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Places to Run - The Charles River

Posted by Chrissy Horan  July 26, 2013 07:49 PM

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My life as a runner began with a run along the Charles. A few weeks after moving to Cambridge from New York, in desperate need of some exercise, my roommate instructed me to run down the street, past the Cambridgeside Galleria until I saw water. Simple enough.

Not really yet a runner, I built up my distance each time out. I ran down Memorial Drive, a bit further each time until I worked my way down to the Mass Ave bridge, eventually crossing over into Boston.

Since then I have completed many runs (and not completed a few) along the Charles River. Call me unoriginal, but it remains my favorite place to run. When people ask me what I like best about living here, running along the Charles is always a top response and here's why:

1. The Charles has a running route to fit any runner. First timers can do a 1.3-mile loop from the JFK Street bridge to Western Ave. Training for a marathon? Start at the Museum of Science and run to Mt Auburn Street in Watertown and back for a nice 17 mile training run. Create a run of any distance by mixing and matching starting points and bridges. Even with smartphones and iPads, I still rely on a crumpled paper copy of a map like this one when I need to figure out mileage for a run, and I’m still creating new running loops.

2. A 7-8 mile run can cross through 4 cities and towns. But even the shortest loop along the Charles gives you a taste of both Boston and Cambridge, for example. Different sections of the river have a different feel, brought in by the surrounding neighborhood. Go for a run the weekend of the head of the Charles, along the Esplanade a day or 2 before the 4th of July, or along Memorial Drive the day of Harvard's graduation for a few inside looks at well known local events.

3. A run along the Charles is like a trip to the zoo! During the many miles I’ve logged along the river, I have seen wildlife from squirrels and geese to egrets, falcons, turtles and gophers. Once, while running along the Storrow side of the river just before sunrise with my friend Jackie, an opossum, about 50 feet away, crossed our path. Jackie said if we were loud, the opossum would be frightened and not run in our direction. So we ran down the path clapping and screaming, “Hey, hey opossum!” The opossum didn't bother us, but I'm pretty sure he was laughing at us.

4. The view running into Boston across the Mass Ave bridge is .4 miles of postcard material. Try it at sunset.

5. Hydration. I hate wearing a fuel belt or carrying a water bottle, so water fountains along my route are key. Anyone who ran at all the first few weeks of July knows a route with water stops was a necessity. At least from May through November, one can design a route to pass at least one water fountain, or more for longer runs.

6. Everybody's doing it. Become a regular runner on the Charles and other regulars will begin to recognize you too. Even better is the chance of running into (cheesy pun intended) a friend. I've had several Saturday morning long runs where during the 12-16 miles I ran, I crossed paths with several running pals, sometimes even gaining a running partner for a few miles!

Every few weeks, I’ll try to write about different places to run. If you have a favorite route that deserves to be highlighted, let me know at

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

     Chrissy Horan has been running around Boston and nearby neighborhoods since 2000. An athlete through high school and college, she has found the running community in Boston to More »

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