the neighbourhood you’re staying in, but also blend in a bit – if you’re in a city where running is an acceptable pastime, of course. In no particular order, seven great cities for running – with a few tossed in that I’d like to visit.

7. Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Once I had adjusted to the insane humidity (my hair didn’t until I got on the plane home) I started jogging in the mornings along Ali‘i Drive, the “main drag” in Kona. It spans about 11 kilometres alongside the ocean and is one of the few relatively flat spots. Handy bike lanes make it easy to dodge other tourists who stop and gawk at things along the way, and you can stare out at the beach and waves as you make your way back into town. It is a popular spot for both amateur and athlete runners – I unwittingly ran in the Ironman Championships for about 1000m before I got way too tired trying to keep up.

If you start at the north end, you can fuel up at the end of your run at the best restaurant ever, Island Lava Java. And completely erase all of the good your run did you as you tuck into macadamia nut pancakes. Just remember – since the sun sets early in Hawaii, bring reflective clothing if you’re planning on running past 7 p.m.

6. Portland, Oregon
Lately I’ve become really interested in Portland (and not because of Portlandia), and it sounds like the perfect spot to jog around. Forest Park is the largest wooded city park in the US, and just minutes from downtown. Within the park is the 30-odd-mile Wildwood Trail that winds through the park with more than a dozen trailhead offshoots, and it’s rarely flat. Running up and down hills past lush groves of trees alongside a river? Yes please!

5. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
This is a lofty dream. Starting this year, the Inca Trail Marathon will begin, a 26.2 mile course reaching an elevation of 13,800 feet. Usually it takes hikers at least three days to complete. Runners will have just 11 hours. Lofty, lofty dream. But how amazing would it be to have your photo finish in front of Machu Picchu?

Amazing.

4. Geneva, Switzerland
Perhaps I like the idea of running past fancy pants organizations like the UN and the Red Cross. Or that I’ll never lose track of time as I’m assuming there are clocks everywhere in Switzerland, right? (I’m so funny) Or, ultimately, the likelihood of awesome chocolate at the end of the run.

Everyone likes chocolate.

Running forums tell me that a run alongside Lake Geneva is a must, looping around the city and past the US Embassy, Red Cross and the United Nations at Palais des Nations. After a few nasty little hills, great views can be had at the Pregny with clear days bringing views of Mont Blanc. Sign me up!

3. Vancouver, BC

Such a beauty of a place, even when it’s raining. Whether you like forests, mountains or oceans to gawk at as you’re cursing at yourself for running this long, you’ll find something that strikes your fancy. A nice scenic route takes you along Coal Harbour with the Coast Mountains staring back at you across the water. Run past the cruise terminal, seaplane airport, gaze longingly at the yachts and eventually enter Stanley Park and take a pass around Lost Lagoon.

2. San Francisco, CA
You won’t just leave your heart in San Francisco if you go running there. You’ll also leave your legs.

It doesn’t matter how in-shape you think you are. San Fran will remind you that you in fact are not in shape, and will hand you your ass on a plate. Those hills, oh the hills! The good news is that there are flat routes to be found, and a great one is heading out along the Embarcadero alongside the wharf. Just hold your breath when you go past the sea lions.

The Presidio has some soft trails, with the added bonus of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. There are also water fountains and bathrooms aplenty.

1. Sydney, Australia

Few places could probably claim a better backdrop for running than Sydney. Few places could also probably claim more attractive runners (and people in general) than Sydney. Thanks, Australia, for crushing my self esteem. At any rate, the cliffside run from Bondi Pavilion to Coogee is absolutely breath-taking (I walked it first, which left me knackered – always a good sign). About a 17 km round-trip, you’ll head past sandstone cliffs and aboriginal rock carvings that are millions of years old. Ignore the beautiful people sunbathing at Tamarama and head to Bronte Beach, before continuing on the edge of Waverly Cemetery to Coogee. Collapse (blissfully) at Coogee, or run straight into the water like I did. There are lots of bathrooms and water stops along the way.

If you’re more into trail running, there are lots of options. A word of caution, however – our “trails” are Aussie “tracks”, which in reality is a bit more akin to bush running. The Manly Scenic Track winds through rain forest and along sandstone cliffs, with pretty wicked views of Sydney across the water. If you get tuckered out you can take a bus from Manly to the Spit Bridge and then run back to the ferry. Definitely take the ferry, for the views alone.

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