Saturday 27 October 2012

The World's Most Running-Friendly Cities

The voters have spoken
You might have thought that the presidential race between Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney was the big question to be decided by voters these last weeks. But at the same time, another important issue needed a similar big decision: what is the most runner-friendly city on earth?

I posed that question to various runners' forums around the world (, and LinkedIn running forums in US, RunningBug in UK, and in Germany). And thanks to the feedback from many knowledgeable runners (thanks!), we now have the results.

Looking at each forum individually, you'll see that the most popular cities were fairly local, although the Germans and Brits did mention quite a few cities elsewhere. In fact the runners at UK's great RunningBug site mentioned cities all over the world.

For example, the RunningBug runners chose such diverse cities as Cape Town, Miami Beach, Stockholm, San Francisco, Vienna, Budapest, Melbourne (AUS), Munich and Laguna Beach; in addition to British towns like London, Leeds and Brighton.

The American forums mainly mentioned US and Canadian cities, such as Tampa Bay (St. Pete and Tampa), Washington DC, Austin TX, Palo Alto, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Vancouver, San Francisco, Wilmington NC and Jacksonville.

The German forum runners mainly agreed that there's no unfriendly city to run in Germany (those lucky runners): all German cities have lots of quiet parks, riverside trails, lakes and pedestrian zones. But favorites were Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Bielefeld, and the industrial Ruhr cities of Oberhausen and Duisburg with their Kaisergarten and Grüner Pfad runs. Vienna in Austria also got a few votes, as did Bern in Switzerland and one exotic vote for Mexico City's Chapultepec Park.

My personal favorite, Sydney Australia, didn't make the list. Hey, you all have to head there sometime: Sydney is a paradise for runners!

The Unfriendliest Cities
Some runners voted for the most running-UNfriendly cities: Calcutta (fumes, chaotic traffic, heat), Shanghai (similar reasons), Paris, Orlando, Johannesburg, Rome and Atlanta. Interestingly London landed in both lists, which I can understand: it has lots of loud, stinky traffic, but if you know how to find them, the London parks and canals are among the longest and most beautiful running routes around.

The Top Running-Friendly Cities Results
So, compiling the above votes, here are the winners:
St. Pete Beach: nothing wrong with this view...
In Munich's Englischer Garten park
1. The number-one spot is a tie between Munich and Tampa Bay. Munich was praised for its gigantic Englischer Garten park, as well as the Isar River trails and parks like the Olympic Park and Nymphenburg. Tampa Bay was popular for its endless bayside trails in both Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Fiaker carriages in front of Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace
2. Number two goes to Vienna, with its long Danube River trails with its Prater Park, and other parks like Schönbrunn.
The Capitol in Washington during a night run
Welcome to Berlin! Typical scene at the Brandenburg Gate
3. At number three, it starts getting complicated, with 5 cities getting the same number of votes: Let's hear it for Washington DC, Berlin, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco and Hamburg. All of them are also blessed with long, waterside trails and lots of parks. And the National Mall in Washington, with its inspiring monuments, is a run nobody will soon forget.

But let's not forget the other voted-for cities which didn't get mentioned above: Pittsburgh, Brussels, Copenhagen, Bergen (Norway), San Luis Obispo County, Toulouse (France), Bregenz (Austria), Chicago, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Kosice (Slovenia), Weimar, Cascais (Portugal) and Haard (in Germany's Ruhr district).

Thanks for everyone for taking part. May all of you get to put your running shoes down on the streets a few more of these great running towns!


  1. Hello,
    I'm thinking on running the 2014 Vancouver Marathon, I see that you have nothing on Canada. Do you recomend some routes for me in Vancouver.

    Thank you,


  2. Hi Carmen, unfortunately, I can't. Although I've been to Vancouver (many years ago), I've never run it. Obviously, Stanley Park and the waterfront on each shore south of there are pretty good looking routes: Sunset Beach, and over the Burrard Bridge and the whole shore from Vanier Park westwards, or along the Coal Harbour. But someone else will have to guide you on this!