10 Reasons Why Boston Is the Best Running City in America

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Photograph by Trevor Reid / Styling by Abby Bielagus, hair and makeup by Yojanse Jimenez/Team, Models: Kate Novak/Maggie Inc. and Kacey Gill/Maggie Inc.

1. We Train with the Best

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Courtesy Photos

Where there are good runners, there are great coaches. Whether you’re prepping for the marathon or just a sprint around the neighborhood, you’d do well to heed the wisdom of these top trainers.

2. We’re a City of Champions

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Photograph by Toan Trinh

Way back in 1896, a Bostonian named Arthur Blake repped his city in the first modern Olympic Games, traveling to Athens to run the 1,500 meters and the marathon. Ever since, this tiny state has been churning out more than its fair share of talent, from the track to the triathlon.

3. We Make the World’s Running Shoes

To grasp Boston’s dominance in the footwear industry, all you have to do is drive into the city.

Off the Mass. Pike, you’ll find New Balance’s futuristic Brighton headquarters. Visible from I-93, there’s Converse’s old-meets-new Lovejoy Wharf building. Saucony’s Waltham home base is within spitting distance of I-95. The city is virtually surrounded.

To understand why Greater Boston has become a global sneaker hub, you have to look to the past: specifically, to the mills and factories that once dotted the region. “There’s been a long history of New England being a manufacturing hub in materials that lend itself to the shoe business,” explains former footwear exec and Boston University marketing lecturer Patricia Hambrick. These days, most production has been outsourced, but heritage brands and scrappy startups alike continue to set up shop around here. “That combination of history, sports culture, and employee base,” Hambrick says, “makes it a really great place to be.”

Need evidence? The proof’s in the (local) kicks.

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Photograph by Emily Sotomayor

From top:

4. The Cold and Snow Make Us Stronger

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Photograph by Trevor Reid

If the temperature tops 30, Malcolm Purinton runs outside—shirtless. He’s out when it’s colder, too, just with a little more clothing. “The worse the weather,” he says, “the better the story.”

Purinton, a devotee of the all-weather fitness tribe November Project, may take it to the extreme, but his behavior is by no means unique. This is a city of cold-weather, crack-of-dawn, rain-or-shine runners. New Balance even pays to keep trails along the Charles River snow-free in the winter months—a must for marathon trainers.

Are the people who use them devoted? Certainly. Are they crazy? Maybe a little bit. But more than anything, they’re ambassadors of a city that prides itself on grit and heart.

“You’re sharing the experience, whether you were actually with someone or not,” Purinton says of his brutal workouts. “You have this common ground with every runner in the city.”

5. We Run for Good

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Substance abuse had taken its toll on Kurt Ronan. In 2010, after years of addiction and sporadic homelessness, he found himself living in a Boston halfway house. That’s where he heard about Back on My Feet (BOMF), a charity that offers professional guidance, educational support, and housing assistance to those in danger of homelessness. The catch? He’d have to pound pavement first.

The philosophy behind BOMF is simple: Help people develop life skills such as perseverance and inward motivation through the simple act of running. Like other participants, Ronan woke up three mornings a week at 5:45 to jog with the group before moving into the Next Steps program, where advisers helped him find stable housing. “It taught me discipline,” Ronan says. “Just get out there and run, put one foot in front of the other.”

Of course, the local chapter of the nonprofit isn’t the only running-focused group doing good around town. From marathon competitors, who last year raised a collective $30.6 million for assorted charities, to Newton Athletes Unlimited, which sponsors track and field and other sports programs for those with disabilities, Bostonians are dedicated to improving the lives of others—and burning calories in the process.

These days, Ronan (pictured third from left) lives in an apartment with his girlfriend and their infant child and works in facilities at a private equity firm. None of it, he says, would have been possible without BOMF. “Before, I was living at rooming houses and in the backseats of cars,” he says. “I honestly feel like without the help of Back on My Feet, I’d still be there.”

6. Our Trails Rock

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Courtesy Photos

And we’re not just talking about the Esplanade and the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. The city (and the ’burbs, for that matter) are brimming with hidden-gem routes just waiting to take you the extra mile.

7. We Have the Oldest (and Best) Marathon

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Photograph by Elise Amendola/AP Images

On April 21, 2014, an Eritrean-born American named Meb Keflezighi charged down Boylston and became the 118th men’s winner of the Boston Marathon.

