These top Southeastern running towns elevate the sport from pastime to passion.
Click here to download route maps for the DC area.
Politics may be D.C.’s business, but running is the city’s pleasure. Our nation’s capital has no less than 11 full-fledged running clubs, some of the region’s most popular races, a surprising amount of in-city trails, and a myriad of hash clubs (if you wanted, you could hash five nights a week in D.C.).
“DC has the perfect storm of people to form a strong running community. It’s a town full of type A personalities. Lots of military and government people. They make great runners.”
–Chris Farley, owner of Pacers running store and founder of the Pacers Elite Running Team.
Monday Night FootMall: The D.C. Road Runners organize this weekly 6.5-mile run that begins on Virginia Avenue, then cruises the mall, looping around the Capitol Building. After the run, walk to 51st State Tavern for .50 cent tacos and $2.75 Budweisers.
Sunday Long Run: The Washington Running Club meets on the corner of 33rd and M Street in Georgetown at 8am. Small groups then splinter off for distances varying from four miles to 20 miles on routes that include the C&O Canal, Capital Crescent Trail, or Rock Creek Park. Washrun.org.
Capital Crescent Trail: A paved rail trail traveling from Georgetown to Silver Spring, Md. with mile markers, the occasional water fountain, and plenty of other runners for inspiration and company.
Insider Pick: Whitehouse/Monuments Loop: Begin at McPherson Square (metro stop) and run south on 15th Street past the White House to the Washington Monument. Pick your route around the monument to connect to the the National Mall, head west past the World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool to the Lincon Memorial. Take 23rd street south, then run through the West Potomac Park and around the Tidal Basin (Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial) until you hook back up with 15th street.
–Elyse Braner, president of the Washington Running Club, head coach for the D.C. Northface Challenge
Theodore Roosevelt Island: A nature preserve in the Potomac River within eyesight of the Lincoln Memorial, Roosevelt has 2.5-miles of looping, wooded trails. You can also hook it up with the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, a wide, doubletrack path that starts at Roosevelt Island and runs for 10 miles through a forest that parallels the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Glover/Rock Creek Loop
This route incorporates the popular Rock Creek Park and the less-run Glover Archbold Trail for a 10-mile singletrack loop inside downtown D.C. Start at the National Zoo inside Rock Creek National Park and run south on the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail toward the Potomac River. Hang a right on the C&O Canal, running past Georgetown University, then right on the Glover Archbold Trail, which follows the Foundry Branch creek through a wooded corridor for three miles. At the end of the trail, turn right on Van Ness Street, then right on 34th street, then left on the trail through Hazen Park, which follows a relatively pristine tributary of Rock Creek back into Rock Creek Park just north of where you started at the Zoo.
Post Run Hang Out
Dean and Deluca, Georgetown: Great coffee, fancy comfort food, and a killer patio attract tons of runners. Many of the Washington Running Club’s group runs end with coffee on the patio. Deandeluca.com
Classic D.C. Races
Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, April 11. Cherryblossom.org
An early season race that attracts some of the fastest runners in the region, combined with a flat course that cruises the National Mall make this a local and tourist favorite.
Marine Corps Marathon, October 31. Marinemarathon.com
Can 30,000 runners be wrong? The Marine Corps is a perennial favorite of veteran and beginner marathoners alike, and has been dubbed the “People’s Marathon,” because of its friendly course and open-arms attitude. And the military appreciation theme and copious spectators keep runners inspired during the “gut check” miles.
–“There are large crowds on the course around the Mall, so spectators and marching bands added a lot of motivation as I pushed through those middle miles.” Andrew Dunn, winner of the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon
Click here to download route maps for the Roanoke area.
So many running routes, so little time. That could be the city of Roanoke’s motto. From riverside greenways to downtown road routes to mountain climbing singletrack, Roanoke has it all.
“From my house, it’s a 15 minute drive to the A.T. Within the city, you’ve got Mill Mountain and Carvin’s Cove, so just a few miles from downtown, and you can run singletrack and see deer, even bear. It’s amazing.”
–Gordie Zeigler, local runner.
Star City Half Marathon, November 20. 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of this perennial road running favorite. The scenic course takes you though the Roanoke valley floor on the edge of downtown, finishing at Victory Stadium. Starcitystriders.com
Into the Darkness: A four-mile trail run traversing the singletrack of Explore Park…at night. Switchback climbs, fast downhills, roots, twisty paths through trees–and you’ll run it all by the light of a headlamp. Mountainjunkies.net. October 23.
