Oftentimes, the best running companion is the scenery by your side as you put one foot in front of the other.
Around the United States, runners take in the various lands they roam. Some lands are cities graced with skyscrapers, suburban streets lined with trees, mountainous trails, and more.
To find the best places in the country to live as a runner, Puma Europe’s independent data collection partner analyzed data from cities around the United States, taking into consideration the following factors that impact running:
- air quality
- water quality
- traffic congestion
- number of running clubs
Each factor was weighted fairly to give an overall score. Based on the analysis, Puma revealed the following:
- Portland, Oregon is the best U.S. city for runners
- Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the second-best city for runners
- Tulsa, Oklahoma came in third
Also making the top ten:
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Denver, Colorado
- Columbus, Ohio
- Kansas City, Kansas
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Omaha, Nebraska
Portland, Oregon and Jacksonville, Florida also way outpaced the competition when it came to number of running clubs with 587,849 and 394,205 respectively.
Portland, Oregon took the top spot because it ranked highest among all the variables Puma analyzed. And this doesn’t surprise Andrew Lemoncello, Olympian runner and assistant coach for McMillan Running Company, who lives in the area. He says Portland, Oregon is a “healthy” city with an active community.
“[It’s] no coincidence that [it] is paired with many running trails, access to the wilderness very close by, [Forest Park in the middle of the city is a hotbed for running], and very good water coming from the famous Bull Run watershed,” Lemoncello says.
While the city has congestion, he says it’s not as bad compared to other major cities.
When it comes to temperature, Lemoncello believes Portland, Oregon offers the ideal weather for high quality running most of the year, since it doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
“There is a very active running community here who set up their own races and participate all over town… There’s also a lot of running club crossover, where athletes socialize with each other outside of their own clubs. That’s made easier by the events put on by each club, which bring a lot of runners together,” he says.
Portland, Oregon’s appeal also draws elite running teams to the area.
“It’s easy to bump into elite runners, as well as 200 other runners, on a weekend run at Forest park… It’s a social town, so it’s easy to meet up, go for a run, and have a beer afterwards,” says Lemoncello.
“No matter where you live, you can reap the health benefits of running, such as improving your cardiovascular fitness levels, burning calories, strengthening joints, relieving stress, improving heart health, and maintaining a [moderate] weight,” says Christina Brown, weight loss coach.
“Because of all of these benefits, if you enjoy running, you should strive to do it no matter where you live,” says Brown. “Even if you live in a climate where it is cold, rainy, or even humid much of the time, you can always hop on a treadmill and get almost the same benefits as running outdoors.”
The mental health benefits are something Lemoncello turns to running for, too.
“It’s also a great way to think through things and clear your mind. This is a benefit of running that isn’t often talked about, but it’s so good for mental health. Even a short run can help turn your day around,” he says.
Even if you live in a runner-friendly area, the act of running can get repetitive and boring from time to time. When you find yourself looking for ways to keep it interesting, consider the following:
Listen to podcasts or audiobooks
Brown tells her clients to only allow themselves to listen to their favorite podcasts or audiobooks while exercising.
“That way, as long as the podcast/audiobook is interesting to them, and they want to keep listening, then they will lace up their running shoes in order to do so,” she says.
Switch up the locations you run in
When you’re over your running route, Brown suggests finding a new one.
“Always running the same route can get boring, so head to an indoor or outdoor track or find a trail to run on,” she says.
Driving to a location that offers a path or pretty scenery to run around is another option.
Set a goal
“[This] can make running more enjoyable because you have the added motivation of wanting to perform well in the race,” says Brown.
If you’re nervous about racing, Lemoncello suggests volunteering at a race you aspire to run in.
“[That] quickly helps people to lose that fear and sign up for a race because you can see runners of all shapes, sizes, speeds, ages competing and enjoying themselves,” he says.
Find a running buddy
If you have a friend who likes to run, make plans to meet a few times a week to keep you accountable and motivated. However, if no one in your circle is into running, consider joining a running club to meet people with the same interest.
“I think surrounding yourself with like-minded runners can be so helpful as you work together to get closer to your goals every day,” says Lemoncello. “[You can] find training partners quite easily whether you’re elite or just starting out.”
Add in cross-training
To break up the monotony of running, consider adding in other forms of exercise.
Brown says doing so helps avoid risk of injury and can improve your running performance. She suggests adding strength training and yoga to your runs.
“Strength training helps you to run faster, decreases risk of injury, and it improves your endurance,” she says. “Yoga helps keep your muscles and joints loose, helps you learn how to relax and slow down your breathing during an intense run, helps improve your balance, and it improves your mental strength.”