It was a momentous day for Keflezighi, who, the instant he crossed the finish line, became the first American to win running’s Triple Crown: an Olympic medal, the New York City Marathon, and the Boston Marathon. But for a city still grieving from the tragedy of a year before, watching an American wear that ivy crown for the first time since 1983 may have meant even more.

Keflezighi, 41, plans to retire after this year’s New York City Marathon, finishing his career after a symbolic 26 marathons. Before he lines up in Hopkinton one last time this spring, we asked Keflezighi about his historic Boston victory, his impending retirement, and why New Englanders are so tough.

Do you have a philosophy that guides your training?
I always say run to win. Get the best out of yourself, not only on race day, but every day. Put in the work, and visualize that good things will happen.

You’re running your final Boston Marathon this year. How does it compare to other courses?
It’s definitely one of the hardest ones, if not the hardest. You have to think ahead and have something reserved for those Newton hills. Even the slightly downhill is not a pleasant downhill because your body’s beat up at that point.

None of it seems pleasant.
That’s why I’m retiring! [Laughs.]

What’s your least favorite thing about running?
The cold weather. I’m not a cold person. I live in San Diego; I don’t have to complain. Running in the bad weather—I’m not a big fan.

It’s good you don’t train in Boston, then.
They say that New Englanders are tougher because they train in tough conditions. On race day it is what it is, but I wouldn’t want to train there year round. Much respect to them, though.

Which was better: winning Olympic silver in 2004, or winning the Boston Marathon in 2014?
The Boston Marathon. It was more meaningful for me. I already had won New York in 2009 and an Olympic medal in 2004. Boston was the thing that was missing. There was something higher—I believe in God—that put it all together for me that day, two weeks shy of my 39th birthday.

Did the victory carry more weight coming a year after the marathon bombings?
The slogan “Boston Strong” carried me through day-to-day training. I just wanted to do something really positive on Boylston Street. To be able to be in the lead, in front of 36,000 people, and hear the crowd chant “USA, USA”…it’s hard to put it into words. The Bostonians never said congratulations, really—they just said thank you. To have them say thank you means a lot to me. For the Bostonians, after what they went through, hopefully it’s just a small gesture of expediting the healing process.

We have to ask: Did you ever consider ending your career in Boston?
After I won, I said, “This would be a great way to leave the sport.” But then you just want to be able to enjoy it for a few more years, try to make another Olympic team. It made sense to finish in New York, just because that was the first opportunity I had to do a marathon. I just didn’t know there would be 25 other ones in between!

Think you have one more victory in you?
Can it be? Never say never. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens on April 17.

8. We Run Inside AND Out

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Real athletes don’t take an off-season. Thanks to these four indoor havens, Boston’s fittest can keep their hearts pumping 365 days a year.

9. Our Community Is Second to None

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Photograph by Chris Capozzi

Sure, every city has run clubs. But here in Boston, we go way beyond vanilla jogging meetups. From Liberty Athletic Club, the nation’s oldest women’s running group, to boozy pub runs at area breweries, our community is as diverse as it is vibrant. Below, a club for every reason you run.

10. We Look Good While Doing It

Let New York and Paris rule the catwalks. Here in Boston, we hit our style stride when we’re, well, in stride. From the city’s boutique gyms to its ever-populated running paths, our athleisure game is on point, as evidenced in this quintessential runner’s getup.

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Photograph by Toan Trinh, Styling by Abby Bielagus

  1. When your runs take you to every corner of the city, you need a bag that can travel—bonus points for one that’s designed locally. York Athletics Mfg. duffel bag, $118, yorkathleticsmfg.com.
  2. Sunnies are a must for early evenings on the Esplanade—and in this startup hub, even better if they’re 3-D-printed and custom-fit. Skelmet “Falcon” sunglasses, $229, skelmet.com.
  3. Because you either ran the world’s best marathon, or want to look like you did. Adidas Boston Marathon “Celebration” jacket, $110, marathonsports.com.
  4. City Sports is still alive and well in our hearts—and in our wardrobes. City Sports “Running Again” T-shirt, $20, citysports.com.
  5. A brisk morning jog in this notoriously competitive city isn’t complete without a watch that tracks splits, mileage, and heart rate—don’t forget the matching earbuds. New Balance “RunIQ” watch, $300, and “PaceIQ” wireless earbuds, $110, newbalance.com.
  6. Look stylishly understated in neutral running tights. This is still Boston, after all. Janji “Taji” tights, $74, runjanji.com.


Additional reporting by Hallie Smith

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2017/03/26/why-boston-best-running-city/