Seattle among the best cities in the US for runners

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Runners take off at the start of Seattle's 2012 St. Patrick's Day Dash.

Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of running or a consistent marathoner, there’s new data on cities throughout the United States deemed “best for runners.” SmartAsset, a financial company, released its third annual study, which shows nine of the top 10 cities from 2018 held their positions in 2019. That makes Lincoln, Nebraska the only newcomer to the list, which was ranked 12th last year.

Arlington, Virginia tops the list for the second consecutive year. It has many options for indoor and outdoor runners with the most number of races, and the 3rd highest number of gyms, per 10,000 residents. Most residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. And the city is also affordable: it ranks ninth for low cost of housing when considering income.

The full list:

  1. Arlington, Virginia
  2. San Francisco
  3. Washington
  4. Madison, Wisconsin
  5. Minneapolis
  6. Seattle
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Boston
  9. St. Paul, Minnesota
  10. Lincoln, Nebraska

Runners love their sport for different reasons. For some, it’s the community formed when running with people of similar goals. For others, improving health outcomes, like decreased heart disease and improved mood, is incentive enough. Running is a bone strengthening activity as well as a cardio workout.

The US Department of Health and Human Services issued guidelines to advise how much physical activity different groups of people need. For adults who prefer exercises like running, the guidelines recommend at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.

Not only do runners need motivation, they require a place to get in their miles, like a park, trail or gym. The authors of the report found that within the top 10 cities ranked best for runners, 94% of residents could get to the park within 10 minutes from where they lived.

San Francisco is unique because all residents in the study were able to get to the park in 10 minutes, according to the Trust for Public Land. This year, the city was able to bump Minneapolis out of second place after it tied third with Madison, Wisconsin last year.

Over in the nation’s Capitol, not everyone is running for a political office. DC ranks eighth for the number of running races it has on the calendar, which includes 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, marathons and ultra-marathons.

Boston maintained its position in the lower tier of the top 10 list as it was bumped from ninth up to the eight position this year. The city has the highest rate of residents who walk to work, and 99% of residents live within 10 minutes of a park. Although Boston only has 1.26 races per 10,000 residents, it is home to one of the most famous and competitive: the Boston Marathon.

Denver was last on the top 10 list in 2018 but was edged out by Lincoln, Nebraska this year. Lincoln is 7% parkland, or open land, and 85% of its residents can walk to a park within 10 minutes. In addition to earning its position among the best running cities, it is fifth among affordable cities when considering median income.

For those who live in the bottom 10 of this ranking list of 98, their cities showed less than ideal conditions for runners. Approximately 52% of residents were able to get to a park in 10 minutes, and only 1% of residents walked to work. These cities also reported a higher pedestrian death rate that was more than twice as high as cities in the top 10 list. Two states contained 14 of the 25 cities at the bottom of the list: Texas and Arizona.

Other populous cities that did not make the cut for top 10 were New York City which ranked 16th, Chicago at 19th, and Miami placing 53rd on this year’s list.

To assemble this year’s list, SmartAsset collected data for the most populous from different sources, like the United States Census Bureau, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Running in the USA, and the Trust for Public Land. The company started off with 101 cities, but they only ranked the 98 cities with all of the data for the factors they considered. These factors were: safety for pedestrians, cost of housing as a percentage of income, how much of a city was covered by open land, accessibility of parks, the number of races and gyms for every 10,000 residents, how walk-friendly the city was and how many people walked to get to work.

Although not all cities are equal in their appeal to the running community, each city has its own unique pros and cons to take into consideration as a runner. If you don’t live in or haven’t been to one of the cities in the top 10 list, this may be the year to visit!

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