Performance30 Oct 2019

Cities of the world – a runner’s guide


Runners jog around Albert Park Lake in Melbourne (© Getty Images)

Runners are creatures of habit – addicts, but in a good way. As such, we have an ability to carve time out of even the busiest days to hit the road/trails/park and sate the desire.

That can be difficult when routines are thrown out of kilter and travel – whether for business or pleasure – is often a reason running takes a back seat. But it doesn’t have to be. There are few better ways to see a new city than lacing up the shoes.

Not only does time seem to pass a whole lot faster when sightseeing along the way, but you end up taking in a whole lot more with your eyes than the tourists gazing at the world through a phone camera’s lens. So here, without further ado, are some suggestions for your next run in 10 of the world’s most visited cities.

New York

Runners on the loop around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in New York (Patrick Gruban) © Copyright


The green lung in the heart of the Big Apple, Central Park is an oasis of calm amid the concrete jungle. A run here of just about any distance is what dreams are made of, its green tranquillity juxtaposed with towering skyscrapers flanking its southern end. A full loop of the park taking a road or trail by its perimeter will see you cover about 10K, but there are many shorter options. There is a soft cinder 2.5K loop around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir that offers spectacular views of the city, while you can enter at West 65th street to get on the Bridle Path loops (2.6K/4K), which are a great way to get the miles in on a soft surface – just make sure to watch out for horses, who have right of way. You can also hit the roads of Central Park (which are now closed to cars) and imagine yourself powering through the closing miles of the New York City Marathon. The last 5K of the great race runs through the park and finishes by Tavern on the Green on the west side of the park.


Jumeirah Beach in Dubai


The temperatures may make you want to stay indoors at certain times of the year, but Dubai has an array of green spaces and breezy running routes that are ideal places to get your running fix. Zabeel Park is one of the best, which is near Al Jafilya metro station. Open 24/7, it has a cushioned running track looping near its perimeter that is 2K and free to use. It’s a hub of activity every morning and evening and is a great place to meet fellow runners from all over the world.  Al Safa Park is also extremely popular with running groups and has a 3.5K running track along its perimeter. Burj Park winds through downtown Dubai and at a length of 5K, it offers a stunning view of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains. Fed up with parks? Venture along the 8K track by the Dubai Marina which has some of the city’s best views or if you’re feeling ambitious, try the 14K track alongside Jumeirah Beach from the Dubai Marine Beach to the Burj Al Arab.


A runner on Primrose Hill in London


As hectic as London can sometimes feel, the city has a rich array of green spaces to free your body and settle your mind. One of the best places to run is Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill in north London, where a 4K loop around the perimeter not only gives your legs a serious workout (note: hill) but also offers a stunning view of the city. You can get there easily by taking the Bakerloo line to Regent’s Park station. Hampstead Heath is another runners’ paradise with a variety of grassland and wooded trails, while if you’re staying more central it’s hard to beat the 11.6K Diana Memorial run, which goes from Buckingham Palace through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Park – all beautifully maintained and well serviced by the city’s tube (metro) system. If parks aren’t your thing, try the 5K loop that takes you over London’s two iconic footbridges: cross the Golden Jubilee Bridge before running the Thames Path to the Millennium Bridge before looping back on the other side. You’ll want to bring your phone to capture the views from either bridge but please, leave the selfie stick at home.


Benjakitti Park in Bangkok


While the heat and humidity can be stifling, there’s no reason not to bring your running shoes if you’re visiting Thailand’s captivating capital. The streets and footpaths can be crowded and slightly chaotic so the best option is the city’s parks. Lumpini Park offers 57 acres of lush green space, plenty of shade and a running loop that covers 2.5K. To get there head for Rama IV Road in Wangmai. If you find yourself keen to expand further then run to nearby Benjakitti Park for a loop around the lake. Chatuchak Park is not as big but another great option that has markers along the loop to measure distance. If you’re looking for some interval training, the National Stadium is in the centre of the city and boasts a 400m track and outdoor fitness area. There are also a variety of river runs, with one option being to start at the Hua Chang Bridge Pier and head west along the Chao Phraya River, which takes you past some of the city’s most beautiful Buddhist temples.