Up and Comer: Blue Ridge Marathon, April 24. The inaugural marathon begins and ends in the heart of downtown, covers miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbs the two tallest mountains rising out of the valley, and promises to be one of the toughest 26.2 races in the country. Blueridgemarathon.com
Insider Pick: Roanoke River Greenway. Eventually, the Roanoke River Greenway system will run for 27 miles from the undeveloped western end of the county to Mill Mountain on the edge of downtown. For now, several miles of existing downtown greenway can be linked together. This system follows the Roanoke River and provides a traffic free and mostly level terrain. The Lick Run route from downtown to the Valley View area is a change of pace with some great hills and super easy access to the major retail section.
–Kim Parker, local runner
Insider Pick: Chestnut Ridge Loop, a 5.6-mile loop circling Roanoke Mountain that has everything. The wide singletrack path has 800 feet of elevation gain and links to the nine-miles of trail at Mill Mountain, which offer another 400-500 feet of rise. On Mill Mountain, take the Star Trail for a 1.7-mile climb to the best view of the city below.
–Josh Gilbert, ultra marathoner and Mountain Junkies race director
Sunday Long Run: Members of the Star City Striders meet at 7:00 am at the Roanoke Athletic Club just south of 419 for an out and back on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Distances vary between six and 12 miles. Starcitystriders.com
Post Run Hang Out
Mill Mountain Coffee, downtown Roanoke. 112 Campbell Avenue. Locally roasted coffee in the heart of downtown. A number of running routes begin near this coffee shop. Start your run at the coffee shop for a pre-run pick me up and you can be climbing Mill Mountain within minutes. Millmountaincoffee.com
Click here to download route maps for the Richmond area.
Trails within city limits, a vibrant downtown running community with a cornucopia of group run options, a running club with more than 2,000 members, and one of the most popular 10K races in the region all make Richmond an up and coming Run Town.
Byrd Park Group Run: Saturday Morning beginner run at 7:30am, intermediate run at 7am. The group run varies in length but usually incorporates the one-mile long Vita-Course that winds around the lake within this municipal park. Byrdparkgroup.com
Skirt Run: Ladies meet in the parking lot of Legend’s Brewery on WHAT street, run a few miles on the Flood Wall, then return to the brewery for post run beverages. First Wednesday of each month at 6:30.
Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K: 35,000 runners and walkers sign up for this remarkably flat race that takes you down one of Richmond’s prettiest streets. 10K PR’s are common, as are costumes and “Spirit Cheerleaders.” March 27. Sportsbackers.org.
Richmond Xterra Xduro: For 12 years, the Xduro has punished local trail runners with a 10K and 21K course that features some of the best urban singletrack in the region, including some nerve-wracking challenges like the James River “dry way” rock hop and the Manchester staircase climb. June 19. Xterraplanet.com
Pony Pasture Rapids: A section of the greater James River Park, the Pony Pasture Rapids has four looping trails totaling 2.25 miles which take you through wetlands and along the river bank for a wildlife tour within city limits.
“We have seen eagles, owls (at twilight), and deer on several occasions,” says local Amy Sthreshley.
Forest Hill Long Run: Start at Byrd Park, run across the Boulevard Bridge (“Nickel Bridge”), to Forest Hill. Crossroads Coffee shop on Forest Hill gives water to runners, which is a huge help on hot days. Run up Forest Hill to Semmes, then cross the Lee Bridge, and run through VCU (another nice place to stop for water/bathrooms on longer runs). From there we run through the fan to the Boulevard Bridge and then back to Byrd Park.
–Amy Sthreshley, local runner and group run organizer.
Post Run Hang Out
Savor Café, West 7th Street. Most Richmond Road Runner socials meet at Savor, an uber-hip eatery owned by runners in the Old Manchester district of Richmond. From Savor, you can be running the trails and road routes surrounding the James River in minutes. Savorcompany.com
Click here to download route maps for the Charlottesville area.
During the last two decades, the Charlottesville running scene has blossomed into one of the most vibrant running communities in Virginia. The local track club has nearly a thousand members and hosts a number of inexpensive training programs, there are more than 70 local races, and in-town greenways and trails give runners unparalleled resources. It’s a perfect storm that has led to an unusual amount of Olympic Trials qualifiers and hopefuls, including the city’s first professional running team, the Ragged Mountain Olympic Development team.
