Run This Town — On Running In America’s Big Cities


Sunburn, sunstroke, dehydration — the hazards of running in the sun are many. That’s why, when I plan my runs, I’m always thinking “shade.” The payoff, though, isn’t just avoiding the sun, it’s also about what you’re getting. First, the trees, those miracle-working friends who give us oxygen and calm our busy minds. Second, a chance to relax and breathe peacefully (doesn’t breathing just feel easier in the shade?). Third, wildlife. Encounters with animals in cities are rare enough to be memorable and common enough to be a legit possibility. Our cities are alive with animals if you look in the right places. Most runners, trying to or not, manage to do exactly that.

For the past several years, my most reliable shaded run has been in the Twin Cities along the Mississippi River. The dense green trees lining the river’s banks provide a partial respite from the sun (if not the Midwest humidity) and create a veritable wildlife corridor right through the two cities. Once, running in the street, I was joined by a buck that popped out of an alley and ran parallel me on the sidewalk for a full city block before disappearing into the foliage. Bald eagles are common in the tree line as they patrol the bluffs. Another time, down along the shoreline, I had a stare-off with an impossibly dinosaur-like common snapping turtle, the largest turtle in the region.

The base of my Twin Cities run is a 3.5-mile loop, following a paved path on either side of the river between the Franklin Avenue Bridge and the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge. But what most endears this run to me is the opportunity for variation. Coming down the banks are a network of paths, some leading all the way down to water’s edge, some dipping briefly into the wooded areas before returning to the main path. My favorite spot is a beach on the Minneapolis side of the river not too far north of Lake Street, where I would sometimes remove my shoes, feel the dust-fine sand between my toes, and wade into the river.


Pondering other shaded summertime runs, I reached out to a few running friends around the country to learn about their favorite routes.

San Francisco, Calif.

Joseph “Bear” Slattery pointed out to me that San Francisco summers are so mild that
people often “seek out the sun on runs, to give our bodies the summer glow we all want for Instagram.” But if you’re into shade, he recommends Golden Gate Park, a three-mile by half-mile rectangle where “there are numerous trails amongst the eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress trees” with ocean views and surefire wildlife sightings.


Seattle, Wash.

Another city not exactly known for its sunshine, Seattle can leave you burnt in the summer. Marathoner Lindsay Hill recommends lacing up at Dead Horse Canyon, which she calls “a hidden gem in the South End.” The loops are short, but peaceful enough that you’ll want to run more than one. “It’s a dense forested canyon with a creek running through. Such a lovely break from the city.”




New York, N.Y.

In New York, Becky Schaumberg likes to run in Riverside Park, which stretches along the Upper West Side and “brings much-needed green and beauty to a stretch of the parkway that bustles with cruise ships, tour buses, and helipads.” The park curves away from the highway, “so you can run along the river without the noise and exhaust of cars following you.” There are views of the George Washington Bridge and art installations throughout the park. “Most importantly for any run in the city,” Schaumberg adds, “Riverside Park has several working, decently clean, public restrooms.”


Chicago, Ill.

In Chicago, where the 2007 marathon was famously stopped mid-race because of excessive heat, finding shade can be a big deal. Marathoner Steph Pituc conferred with some of her running friends in Chicago and told me the Lakefront Path is the best bet, with the southern portion being recently redone and under-appreciated. Eva M. Byerley says the trail “gets more shaded and beautifully scenic if you go south past McCormick Place and around the museum of science and industry.”



Portland, Ore.

Finally, I checked in with my sister, Katie Parker, a fellow runner living in Portland, about which summer trails she’s been picking this year. From the thickets of Forest Park, she reports, “Starting at Lower Macleay Park, following Lower Macleay Trail, and continuing up Wildwood Trail is one of my favorites. This brings you to Pittock Mansion and an expansive view of Portland. It’s a challenging 2.5-mile climb with almost 1,000 feet of elevation gain, making the push to the sweeping views at the top a great workout.”



This summer, this post and a series of other narratives were made possible by ASICS and the release of the GEL-Quantum 360. You can explore more about them here.