Running along the banks of the Seine in Paris


If you’re staying in the centre of the city, a run along the banks of the Seine is a wonderful way to catch the top sights. From Notre Dame to the Louvre, Place de La Concorde to the Eiffel Tower, it’s a run that offers so many heavy-hitting tourist attractions you won’t even notice the time passing. There are multiple parks that make for a magnificent running experience, with Jardin de Plantes (57 Rue Cuvier) offering a scenic 1.2K loop around its perimeter and Jardin de Tuileries (in front of the Louvre) boasting a 2.5K loop. Jardin du Luxembourg is a beautiful oasis of calm with a 2K perimeter path, about the same length as that of the Champs de Mars. For a longer run, it’s hard to beat the Bois de Boulogne, which attracts hundreds of runners every evening and boasts more trails (about 50 kilometres) than you’ll be able to get through in a weekend. All the more reason to return to the City of Light.


Running around Tokyo's Imperial Palace Gardens at night


Few nations respect and appreciate the art of distance running quite like the Japanese. As such, it’s no surprise that in this densely populated capital city there are a host of great places to run. The Imperial Palace gardens – accessible by five different gates which are all near major train stations – are a splendid, scenic option in the centre of the city, where you can choose between a 2.5K or 5K loop. Yoyogi Park is another hugely popular retreat, where a 2.2K paved path is available for use 24/7 and there are countless other options for those looking to go long. In Eastern Tokyo, a great option is to run along the Sumida River Terrace, which has a flat path that goes along both sides of the river. However, the path has little shade so if visiting in high summer it’s best to run in the morning or at night. If you’d prefer to feel the ocean breeze on your face, take a run around Odaiba, a man-made island with wide, flat trails that have 5K and 7K marked options so you can take your eyes off the GPS and enjoy the various monuments like Rainbow Bridge, the Odaiba Statue of Liberty or the Palette Town ferris wheel.


Braamfontein Spruit in Johannesburg


Africa’s most visited city is also a great place to get some miles in the legs. A popular choice is the Braamfontein Spruit, where you can take a 4.3K loop south of the Emmarentia Dam through the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. Need to get a longer run in? Try Kings Kloof, which boasts a labyrinth of running trails that cover a distance of 22K, with incredible views of valleys and no shortage of river crossings and natural pools to make you feel truly connected to nature. Parkhurst is a popular spot with the city’s bikers, runners and walkers and while a run through Delta Park will make you work – given the inclines – the views you’re rewarded with make it worthwhile. Parkview, the perimeter of Johannesburg Zoo and Westcliff are other great options that are ideal for a 5K or 10K jaunt.

Rio de Janeiro

Runners on Copacabana Beach


Let’s start with the place everyone knows best: the Copacabana beach. Running from one end of it to the other and back racks up just over 8K on the GPS and is pancake flat. While you can run on the soft, pristine sand, it’s best to stick to the path alongside the shore where the biggest obstacle you’ll face is keeping your eyes off the stunning view and avoiding the multiple other walkers, runners, cyclists and skateboarders. Another great seaside run is to go from the Leblon to Ipanema and back, which is a round trip of 8K and has equally stunning beach views. But for the Cariocas (Rio residents), a preferred option is Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, or lagoon, which is well serviced by public transport and hosted the Olympic rowing events in 2016. A 7.4K run around its perimeter offers views of Christ the Redeemer sitting atop the imposing Corcovado mountain and distances on that loop are marked every 200 metres.


Runners jog around Albert Park Lake in Melbourne


Any runner worth their salt in Melbourne can tell you all about The Tan (and probably their best time for it), a 3.8K loop that circles the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens. The official starting point is at the Pillars of Wisdom. It’s a hugely popular run and it’s easy to see why, with plenty of shade, greenery and great views of the Yarra River. Elsewhere in Melbourne Albert Park Lake offers a flat asphalt walking/running loop of 4.9K that offers great views of the city skyline, while if it’s a longer run you’re after try the 11K route from Port Melbourne to Elwood along the Hobsons Bay coastline. Princes Park, with its 3.2K loop and flat, soft gravel track is another great option. If it’s hills you’re after, the Yarra Trails are an ideal option to get some natural highs.


Marina Bay in Singapore


Despite its minuscule size, Singapore offers some superb options for runners. Jurong Lake Park is an ideal spot to lace up your running shoes and stretches 10K along Jurong Lake, where you can choose between a concrete path or go off-road on gravel paths. To get there head to 104 Yuan Ching Road. For stunning views, you could also try a run along the Marina Bay, though be ready to dodge the multiple walkers who have the same idea every evening. East Coast Park is a big favourite of local runners, with wide pavements that stretch over 20K in length, while for a slice of tranquillity try a run at MacRitchie Reservoir where the mixture of trails and boardwalk loops run up to 10K in length. Punggol Park and Coney Island are other peaceful places to get the miles in, where the cool breeze will make things a whole lot easier.

Cathal Dennehy