Oh, the joy of being a runner in Boston! Riverfront routes, leafy pathways, stone bridges, and coastal views all make Boston “a great running city,” according to Mark Lowenstein of Brookline. He should know — Lowenstein has written a series of books about the sport, including “Great Runs in Boston.” The self-described “everyday runner” (“I don’t do ultramarathons or run super fast,” he says) logs 5 to 7 miles a day. Lowenstein also produces a runner’s website, www.greatruns.com, highlighting the best running routes in more than 1,000 destinations around the world.
Yep, our fair city is a paved paradise for casual joggers and marathon masters alike … until winter arrives in all its snowy, slushy, bone-chilling glory. What’s a running enthusiast to do? Don’t hang up those kicks, Lowenstein says. Running in winter brings its own pleasures. “One of the challenges of running is, it can be boring. Winter changes the landscape and adds another level of beauty,” especially after a fresh snowfall, he says. We asked Lowenstein to share some great winter running routes and some tips on how to navigate them safely.
Cool running routes in Boston
The South End: These residential streets tend to be plowed, making them ideal for runners. Lowenstein especially likes the side streets off Tremont and Columbus. Draped in snow, “these pretty residential streets give you that Currier & Ives vibe.”
Emerald Necklace: Along this iconic 10-mile route, Lowenstein favors the section from the Fenway through Brookline to Jamaica Pond. “It’s tree-lined and winding, with paths on both sides.”
Arnold Arboretum: The arboretum’s wider paths are usually cleared, and they’re car-free. “There’s something for every runner there — flat sections, and some hills. You can log 5 miles in there, and the signage is good,” Lowenstein says.
Battle Road Trail, Lexington and Concord: “This off-road path has woods, open fields, and historic buildings. You feel transported to another era,” Lowenstein says. The trail is wide with good footing, but snow may not be cleared in winter, he cautions.
Wellesley Crosstown Path: This one’s a hidden gem, he says. Stretching from Newton Lower Falls all the way to Wellesley College, it’s off-road and well-marked, with sections of woodland and places to branch off into local neighborhoods.
Myles Standish State Forest, Plymouth: For an off-road run, the park’s bike trails are a great option in winter. There’s plenty of territory to explore, and rolling hills galore.
Salem, Concord, Andover, Dedham, Hingham: These older, historic suburbs feature wide streets and handsome homes set back from the roadway. “Create your own route on the main streets and side streets,” Lowenstein suggests.
In your own backyard: “Choose a main drag, where snow is most likely to be cleared first,” Lowenstein says. Some examples include Comm. Ave., Beacon Street, and Mass Ave. The Charles River paths and Southwest Corridor Park are also great zones. If there are no sidewalks where you live, or they aren’t shoveled, and running in the street is your only option, “run toward traffic and give cars a wide berth,” he says. And choose a road with plenty of shoulder.
Beware black ice
Black ice is winter’s major hazard. “Ice, sleet, and freezing rain equal an indoor day,” says this devoted runner. To test for black ice, take a couple of baby steps before you run, and beware of days when it rained and then froze, or snowmelt that bled into the road and has frozen overnight. “If you think it may be icy, don’t go out at night,” when it’s harder to see icy spots, Lowenstein says.
Dress the part
When dressing for a winter run, go for layers, with a base layer made of wicking fabric and a windproof shell. “Think in 10-degree increments. Dressing for 10 degrees is far different than dressing for 40,” Lowenstein notes. Keep your head warm with a cap or headband, and invest in some running gloves. Most runners wear their usual running shoes; just be sure that the treads are in good shape. Consider donning a product called Yaktrax (a light version of crampons that slip over your shoes) if roads are slippery or icy. If it’s wet, wear a heavier pair of socks (not several light pairs), he advises.
“I love to run when it’s snowing out,” Lowenstein says. Wearing goggles makes sense if it’s snowing heavily. And of course, don’t forget to add that lovely COVID-era accessory: a mask. “You never know if you’re going to encounter someone, or even need medical help.”
Ready to get your feet wet, so to speak? “Choose a pretty day. Go right after a snowfall, if you can. Run early in the morning or just before dark when the light is beautiful,” Lowenstein says. If you have to run after dark because of work, “choose a well-lit street with lots of shops, like Porter Square or Central Square. There’s a lot to stimulate the senses.”
Some people feel safer running with a buddy, and find it easier to stay motivated that way. For others, the solo aspect of running is appealing. “For me, it’s an hour of the day that’s my own time. That hour of solitude is something I seek out,” Lowenstein says.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org