Insider Pick: Downtown is a little congested, so I like to send people to Camp Holiday Trails. It’s a two-mile gravel road that dead ends so there’s no car traffic. Technically, it’s still within the city limits, but it feels like you’re out in the country.
–Mark Lorenzoni, owner of Ragged Mountain Running and publisher of the Charlottesville Running booklet, a compendium of the city’s best running routes.
The Rivanna Trail is a 20-mile long dirt path that surrounds the city of Charlottesville. In recent years, it has become the staging ground for long training runs and meandering running tours alike. Runners can also hook into the O-hill network of trails, which provide several miles of forested singletrack on UVA’s campus. rivanna.avenue.org.
Insider Pick: Walnut Creek Park: The park is only five or ten minutes from downtown, but it has about 15 miles of good trail running. I like the Red Loop, which takes you out toward the edges of the park, along the ridgeline, then drops down to the lake. It offers more solitude with the chance to see eagles, otters, deer.
–Francesca Conte, professional trail runner
The Charlottesville Women’s 4 Miler, September 4. The race drew 3,300 runners in 2009, and not one of them had a Y chromosome. Some of the fastest women in the region competing for top honors, even better: participants helped raise nearly $400,000 for the UVA Cancer Center Breast Care Program. Charlottesvilletrackclub.org.
Charlottesville 10 Miler, April 3. A favorite with locals, the 10-miler tours University of Virginia’s Campus, circles Scott Stadium, and cruises the downtown mall, taking runners on a highlight tour of downtown Charlottesville. Cvilletenmiler.com
Sunday Trail Run: The Charlottesville Trail Running Club meets at The Park at the University of Virginia at 10am for a group run on the Rivanna Trail. The distances range from five to 20 miles, the terrain is flat, and the crowd is mixed between beginners and veterans training for upcoming races.
Post Run Hang Out
Shenandoah Joe Coffee, 945 Preston Avenue. Runners often find themselves beginning and ending downtown runs at this hipster espresso bar, which is also the staging pit for a number of group runs. Shenandoahjoe.com.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA
You may not think of Virginia Beach as a Run Town, but there’s a race almost every weekend of the year within a stone’s throw of this beachy burg. The running scene is young, but enthusiastic, and there’s a surprising variety of route options to keep locals, and tourists, on their toes.
The Boardwalk. Okay, it’s kitschy, but the three-mile long concrete walkway parallels the beach (pretty views) and is the epicenter of Virginia Beach’s running scene. Any hour of the day, you’ll find other runners tackling the walk, and most local races feature at least a section of the famous route.
Insider Pick: Mount Trashmore Park: A two-mile paved loop surrounds a lake (the former municipal dump) with two man-made hills, one short and steep, the other long and gradual. At the top of the hills, you have a tremendous view of Virginia Beach.
“This is the only hill in Virginia Beach. It’s nice not having to deal with the stresses of running up and down hills on a daily basis, but you’ve got to do some hills if you want to race anywhere else in the state.” –Mark Manny, former collegiate runner and manager of Running Etc.
Insider Pick: First Landing State Park: The main trail, Cape Henry Trail, is wide doubletrack with mile markers, and off the main trail are tighter side trails with hills, bridges, sand, and some water views. You can run for 20 plus miles in that park. –Jennifer Jellig, local marathoner and winner of the Seashore 50K, which takes place inside First Landing State park.
Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon, September 5. 20,000 people, costume parties, rock bands every mile, and a beachside finish with world-class after party. Oh, and it’s on Labor Day. What better way to kiss your summer goodbye? Virginia-beach.competitor.com
Shamrock Marathon, March 21. You could get your marathon PR on this flat course, or you could sign up for the Whale and Dolphin Challenge and run the 8K on Saturday, and then the marathon on Sunday. Locals love this race because of the boardwalk finish and beach-side Irish stew and Yuengling party. Shamrockmarathon.com
Saturday Seashore Long Run: Final Kick Sports organizes this long trail run that cruises most of the paths that comprise the Seashore 50K. Runners meet at the Cape Henry Trail parking lot at 7am.
Post Run Hang Out
Don Julio’s, 3656 Shore Drive: The local hash group descends on this unsuspecting haunt for its Cheap Mexican beer, quality food, and proximity to the beach. Donjuliosvabch.com
Click here to download route maps for the Charlotte area.
Greenways, parks, in-town trail systems, and a highly active running club make Charlotte an ideal running town. Plus, you’re only a short drive from Crowder’s Mountain, with epic trail running potential.
