My Favourite Cities For Running

Not all roads are created equal – so it’s no surprise that it’s easier to run along them in certain cities than it is in others.

Take San Francisco. Unless you’re on the waterfront, you’ll likely be running up what feels like a mountain side for most of your run (because you are). Great for hill-training; not great for an easy run to discover the city. I kept my ‘easy runs’ around Twin Peaks in San Fran to 5km (3 miles) MAX out of necessity.

But other cities or towns seem like they were made with the runner in mind. Here are my top 3 vacation destinations for running.

Nice, France

La Promenade des Anglais. Need I say more? A quick google image search of this 7km (4.3 mile) paved boardwalk along the coast of Nice on the Mediterranean Sea will make you want to pack your bags, and your running shoes, ASAP.

La Prom, as it’s known to locals, runs just above the rocky beaches all along the southern coast of Nice, from the airport virtually all the way to the marina and old port.

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The boardwalk is wide, with plenty of room for walkers and designated lanes for cyclists. I was there in the middle of July and even though the boardwalk was full of families and other runners, I never felt stuck behind a crowd. Because the boardwalk is so long (and totally flat), it’s easy to hop on for a quick out and back run without having to plan your route and remember where it is you were supposed to turn left.

After your run, take advantage of your location and go for a dip in the sea or pull up a blue lawn chair at a cabana for a refreshing drink. But be warned – there are no sandy beaches in Nice. Instead, the ‘beach’ is lined with large pebbles and (for some of us, anyway) it can be a bit of a challenge maneuvering to the water. My mom had no problems. I blame it on my sensitive feet. Like the Princess and the Pea.

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Seriously. Strangers laughed. So did my mom.

Santa Monica, California, United States

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When I was in Southern California, I was chatting with a local about running in Malibu (virtually impossible, by the way. You’re better off hiking in the beautiful mountains) and he said “It’s impossible to live in Santa Monica and not be fit.”

He wasn’t wrong.

I made the 15 minute drive from my AirBnb in Malibu and parked in a paid lot near the Santa Monica Pier (Parking ranges from $7-$20 USD for a day, depending on how close you get to the pier). I paid $10 and was about a kilometre away.

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After a couple hours of exploring the pier, I wandered back to the car and grabbed my running gear. Santa Monica has wide, white sand beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see in either direction, and public restrooms with outdoor showers placed just off of a paved pathway that runs along the top of the sandy stretch. I hopped into one of the stalls to change and started running south.

And it was perfect.

The pathway runs under the Santa Monica Pier, passed the original Muscle Beach (where people were working out, slack-lining, and playing on the swings), along the famous Venice Beach boardwalk, and continues. I stopped at a skate park in Venice Beach and watched some locals do their thing before turning around and heading back. It was hot, the sun was bright, and thankfully there are water fountains along the pathway.

Once back to the car, I changed into my swim gear and took advantage of that white sand to relax before heading back to Malibu. Getting off of the busy Highway 1 was well worth turning my daily run into a day trip to Santa Monica for, but considering how close the two towns are (especially if you’re in the south end of Malibu) it’s totally possible to make the drive over every day of your vacation if you’re keen on getting in a good run without having to dodge vehicles and cyclists.

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Neuried, Germany

If you want to escape the city life, see the forest for the trees, and experience small town living at its finest, you’ll want to head to this municipality in south-western Germany.

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Whoops, sorry. That’s a post for a different blog about Germany.

Anyway. Neuried is located in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany. To the west is the Rhine and the north eastern part of France, and it is made up of small communities separated by farmland. I’m lucky enough to have family in Altenheim – one of those small communities on the west side bordering the Rhine.

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There are a number of different running routes you can take through Neuried. If you want to keep it simple, you can stay on the main street that links the communities. As you move through them, there are sidewalks that will take you past bakeries and butcheries and local shops, and between communities is a pathway that drops off the busy road and lets you enjoy the fields and farms that make up the small distance between them.

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Or you can venture west, through the cornfields and past the small man-made lakes where people go to swim, and head to the Rhine. There is a gravel pathway that runs along the river, and you can see sailboats and shipping vessels slowly moving along. If you venture back off the path and into the wooded area, you will pass farms and trees on your way back into the neighbourhood. But make no mistake – even though you’re running through farmland and cornfields, these are typically narrow, paved roads that you only have to share with the occasional tractor or horse-drawn carriage. It’s an easy run, with better footing than most North American side roads can offer.

If you want to experience small-town life, share a road with the chickens and horses, run through tobacco and corn fields, and see the Rhine first hand – Neuried is the cottage getaway you need to go on.

Do you take your running shoes with you on vacation? What’s the most beautiful city you’ve ever run in? Share your stories in the comments!

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