Where to Run – How to Find the Best Places to Run in Your Community

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If you’re new to running, planning on taking it from the treadmill to the road, or just looking for a change of scenery… You’re probably wondering how to find the best places to run in your community.

There’s nothing wrong with just getting out there, hitting the road, and seeing where it takes you. But especially for new runners, a bit of planning can go a long way toward helping you find good routes that turn an average run into an amazing run!

Here’s our advice on how to find the best places to run. You can either find your happy place and stick to it or find new routes to change it up every day. It’s up to you!

Why Is It Important to Find a Good Running Route?

The route you choose can make or break the quality of your run. While technically, you can run on just about anywhere, some are better than others.

Mental Health

A well-chosen running route can significantly improve your overall running experience. A scenic and enjoyable route can motivate and inspire, making workouts more enjoyable and less boring.

A picturesque trail through a park, a path along a waterfront, or a route with stunning city views, the visual appeal of your surroundings can encourage you to keep going.

Even better, running in a pleasant environment provides a mental break from the daily grind. It allows you to relax and clear your mind.

Running Workouts

Different routes offer variety including hills, surfaces, and types of runs (out and backs, loops, point-to-point). Depending on the type of run, you can find a route perfect for that workout.

For instance, hilly routes are great for hill repeats or tempo runs, while flat routes are great for intervals and speed work.

Safety

A well-lit and populated route ensures safety, particularly during early morning or evening runs. This is especially important if you run in a city or other populated area.

A good route also avoids cars and busy roads, making your run much more pleasant and less dangerous.

And if you are extra crafty, you can find routes with water stops – like water fountains – or stores where you can dash in for an emergency sports drink or bar.

Set Your Running Goals for the Runs

Setting goals is important. This will help you to figure out what the appropriate terrain, elevation, and environment is for your run. For example, if you’re planning on running a particular race, you should probably be training on similar terrain and with similar hills or flats to that route.

If your goal is to do a trail run, then you need to train on trails. If you want to incorporate hill repeats into your training or run a race known to have hills, you need somewhere hilly. Much of what you need in a route will come down to your goals.

If you don’t have specific goals but more general ones like “lose weight” or “increase fitness,” you can choose your routes based on your preferences, your fitness level, and whether or not you have existing injuries that might be exacerbated by uneven ground, for example.

How to Find the Best Places to Run In Your Community

How do you find the best places to run in your community? Here are our tips and tricks… And you can use these anywhere: on vacation, on business, or if you move to a new city!

Safety First: Factors to Consider on Your Running Routes

Safety should always be your first consideration, regardless of where you are and how you feel. Your first point of call is to check the area’s crime rate and general safety, which you should be able to find online on running websites or local groups.

If it’s okay for you to be out and about in the neighborhood, you still need to be careful. Try to avoid back alleys and places where nobody will see you. Stick to well-lit streets and parks with other people nearby.

Live in a busy city? Choose a pedestrian-friendly place to run with a spacious sidewalk so you’ll always be safe from traffic.

If you plan on running early in the morning or after the sun goes down, wear reflective gear, so you’re extra visible both to cars and other people. Wear a headlamp or bring a flashlight to light your way.

Even if you choose a safe, well-lit, pedestrian-friendly route, we always recommend letting someone know your route, just in case.

Urban Adventures: Exploring City Routes

If you live in the city and are happy to run in an urban setting, we recommend starting with an app or Google Maps. You can check out what’s around you and identify routes, streets, and sidewalks that might be good for running.

Once you’ve spotted a few places that look good, it’s a great idea to get in the car or take a walk around the neighborhood and check the streets out in person.

You can identify which ones are well-lit, safe, and you can plan your route more completely. Map it out on your running app so you know exactly where you’re going!

Advantages of Running in Urban Areas

Urban areas are a good choice for those who are new to running. They’re typically fairly flat and predictable, so there’s not much chance of injury unless you step wrong off the curb or someone steps in your way as you run.

They’re generally fairly busy, so there should always be someone nearby. They should also be safe if you stick to the more populated areas.

Disadvantages of Running in Urban Areas

If the area you’re running in has heavy traffic, you’ll probably be breathing in exhaust fumes, making you feel nauseous and leading to health problems.

Large volumes of traffic can also make it somewhat dangerous, and traffic lights can cause you to stop and start more often than you’d like.

Embrace Nature: Exploring Parks and Trails

If trail running is more your thing, your first step should be identifying nearby parks or hiking trails. Trails can be more varied in terrain and difficulty than urban routes, so it’s a better choice for those with strong ankles and are prepared for some up-and-down.