Weekday Nieghborhood Run: The Charlotte Runners meet at the Common Market (2007 commonwealth Avenue) at 6:30pm for a well-lit four mile loop through the Plaza/Midwood neighborhood. Post run beers and food are standard.
Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon, December 11. This Boston Marathon qualifier serves as a running tour of some of Charlotte’s oldest and hippest neighborhoods. Runners cruise through Uptown, NoDa, Foxcroft, and back into Uptown while fans cheer you on. runcharlotte.com.
The Run for Peace, May 1st. This long-standing 5K supports the local domestic violence shelter and is run on the cross country course at McAlpine Park, some of the best and longest soft surface running in Charlotte.
–Brenny Thompson, Charlotte runner with more than 1,000 races under his shoes.
Campbell Creek Greenway: The four-mile greenway is buffered by greenspace and nature trails as it winds through a series of parks and schools in an urban setting. The greenway also connects to McAlpine park’s 3.1-mile cross country course, which is home to the Footlocker South Regional, Great American Cross Country Festival, and Wendy’s Invite.
Insider Pick: Freedom Park: Charlotte’s version of Central Park, this 98-acre greenspace features three miles of paved running on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and a special nighttime view of Uptown.
–Jordan Kinley, 2009 winner of the Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon.
Renaissance Park: This in-town trail system is comprised of six miles of tight, twisty singletrack, compliments of the Tarheel Trailblazers. The trails are divided into two loops of equal length. And don’t let the golf course and softball fields fool you, this is real singletrack near downtown Charlotte.
US National Whitewater Center: The USNWC has more than just a booming fake river. It has 307 acres of forest with 14 miles of technical, steep, and often-times brutal singletrack. These trails have been a Charlotte oasis for trail runners, even before the whitewater center was created. usnwc.org
Post Run Hang Out
The Dog Bar: Located in Charlotte’s trendy NoDa neighborhood (North Davidson), the Dog Bar is a watering hole that lets you bring your best friend with you. Take your pup for a run, then you can both kick back with a cold one. dogbarnoda.com
Click here to download route maps for the Knoxville area.
Knoxville may not be the first town that comes to mind when you think “running,” but the city has a burgeoning greenway system, a running club with almost 2,000 members, and a cornucopia of well established trail and road races. The city even has a group of competitive racing teams sponsored by various shops that compete all season for the Eddie Reymond Cup. What’s more, Knoxville is sandwiched between two mountain ranges, the Smokies and the Cumberlands, giving trail runners epic options about an hour on either side of the city.
Insider Pick: Wednesday Night Runners. Runners have been meeting at the Runners Market (4443 Kingston Pike Avenue) at 5:30pm for 14 years. Group runs can be found throughout Knoxville on any given day, but this could be the most well-established, and most social. Runners head out on the Third Creek Greenway for a casual five to six mile jaunt, then convene for beers. This is a Knoxville tradition. When the weather is warm, you can count on at least 40 runners.
–Michael Delisle, trail committee member for the Knoxville Track Club.
Insider Pick: Cherokee Blvd: A 2.6-mile crushed stone path follows the boulevard through one of Knoxville’s most distinguished neighborhoods. You’ll get views of the Tennessee River, a few hills, and some really, really, nice homes. For a longer run, you can connect Cherokee with the Third Creek Greenway, a 4.5-mile paved path that follows a small tributary of the Tennessee River.
—Bobby Holcombe, captain of the Runner’s Market Race Team.
Will Skelton Greenway: The paved Will Skelton Greenway runs for 3.6 miles along the Tennessee River, through a tall forest and the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, hooking up with the Ijams Nature Center, a 160-acre park that features the scenic Tennessee River Boardwalk, and five miles of natural surface trail.
Insider Pick: Haw Ridge Park: This 780-acre park in the neighboring community of Oak Ridge, is Knoxville’s trail running mecca. Surrounded on two sides by Melton Lake, Haw Ridge has 28 miles of interconnected singletrack and old jeep roads. –Susan Donnelly, ultra marathoner, motivational speaker, and race director
IC King Park: This in-town park has five miles of steep, tight trails with some decent climbing…and it’s all just a few minutes from University of Tennessee campus. The trail system is made up of short, interconnected loops traversing the 190-acre. Mountain bikers helped build the system, so expect fast, bermy sections.
Dogwood Classic 5K: This spring race draws Knoxville’s fastest runners as well as its most dedicated back of the packers. The dogwoods bloom along Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills as Knoxville’s running community gears up for a long season. April 24. ktc.org.
