Boston Strong: Five great runs

(CNN)
Monday, April 21, 2014 - 9:15am

If Paul Revere had owned a pair of sneakers, he undoubtedly would have laced up and gone on a midnight run instead of a midnight ride through the streets of Boston.

Boston is sneaker city, especially this year, on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary. Everybody is a runner -- in reality or in spirit.

Turn a corner in this handsome, historic town, and you'll stumble upon at least one -- usually a pack -- of neon-garbed runners navigating their way through Boston's cobblestone streets and parks.

You can improvise and create your own running route or follow one of these five running pathways -- some for nature lovers, others giving a nod to Boston's storied past.

Whichever route you choose, you'll be swept up by "Boston Strong" -- the slogan for a proud town with running in its DNA.

Boston is also a town that likes to celebrate its running, so we have suggestions later for where to hoist an after-run brew.

On your mark, get set, go

The Charles River/Esplanade: This popular running route loops around the Charles River, taking in Cambridge and Boston. You'll have opportunities to cross several footbridges and other spans, including the BU Bridge, the Longfellow Bridge and the Mass Ave Bridge, depending on how far you want to run.

On the Cambridge side of the river, you can dash by the Museum of Science, cross over the Longfellow Bridge and run along the Esplanade, passing the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops perform on July 4. For a 4-mile loop, cross the Mass Ave Bridge to Cambridge, run along the Charles, cross over Longfellow Bridge, back along the Esplanade in Boston. Or, go for it, and run the entire 17-mile path all the way out to neighboring Watertown.

Emerald Necklace: Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame designed this gem, a lanky chain of nine green parks that stretches for more than seven miles covering 1,200 miles of parkland, including the flowery Arnold Arboretum.

The Emerald Necklace begins at Boston Common in the heart of downtown, and dangles to Franklin Park (home to a zoo). Along the way, expect plenty of shade from tree-lined paths, some hilly, mostly paved. Run the whole stretch or just sections; the "T", Boston's subway, has stops along the way. (emeraldnecklace.org)

Castle Island: This South Boston (Southie) loop has a lot going for it -- historical Fort Independence, ocean breezes and views of Boston, the Boston Harbor Islands and planes coming in for a landing at nearby Logan Airport.

The run is a 3-mile loop or, for a 7-mile loop, include a run around the 'Sugar Bowl" (manmade Pleasure Bay), which is connected to Castle Island.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir: Another beauty designed by Olmsted, this 1.6-mile trail hugs the reservoir in Cleveland Circle, on the outskirts of Boston, and is a nature nut's nirvana -- serene water vistas, wildlife and inspiring sunrises and sunsets.

If you're ambitious, run up nearby Heartbreak Hill, the appropriately named hill that's a game-changer for many runners in the Boston Marathon. To get here, take the "T" to Cleveland Circle.

The Freedom Trail Run: Sightseeing with a twist, this 5K run begins at Boston Common and takes you along the famed Freedom Trail, stopping at 16 sites along the way including Paul Revere's house and the Granary Burial Ground (John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Revere and other notable Bostonians are buried here.)

An easy, breezy way to get in your run -- and see the sights, too. The run ends at Charlestown Navy Yard where runners get a complimentary sports drink and board the inner harbor ferry for a ride back to Boston. (freedomtrailrun.com)

A leg up on after-run refreshments

Aw, Shucks: Belly up to the oyster bar at Union Oyster House, Boston's oldest restaurant, where Paul Revere and the Founding Fathers tied one on and slurped oysters. Or, head upstairs to settle into a booth. True, this is a tourist's bucket list spot, but also a fun spot to channel history and grab a post-run beverage, oysters and a meal. (unionoysterhouse.com)

Home run: One of Boston's many Irish pubs, McGreevy's is especially popular for sports fans and music lovers (it's home base for Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys.) Expect a fun-loving scene, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto Boylston Street in nice weather.

If you love baseball as much as running, this bar has a huge Red Sox following -- after all, it claims to be 1,200 steps from Fenway Park and channels Red Sox history with memorabilia. (mcgreevysboston.com)

Run and a pint: Another Irish pub, not far from MIT in Cambridge, Asgard is a popular runner's cool-down bar, especially after a nearby Charles River run. Sit at one of the wooden communal tables or pull up a seat on the outside patio. (classicirish.com)

Jog your memory: You've exercised your body, now grab a beer and flex your mind at Mass Ave Tavern. Casual and friendly, with an entire wall of board games (Scrabble, anyone?), this downtown location is a popular spot for runner group meet-ups.

Bonus: After a weekend run, push the limit and take the all-you-can-eat Uncle Buck Pancake Challenge. (massavetavern.com)

These pretzels are making me thirsty: Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall, located in the Seaport district, near South Boston, is a popular post-run drinking spot (think communal tables, pints and handmade pretzels with fun dipping sauces.)

Harpoon serves about 20 beers, including a Harpoon IPA and, just in time for summer, the UFO Big Squeeze, a grapefruit Shandy. The brewery also sponsors the annual Harpoon 5-Miler running race. (harpoonbrewery.com)
 

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