It’s a good idea to research trails you’re interested in before going out there and running. Double-check that they’re safe, which you should be able to find on local running websites or groups.

Keep in mind that trails can be somewhat more remote than urban routes, so it’s a good idea to pack your pepper spray in case a dog chases you or come across someone with bad intentions.

Water will be less readily available on a trail, so pack enough fluid to last throughout your run. Let someone know where you’re running and when you’re expected back.

Advantages of Trails

Although all running boosts health, you’ll probably get more calming, soothing, and stress-relieving benefits on the trail than you do on the road.

As long as you have strong ankles, you’ll actually build a bit more lower-leg muscle on trails as well as you navigate the trickier terrain. Another nice benefit is that you get varying difficulty levels regarding trails, which you don’t get on the road.

Disadvantages of Trails

Aside from being tricky for less experienced runners, the biggest potential issue when running trails or in parks is the weather. Sandy trails can quickly turn into mud, or low valleys might flood in heavy rain.

Trails also tend to be a little more private, which means while you can easily get into a rhythm, there’s also a chance of coming across people with bad intentions. You also may run into wildlife! Prepare yourself for both incidents, and you should be okay.

Discover Hidden Gem Running Locations

If you’re new to or running in the area, it’s a great idea to ask the local runners what their favorite running routes or locations are. You can usually find them online in running groups and forums, or you may come across some on your routes.

Asking around can throw out some lesser-known locations that you may have yet to learn about or might not have considered for running. The local runners are also more likely to know which routes are safe.

Go to Local Running Events

Check out running events in your area. These may be running club events, park runs, or runs hosted by running stores.

You may discover routes you didn’t know about before. You’ll also be able to meet other runners and get their advice on routes and places to go.

Sign Up for a Guided Running Tour

Yes, you can do a guided running tour through many major cities! If you live in one of these cities, this could be a unique and fun way to learn new routes and make like-minded friends!

If you’re up for it and your place allows for it, you can create your own themed routes or follow others’ themed routes if they already exist. For example, you may be able to put together a route based on historical monuments in the city, urban art or graffiti, or take a run along the beachfront.

Social Media, Hashtags, and Geotags

You can find almost anything online these days, and running routes are no exception. Many runners geotag their routes, and you may be able to follow their exact route. If this sounds fun, follow some local runners on your social media accounts and see where they spend their miles!

Tracks at Nearby High Schools and Colleges

Tracks are a great choice if you want flat, predictable ground for distance or speedwork. Most schools and colleges will let you train on their track, and we highly recommend this for most people.

It’s generally safe, the terrain is easy and smooth, and you can easily keep tabs on your distance as you’re running.

What Are the Benefits of Varying Running Locations?

Mixing up your running routes is great as you get more advanced. There’s no need to do so if you’re a beginner and building up your fitness, but changing up routes can add a new challenge as you improve.

Different terrain and elevations can help you build more strength in your legs and improve your endurance. If you usually run on the road, switching to a track can help you do HIIT sessions more easily, which has a positive impact on performance.

Plus, there’s the anti-boredom factor! Switch it up and enjoy the scenery as much as you enjoy the exercise.

Tips for Running In Different Areas

Follow these tips for staying safe and enjoying your run no matter where you’re doing it!

Cities

Avoid high-traffic times if possible. This is safer and more pleasant. You may need to experiment to find the best time of day to run.

Be aware. Don’t listen to music, or use bone conduction earphones so you can still hear what’s happening around you. Wear reflective gear so you can be easily seen from all angles.

Trails

Research the parks and trails to make sure they have a reputation for being safe. Kit yourself out with pepper spray just in case—rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

Don’t venture off marked trails. Pay careful attention, and don’t get so lost in your run that you go off the path. Bring a map – on your phone is ok but a paper map is better in case your phone dies.

Take what you need. A hat, sunscreen, bug spray, a small first aid kit, nutrition, and enough water are essentials. Lastly, leave no trace—respect nature and leave the trail as you found it.

Residential Neighborhoods

Be respectful of the neighborhood. Don’t trespass. Run on the left side of the road to see oncoming traffic, and be mindful when crossing roads.

Waterfront or Beach Areas

Unless you want to run on the beach, sticking to firm, predictable surfaces like paths or sidewalks is a good idea. There are definite advantages to beach running, but unless you’re specifically after those benefits, we recommend choosing an easier surface than sand.

Don’t forget to hydrate. It can be easy to forget when the air is moist, but ocean wind and salt in the air can dehydrate you faster.

It’s also a good idea to check how the wind is blowing and ensure you’re running with it and not against it, or you’ll fatigue quickly.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.