Tennessee Sports Medicine Expo: Celebrating its 33rd year, this 10K is Knoxville’s oldest running race, and is the track club’s flagship event. The course begins and ends at the Coliseum and crosses the Tennessee River twice. ktc.org.
Post Run Hang Out
Barley’s Tap Room: Situated in Knoxville’s picturesque “Old City,” Barley’s serves up good, inexpensive pizza slices and a wide variety of microbrews. Because pizza and beer are staples of the “social run.”
Click here to download route maps for the Richmond area.
This mountain town has become a hub of trail running in recent years, but it also has a strong road running tradition, with a number of elite athletes calling Asheville home, a well-organized track club, and a different race almost every weekend.
Sunday Morning Long Run: Local runners meet at 8:30am at the N.C. Arboretum (parking fee) for a long 60-90 minute trail run through Bent Creek Experimental Forest. The runners break into three different groups according to pace, a great way to explore Bent Creek’s interconnecting trails without the risk of getting lost. atc.org
Shut In Ridge Run: One of the longest standing and most respected trail races in town, the Shut In Ridge Run takes runners along the trail of the same name as it climbs for 18 miles from the N.C. Arboretum to Mount Pisgah. The climbing is brutal, and runners tend to feel good about themselves if they can complete the race within their marathon time. shutinridgerun.com
Bele Chere 5K: For 30 years, the Bele Chere 5K has been taking runners on a scenic tour of downtown Asheville. The climbs are steep, the downhills are fast, and the crowd is mixed, from Olympic trials qualifiers, to back of the packers. ashevilletrackclub.org.
Insider Pick: Hot Chocolate 10K: This is a relatively new race that’s grown in popularity quickly, mostly because it’s the flattest course you can run in Asheville. Most of our races are full of hills, but the Hot Chocolate is actually pretty flat. hotchocolate10K.com –Dean Duncan, running coach with FitAthletics.
Insider Pick: Biltmore Forest: This well-established neighborhood is home to some of the most posh mansions in Asheville, and some of the least traveled roads in Asheville. The wide, low traffic streets meander through parks, estates, and the Biltmore Forest Country Club, allowing runners to put together a variety of hilly routes. For a simple three-mile loop, connect Stuyvesant Road with Southwood Road and Vanderbilt Road, which will take you around the country club.
–Jerad Crave, local runner and repetitive podium finisher
Riverside Cemetery: The final resting place of Thomas Wolfe andd O. Henry is also home to some of the best no-traffic road running in town. A number of local races use the paved roads of Riverside, just north of downtown Asheville, which flow through 87 acres of hills and memorials.
Insider Pick: Warren Wilson College: The private college outside of Asheville has more than 30 miles of sustainable trails on its extensive campus. The trails are fast, superbly cared for, and vary between smooth dirt and technical rock and roots. For an hour-long loop, at the River Trail, heading west on the Swannanoa River, cross over into the Dam Pasture trails, then connect with the trails behind the N.C. Outward Bound, which will wind through campus and can be hooked back up with the River Trail.
–Danny Dryer, founder of Chi Running.
Mountains to Sea Trail: This state-wide trail skirts around the edge of town, following the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can access the MST at a number of different trailheads, around town. The section between 74A and Highway 25 is the most accessible and most popular, but for a more technical run head to Craven Gap, for some less traveled trail over rocky terrain.
Post Run Hang Out
Asheville Brewing Company: The local brewery and pub sits on the edge of downtown Asheville and serves as the starting and finishing line for a number of local social runs and hash runs. ABC also hosts two of the most fun 5K’s in town: the Superhero 5K and the Ninja 5K. ashevillebrewing.com
With a revitalized downtown, a booming running club, and a greenway system that will soon be epic, Greenville is rapidly becoming a runner’s town. The local track club even puts on a 10-race running series with a little something for everyone, from short track sprint races to burly trail races.
Saturday Morning Run: This run is a Greenville tradition. Runners meet at Cleveland Park (shelter 5) at 7am for social and training runs of varying distances. This popular group run originally began at Run In, the local running store, but the numbers got out of hand, and the run had to be moved to a public park. On warm days, you might be running with 200 of your closest friends and perfect strangers.
Augusta Road: This well established neighborhood sits just a mile from Greenville’s busy business district, but it’s wide streets, sidewalks, and eclectic shops and restaurants have made it a haven for runners. You can hook it up with McDaniel Avenue and a number of side streets for a variety of loops. The best part? Drivers in this part of town are used to seeing runners at all hours of the day.
