Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Running Cities has this list of the top 10 American running cities. I'm more than a little miffed that New York and Chicago beat out my hometown of DC (and my surrogate hometown of Indy isn't on the list -- but that's not a surprise).

Of course, the list is comparing apples and oranges. No offense, Ted, but in what world is New York a better running city than Eugene and Boulder? They are simply incomparable.

Anybody up for creating our own lists? First: greatest running college towns. I know one of these well and I'm enough of a running history buff to name two others -- Boulder, Eugene, and Gainesville. Not necessarily in that order, but it seems a good start. Others?

Second: greatest marathon cities. Relevant factors include (1) size of major race, (2) local support for major race, (3) number of minor races, (4) variety of attendees at the various races, (5) undefinables, like history or screaming college students at Mile 13. My sphere of acquaintance is pretty small, but I go Boston, DC, Dublin -- realizing full well there are cities (including, of course, London, Chicago, and New York) that fit before and between those selections.


  1. The London Marathon is awesome on all those fronts. I've done it five times, and one never tires of it. I can only imagine that NYC is similar and world-class, with that real feel of running through totally different neighbourhoods. With crowds 5-10 deep screaming their brains out, ironic humour and support throughout and that moving last mile turning at Big Ben, up Birdcage Walk, a kiss to my fam who would always wait for me just before the turn at the Palace and then - boom - 400 yards of mindblowing noise and tears to the Finish. I loved Chicago and Boston of course, for all the obvious reasons, but a really nice one to try is Geneva... It tracks the route of one of Spencer's runs when he was visiting: start at the UN, run flat around the Lac and back, and finish after looping past the WTO. The fans are hard-core hill walkers though and exude a grim quiet fortitude (ie no screamers). Enjoyable though! One I ran that was just bizarre was Venice: they bus you from the islets 22 miles into the countryside, and then you run back through gorgeous wee villages, with people handing you delicious carbs and cheese and even wine, then you run over the long road over to Venice itself, and then in the last 2k there are 16 bridges (like sadists the organisers count them down with signs like "15 bridges to go...14..." but even on tired legs one just guts them out (they put wheelchair ramps on them all to make them less painful for us runners, and then kindly leave them there for a month, so Venice becomes wheelchair accessible for part of the year). I handled each bridge by looping the West Wing theme on my ipod for each one, worked fine. Make sure you stay over for a couple of days after, pasta, gelato and strolls a must!

  2. I was going to respond to this a while back and got distracted. Now it's all a bit fraught, what with Sandy and all (more about that in a post in a bit), but first, a defense of NY as a running city, then some thoughts on Marathons.

    I've been running in NY for fifteen years now, and I remain surprised at what a great place it is to run. Max, I will give you that Boulder and Eugene provide more spectacular natural scenery, and probably also per capita participation. But, as a place where you can work running in to your life easily, participate in lots of races with minimal planning, build a running community of friends, New York is incomparable. Sure, lots of my runs involve stoplights, and many include stretches of deserted post industrial wasteland. But I can walk out my door and choose between the following runs: (1) Prospect Park: (2) Brooklyn Bridge Park; (3) Brooklyn Bridge and Battery Park; (4) Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge (throw in a loop of Brooklyn Bridge Park for good measure); (5) Brooklyn Bridge and Hudson River Park. These are just the morning runs. There's even more variety once the runs get into the 2-3 hour range. Did I mention I don't even have to get in the car or ride public transportation? Oh, and there's also the most important part. You don't have to carry hydration. There's pretty much a bodega every three blocks with a full selection of Gatorade, Powerade, Red Bull, and usually Cliff Bars. . .

    Okay, maybe I'm being a little bit defensive. As for marathon cities. I've gotta say, mile for mile, Marine Corps is the nicest course I've ever run. With the exception of Crystal City, there's not an inch of that course that's not spectacular. Dublin was charming. Philly nice, but nothing special. As for New York, I've gotta say, I don't love the course. The five borough aspect of the race does not maximize New York's scenery. A much better course would take the New York City Half Route and link it to the Brooklyn Half Route (Central Park, the Hudson River, Battery Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Prospect Park and finish at Coney Island). But that's not what the NYC Marathon is about, it's about the crowd and the sense of community that it generates within the city. For that, there's no other marathon like it, and in that regard it weaves running into the fabric of the city. Okay, I'm done now.