Reasons to Love Running in Boston from Outside elessard

Boston Running Center co-founder, exercise physiologist, and running coach Joe McConkey has been a staple in the Boston running community for two decades. The dedicated runner has also coached at Newbury College and the Cambridge Running Club. At the Boston Running Center, he specializes in biomechanics and gait analysis, while also coaching individual runners.

“Boston has so many options in terms of the types of terrain for runners,” says McConkey, noting that most visitors could run along the Charles River every day and never be bored. “The river changes personalities,” says McConkey. “The further away you go from the city, the more you have nice quiet paths—almost trail running. Then, when you come back in towards Boston, you see the skyline, you run by Harvard and MIT, and then on to the picturesque esplanade in downtown Boston.”


And sure, the weather in New England can be unforgiving during the winter months, but runners in the know head to the many swiftly plowed colleges in the city, the Boston Commons, or the six miles along the Charles River Path that get snow cleared with funding from New Balance and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.


Charles River Bike Path/Greenway: “You have to run on the river,” says McConkey. The path runs alongside the Charles River on either side for 22 miles total. Runners take advantage of nine bridges that create loops of various distances. The path extends from the Boston Museum of Science to the east, parallels Beacon Street on the river’s south side, then runs past Boston University, Harvard, Cambridge, MIT, and back to its origination point.

The Emerald Necklace: Managed by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, seven miles of park system over 1,100 acres weave through the city in a kind of trail. “They start near Fenway Park,” explains McConkey, “and then the path/trails snake through gardens and parks, alongside a creek, all the way to a couple different ponds. There’s woods and some hills there. You can do a good ten-mile run and only have to cross the street maybe a handful of times.”

Castle Island: In South Boston, roughly 15 minutes from the city’s center, runners enjoy a two-mile loop along the waterfront that’s uninterrupted by stoplights, with the option to extend the run along the beachfront. It’s no longer an island, and there’s no castle, but the path around Fort Independence is scenic along the water, with sights and sounds of planes coming in and out of nearby Boston Logan Airport.

Extra Options: Boston’s 2.5-mile Freedom Trail links 16 historic places of interest, like the USS Constitution, Paul Revere’s house, and Boston Common, established in 1634 as the nation’s oldest public park. For more adventure, the Blue Hills Reservation, less than 30 minutes from the city, offers peaceful and varied trails. Or try Middlesex Fells for running that’s a bit more rugged.

The Freedom Trail links 16 historic places of interest, like the USS Constitution, Paul Revere’s house, and Boston Common. (Photo: Getty Images)


Boston’s Run to Remember: You’ve heard of one big 26.2-miler in Boston, but don’t forget about the Run to Remember. This half-marathon and five-miler draws 6,000 runners. It takes place every Memorial Day weekend and pays tribute to fallen first responders, while raising money for local youth and community programs supported by first responders. “It’s a memorable course,” says McConkey. “There’s only one hill, and it runs through downtown.”

Paddy’s Road Race—Shillelagh Shuffle: This festive West Newton neighborhood three-mile race takes place in October. “It’s one of these races where you get your finish medal, a beer, elephant ear [fried dough], and chicken noodle soup,” says McConkey. “The Irish pub [Paddy’s Public House] that sponsors it is right at the finish line, so there’s always a good vibe and live music going. It’s a good time.”

Run to Home Base: Red Sox fans, rejoice. In late July, runners and walkers have a chance to cover 5K or 9K through the streets of Boston before entering Fenway Park and crossing home base en route to the finish line. All participants raise money for Home Base, a nonprofit organization that provides clinical care and support free of cost to veterans. This charity event has been bringing veterans and supporters together in iconic Fenway for 15 years.

Extra options: The Boston Road Runners put on a Turkey Trot, the AAPI 5K, and a Hispanic and Latino 5K. The BAA, organizer of the Boston Marathon, hosts the BAA 10K each May through the Back Bay neighborhood in the heart of the city. About 90 minutes outside of Boston, the Cape Cod Marathon and iconic Falmouth Road Race come with an ocean view.


With more than 60 colleges and universities in the metropolitan area, McConkey says there’s always “an interesting combination of new folks in the city and long-term Boston residents.” The mix likely contributes to the “dozens, if not hundreds, of running clubs that run the gamut,” he says. “Some have been around for 100 years, and some have been around for two years. Some are social, some are serious. It’s a big running community that’s very diverse. You have regular, casual social races as well as highly competitive races throughout the year—so no matter your level or interest, you’ll find a supporting environment in Boston.”

The path around Fort Independence is scenic along the water, with sights and sounds of planes coming in and out of nearby Boston Logan Airport. (Photo: Getty Images)


PIONEERS Run Crew: Through a variety of community-based activities, this group works to make running more equitable and accessible to the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) adults residing in the Boston area.

Black Girls RUN!: This nationwide organization aims to involve more African American women in the sport of running. The Boston chapter has roughly 2,000 member followers.

Sole Train: This group connects students in grades 5–8 with adult mentors who meet once or twice a week throughout the school year to run and get ready for the Run to Remember 5-Miler each Memorial Day.


New Balance Global Flagship Boston Landing: With more than 6,500 square feet of running shoes and other apparel on display, this anchor location is in the Brighton neighborhood, just a few blocks off the Charles River corridor.

New Balance, Newbury Street: Recently opened in 2023, this store carries a curated collection of New Balance running gear while aiming to act as a community space, with central seating as its focus.

Marathon Sports: Since 1975, this retailer has been a Boston-area staple. Today it has 16 stores, including one on Boylston Street, one in Cambridge, and one in Wellesley.

Heartbreak Hill Running Company: This specialty run retailer, with stores in Newton, South End, and Cambridge, has a vibrant running club called Heartbreakers, which celebrates diversity “of pace and person.”

Independent since 1906, New Balance empowers people through sport and craftsmanship to create positive change in communities around the world.

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