–Jeff Milliman, local runner and group run founder
Swamp Rabbit Trail: This 13-mile greenway runs along the Reedy River connecting Travelers Rest with downtown Greenville. A few connecting sections are scheduled for completion this spring, but there are five miles of contiguous linear path with several shorter connecting loops branching off in various parks. Run the downtown Greenville section of the path, with stretches about 1.5-miles from Cleveland Park to Falls Park with options for longer side connections through town. .
Insider Pick: Paris Mountain State Park. Just outside of Greenville, this mountain is home to a three-race trail series (7K, 11K, and 15K and miles of burly, mostly singletrack trails. It’s the best trail running near Greenville, and it’s also the best kept secret in Greenville. Nobody runs Paris Mountain outside of the race series. If you can, try to run the 15K course, which goes up, over the mountain, down the backside, around the North Lake, and then back up and over again.
–John LehMan, local trail runner and race director of the Paris Mountain Trail series
Lake Conestee Nature Park: This 400-acre park is only six miles south of downtown Greenville, but has three miles of natural surface trail as well as two miles of paved trail. It’s also the southern hub of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and will host a new trail run this spring, the Foothills Drifter 6K.
Paris Mountain Road Race: 2010 marks the 40th year of this 20K race that begins and ends at the University of Furman. Local runners call this the “toughest road race in the state,” because of the climb to the top of 2,054-foot Paris Mountain and unusually long distance. December. gvltrackclub.org.
Post Run Hang Out
Leapord Forest Coffee: This Traveler’s Rest coffee shop actually grows its own coffee on a family owned farm in Zimbabwe. Even better, it’s located on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which makes it the perfect location for a mid-run pick me up. Leapordforestcoffee.com
Click here to download route maps for the Richmond area.
The world’s biggest 10K, possibly the world’s most organized running club, and 13 running stores within a 30 mile radius, Atlanta may be the running capital of the Deep South. And while everyone knows the Peachtree 10K, not everyone realizes Atlanta has a wealth of pocket trail systems scattered around town, and a burgeoning greenway system that could rival any city in the region.
Brookhaven: Hundreds of runners flock to Brookhaven, a neighborhood two miles north of Buckhead with million-dollar houses, low traffic streets, and a runnable golf course trails. Runners can put together stress-free routes up to 10 miles within the neighborhood. There’s also a MARTA train station nearby.
Stone Mountain Trail: This 17-mile greenway runs from the Martin Luther King center downtown to Stone Mountain, then connects to the five-mile pedestrian path that encircles the granite dome. If that’s not enough of a workout, you can hammer out a run up the mountain, which is a beastly 1.8-mile climb to the summit.
Insider Pick: Sweetwater Creek State Park. It’s only about 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta and there are miles of really technical singletrack to run, but nobody knows about it. When I first ran it, I thought I was in Pisgah.
–Jeff Campbell, former U.S. National Team runner, and Atlanta resident
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Cochran Shoals: There’s a popular five-mile loop that gets a lot of traffic, but there are also several miles of tight, semi-technical singletrack that receive a fraction of the attention. Plus, IMBA and the National Park Service are targeting Cochran Shoals for some much needed trail rehab, so expect more sustainable singletrack in the near future.
Peachtree Road Race: Is there a more famous race in the Southeast? Probably not. 50,000 runners show up year after year for this killer 10K that takes you through Buckhead and Midtown before finishing at Piedmont Park. atlantatrackclub.org
Big Peach 5K: This uptown 5K features an authentic “Lion Dance” at the start, an Asian drum routine along the route, and a big Peachtree Road finish in the heart of Buckhead.
–Mike Cosentino, author of the Atlanta Running Guide.
Piedmont Park Run: Every Saturday morning, the Atlanta Running Group meets at the Caribou Coffee (corner of 10th and Piedmont) in Midtown at 9am before setting out for a 2.5 or 5-mile run of Piedmont Park. The distance is up to you, and the group vows to never leave a man behind. And there’s breakfast after. Expect about 30 runners, more during warm weather. atlantatrackclub.org
Post Run Hang Out
George’s Bar and Grill: This burger joint and pub is a pillar of the Virginia Highlands community, a small neighborhood and arts district that happens to have a vibrant running community all unto itself. Every Wednesday, about 75 runners meet at George’s to run various routes around the Highlands. Most of them end up back at the bar for post-run beverages. 404-892-3648. 1041 N. Highland Avenue.