There are few activities more relaxing to me than running outside. Sunshine, fresh air and the crunch of leaves beneath your feet are the best mood boosters I know.
I’ve moved around quite a bit over the past several years, but in every city I’ve lived, I’ve found a place to run outside. These running routes have been a source of comfort to me — whether stressed during final exams or living on another continent — and when I think back to my time in a particular place, some of the memories I most fondly recall are those days when I was completely at peace on my running route.
If you’re a runner, you probably have your own routes that hold a special place in your heart. These are mine.
1. Town Lake Trail in Austin, Texas
I moved to Austin, Texas, a year ago, and one of the things I love most about the city is its vibrant outdoor culture. On any given day, the trail surrounding Town Lake is bustling with activity — filled with marathoners, strollers, bike riders, walkers and delighted dogs dragging their owners behind them. I like to run the trail in the evening, when the Texas heat has subsided and the sun is sinking into the water. There is the most magnificent view from the pedestrian bridge, where if you look up you can see the city skyline, and if you look down you can see dozens of kayaks and paddle boards floating along the current into the distance — it’s the perfect convergence of metropolis and Mother Earth.
2. Jardín del Turia “el Rio” in Valencia, Spain
When I moved to Spain to study abroad, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to finding a workout location. Luckily, Valencia had me covered with Jardín del Turia, a six-mile green belt known by the locals as “el Rio” — a name that references the park’s former state as the Turia River. In 1957, after a massive flood, the Valencian government diverted the river out of the city, and the remaining trench was developed into an area for running, biking, playing soccer or relaxing on a picnic blanket. For me, el Rio was both the perfect location to experience the culture of Valencia, and also a place, that with its tall trees and vast green spaces, reminded me very much of home.
3. The neighborhoods in northwest Richmond, Virginia
After attending college in Richmond, Virginia, I’m biased in thinking the city is one of the most charming places in the South. Richmond has everything from old southern mansions and country clubs to unique downtown scenes for artists and foodies. While I loved venturing to new brunch spots in the city, one of my favorite places to go was just a few feet off campus, into the residential neighborhoods of northwest Richmond, where I could run some hills and clear my head. Whenever writing an essay on 17th century Spanish literature seemed too daunting, it was easy to escape the library, run across the street and enter a different world.
4. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Wrightsville Beach, an island off the southern coast of North Carolina, is practically my second home. I spent a large portion of childhood summers there, and while those summer vacations have become shorter for me as I’ve gotten older, I still look forward to returning to the beach every year. Wrightsville is a surfer bro’s haven, but since I can’t stand up on a board without being immediately crushed by a wave, I tend to stick to running. My favorite route is the road parallel to the beach where I can still feel the sea breeze. And for me, there’s no better reward after a run than jumping into the ocean.
5. My hometown: Sewanee, Tennessee
When you grow up on a 3,000-acre mountaintop, there’s no shortage of places to run. In Sewanee, Tennessee, there are miles of trails, both paved and unpaved, and empty roads where you could run several minutes without seeing a car (we don’t even have a single stoplight in town). But the best part of any run in Sewanee is stopping at the edge of the plateau, where you can see the rolling hills of Southern Appalachia extending into the horizon, and in the valley below, tiny squares of farmland forming a green patchwork quilt. You truly feel on top of the world.
Have you ever run in any of these places? Where are your favorite running routes in the world?