I haven’t been outside of the state (Minnesota) much since I started running, so this list is obviously going to be “weak” compared to people that have run in far more impressive places. Anyways, I kind of view this as a work in progress. Maybe someday you’ll be in one of these cities and you’ll be looking for somewhere to run, this will be your guide (although somehow I doubt it!) If you have any great running routes, Let me know because I’m always looking for places to run, plus I’m bored and semi-willing to travel. That and I have a ton of days off built up for work, so I’m looking for a good place to run a marathon! Hope you enjoy reading this and possibly taking on of these runs yourself, someday.
Honorable Mention) “The Track” at Perham, MN – Actually, I won’t like… part of me hates this track because I whenever I’m running here, I just know that I’m in for a tougher workout. I might have more sentimental attactment if I would’ve actually run track in high school, but it’s an okay track and it’s close enough that I can get my work done.
Honorable Mention) “Hiking Trail” in Bloomington, MN – This would have scored a little higher if it was longer. It’s located just off of France Ave less than a mile from 494. The footing is the best of any run here because it’s a packed dirt path covered in woodchips. It’s only about 3/4 of a mile long, but you can always run it a few times. About 85% of this path was shaded which would make for a nice summer run.
10) Bemidji State Park in Bemidji, MN – I don’t know what it’s called, but there is about a one mile loop that has great soft footing, plus it has two really nice hills. I was only there for two days, but I think I did this loop about 4-5 times.
9) Fishhook Lake in Park Rapids, MN – Just was up there last weekend. This would’ve been higher on the list if it wasn’t for some hills in the middle part of the course. None of them were really killers, but the sum of them make for a tougher run. Still, this is a pretty part of Minnesota and there is adequate room on the side of the road for the most part, so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a bus or something.
8) Along Mississippi River in St. Cloud, MN – This is another pretty good little run. I found it completely by accident. While I wish the trail was a little longer (and maybe it is…), I really like running next to the river. If the bikepath would have been something other than asphalt, this would’ve been higher on the list.
7) Itasca State Park in Itasca, MN – Talk about hills! I’ve had more than one brutal run in these hills. There is a 15-mile nature drive loop you can do (but watch out for cars – most of it is only one way traffic, though). There are also various bike loops and walking trails that make this a great place to kind of explore.
6) Bemidji Lake in Bemidji, MN – I ran around most of the lake from Bemiji State Park all the way into town and back. It was a nice 10 miles one way (20 altogether). While it could’ve been a little nicer with wider roads, I enjoyed the sites. If they had a bikepath going aroudn this lake, you’d definitely see this run move up.
5) Bikepath next to river in Fargo/Moorhead – This is almost my sentimental choice. First of all, I used to live a block away, so I could get on and run anywhere from 4-8+ miles. It’s right on the Red River and it winds pretty much the whole way, so it stays moderately cool in the summer. They have a 15k & a 5k race in October every year that follows this course and I’ll go out on a limb and say this might be one of my five favorite races I’ve ever done! In a way, this feels like where I “grew up” running, so to speak. Going by this kinda gives me that same feeling as driving by your old elementary school or something.
4) Big & Little Detroit Lake in Detroit Lakes, MN – In the last year, I honestly wonder how many times I have done this lake? I know it’s been a lot! Anyways, this is a nice run with a huge shoulder for 95% of the way. You can take either the 10-mile loop or the 12-mile loop depending on which was you go. Both loops follow the lake, though. It’s great because you run about 3-4 miles through town and the rest through more residential areas. If you’re ever in the area, I definitely recommend giving it a try!
3) Lake Calhoun/Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, MN – This is a great run because you can switch up loops (I alternated between the two). Plus, they have good facilities meaning if you have to go to the bathroom, you don’t have to hold it for an hour. It’s also cool because there are hundreds of other people running, biking, rollerblading, ect. I’d be really interested to see if it stays pretty busy in the winter… then again, I guess I don’t even know if they keep it plowed. I’ll definitely hit this run up again, though!
2) Grandma’s Marathon course in Duluth, MN – This is such a great course because it’s got that combination of being a) right alongside Lake Superior and b) flat (!!!) You could very easily argue it’s better than Twin Cities…
1) Twin Cities Marathon course in MSP/St. Paul, MN – …but I’m going to go with the TCM course just because it’s through an urban area, plus the crowds they get is unreal. If you can get past the hills at the end (which is tough to do), you really can’t beat running by all the huge houses on Summit Avenue and finishing up right in front of the Capital building.