Monday, August 12, 2013

Favorite Runs: The Charles

The home of one of the most famous marathons in the world is naturally also home to some great running trails, including my personal in-the-city favorite .... running along the Charles River!  Sure, you can do a jaunt around the Boston Commons or along the Emerald Necklace and through the variegated, interesting neighborhoods that comprise the official city and the surrounding towns that are essentially part of the city as well.  But if you're looking for distance, scenery, and minimal vehicle traffic, then the Charles River trails are the place for you!

Running paths follow the Charles on both banks, although the south bank is a bit more formalized with a paved trail with a painted line to direct traffic.  It's more built up as well ... there's even a place near the Boston University bridge with pull-up bars and other paraphernalia if you want to stop and throw in a quick circuit workout during your run.  There are a couple drinking fountains along the south side too, between the Science Museum and the Boston University bridge.  The north side of the river is a regular sidewalk or dirt path pounded into the grass next to the sidewalk.

I once did a run where we were dropped off near Watertown, and then ran back into the city.  Our stopping point was 10 miles one-way from the start.  So by taking advantage of the various bridges that cross the river, you can rack up some serious mileage!  A loop from North End/Financial District to Longfellow Bridge is a fairly easy day (approximately 3 miles).  Go one further to the Harvard Bridge and you add about two miles.  The Boston University bridge is about another two miles added.  There are several bridges in the vicinity of Harvard University, such as River Street and Western Ave and the Anderson Footbridge or the bridge between Harvard's main campus and Harvard Square over to the Harvard Stadium.  Most of these are about a quarter mile apart.  I love using the bridges because if I'm feeling good, I just go down a bridge past what I was originally planning, or if I'm feeling crummy I cut a bridge short.  And there's always something slightly mentally easier about doing a loop than a direct out-and-back, even if the loop is derived only by crossing over to the other side of the river.

Two other nice things about running the Charles are the traffic (by which I mean other runners, bikers, and walkers) and the scenery.  There are always people using the paths; heaps more in the summer than in the winter, but you will never be alone.  When you start getting further from the city center, I find this reassuring.  And the scenery is great!  You pass by city landmarks such as MIT's main building or the Hatch Shell, and you can distract yourself by watching rowers on the river or people learning how to sail.  You're in the middle of a city, but you can remove yourself from that hustle and bustle a little bit and lose yourself in the water and reeds and trees instead.

And at pretty much any point along the way, you can veer away from the river back into the city and find a metro station to get where you want to go!  I harbor aspirations of running out to Harvard and meeting up with a friend for breakfast sometime, and then taking the T home.  So many options!

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