The Best Running Routes
Try one of these routes recommended by running clubs in Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto.
If you’re getting tired of passing the same old streets on your regular runs, maybe it’s time to change it up a bit. To give you a few ideas, we asked local running clubs about their favourite routes. From scenic river valleys to challenging stairs to iconic prairie views, there’s something for everyone in the following listings. In addition, all the clubs post their runs on social media so check online for even more ideas. Find IMPACT Magazine on Strava for maps of these routes and more across Canada.
Running Routes In Vancouver
VRC Flight Crew, Kitsilano
The Vancouver Running Company (VRC) Flight Crew offers fun, free group runs on roads and trails. Clare Wilkes, VRC Retail Operations Manager says everyone is welcome and they operate a strict no-drop policy, so whatever your pace, you’ll find someone to run with!
- Stairs on the Beach – It’s worth going a little further afield and using the stairs at Wreck Beach, but otherwise the ones on the north side of Burrard work well.
- Hilly & Fun – In the Kitsilano neighbourhood, VRC Flight Crew recommends either Burrard Bridge for longer hill repeats, or any neighbourhood streets off Cornwall for shorter, steeper blasts.
- False Creek Loop – For a longer flat run, VRC Flight Crew likes to head east along the seawall towards Science World for a loop of False Creek. More distance can be added by heading towards Second Beach pool and Stanley Park.
- Check out that Scenery! – From the VRC store, in Kitsilano, head west to Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks for an oceanside view of the North Shore mountains, or drive up to Pacific Spirit Park for a beautiful trail run.
Forever Young Club, Richmond, B.C.
From slow walkers to fast runners, everyone is welcome in this friendly group of active seniors. They run/walk from various locations throughout Richmond, which is surrounded by the Fraser River and has many dykes making perfect trails and pathways. “We have three main criteria for a meeting place,” says club co-founder John L. Young, “free parking, a washroom and an available coffee shop!”
- Richmond’s West Dyke – Crabapple Ridge Route – This is a flat and fast route along the West Dyke where you’ll have Sturgeon Banks on your left and a view of the coast mountains to the north. The return trip takes you through urban streets and pathways via the Crabapple Ridge Route.
- Richmond’s South Dyke Route – A favourite route for the Forever Young Club – no hills and no stairs, just a perfect winding pathway on the banks of the magnificent Fraser River. The flat and well-groomed pathways are easy to navigate and the scenery is spectacular.
East Vancouver Run Crew
“Our favourite running routes in East Vancouver leave from breweries!” said club member Ryan Chilibeck. “I guess that’s not surprising considering there are 14 craft breweries (and growing) on our side of town. If you ever find yourself on the left coast and itching for a run, look us up! We like new people BUT the first round is on you!”
- Classic East Van Loop – “We love this loop because it allows you to see some highlights of East Vancouver,” says Chilibeck, “We typically leave from Red Truck Brewery and head west along Great Northern Way. You’ll pass the MEC Head Office then hit the iconic East Van Cross. There’s a super interesting area along the train tracks – keep your eyes peeled for some unique sculptures in the metal scrap yards.”
- New Brighton to Empire Field – “For this route, we start at Parallel 49 Brewery and head out along the ocean on Wall Street,” Chilibeck explains. You get some great views of the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver Harbour and the Ironworkers Bridge. Enjoy the loop along the gravel trails in New Brighton Park before heading up to Empire Fields for a lap of the 600 m track. On the way back take a detour through Hastings Park, a sanctuary for birds and wildlife.
Running Routes in Calgary
Wild Moose Running Club
“We are a relatively new running club in Calgary,” says club member Chrissy Kilroe. “Joining is free and we welcome all levels of runners. We start and end our runs every Thursday at the Wild Rose Tap Room in the Currie Barracks. Maybe we are biased but we think the routes are pretty great because they are short, social and end with beer!”
- River Park Run – This route takes runners from the brewery and down through Altadore to the river, where there’s a short stint along the river park before heading up through the neighbourhood. It’s a nice fast downhill run to the river but the route back has a couple of hills and a slow incline… making the return to the brewery even more welcome!
- City Scenes – This fun run takes runners through the communities of Garrison and Marda Loop. It passes through Garrison Square Park with the Canadian Forces Base Calgary monument, and continues along by the shops before heading back to the brewery.
“Week in and week out YYCRunCrew has met at the Lululemon store on 4th Street S.W. in Calgary every Tuesday since 2011,” says club member Raf Lopez. “We’re a free, recreational run group that welcomes runners of all levels, from those training for their first 5 KM fun run to experienced marathoners and triathletes.”
The club offers three, coach-led runs a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from three different locations.
- Scenic City Run – Starting and finishing at the distinctly vintage Simmons Building in Calgary’s East Village, this scenic route takes runners across two pedestrian bridges over the iconic Bow River. The route mixes relaxing green spaces along the river banks with the towering skyscrapers of downtown Calgary.
- Saddledome Loop with Stairs/Hills – Looking to light up those quads with stair or hill repeats? Start at Repsol Centre and hit the Elbow River Pathway heading towards Scotsman’s Hill, deciding along the way if you’d like to blast repeats on one of the city’s grittiest hills on 17th Ave SE (so steep the sidewalk has stairs adjacent to it), or stair repeats overlooking the Saddledome with a spectacular view of the Rockies.
- Elbow River – Starting on 4th Street and 17th Avenue and snaking along the Elbow River, this long run is a relaxing escape from the hustle of downtown Calgary. If you’re looking to get the half or full marathon training miles in, this is the one for you.
University of Calgary Marathon Training Program
To get in some longer runs and maybe train for a marathon, check out the University of Calgary 8-month marathon training program which kicks off its 37th year this March. “The club is targeted at recreational runners, specifically the first time marathoner,” says Ashley Fox, Physical Literacy Coordinator at the U of C.
- The Bowmont Park Frills – The rolling hills and valleys along this river valley park will give your legs a workout while rewarding you with a view of both native prairie grasslands and the scenic Bow River. This route begins and ends on the path behind Shouldice Pool.
- The Glenmore Reservoir – For long, slow training, head to one of Calgary’s most popular routes for running, walking and cycling. The route around the reservoir will take you through the Weaselhead, a natural wetlands area, and the manicured lawns of Glenmore Park.
- Griffith Woods Park in Discovery Ridge, S.W. – For a scenic run in the city, head to Griffith Woods Park, a narrow band of land that winds along the Elbow River. This natural parkland will provide a relaxing break from the typical urban landscape.
Running Routes In Toronto
“The RunningRats are based in the heart of downtown Toronto’s financial district and we offer many runs within the core and out to the east and west ends of the city,” says club member Mike Lin. The Rats are a social, well-organized group of over 100 runners. All of their routes offer 7 KM, 10 KM and 13 KM options.
- Trillium Park – “Among our favourites is Trillium Park, which tours the western waterfront and loops through the city’s newest park – Trillium Park, near Ontario Place,” says Lin. “The return leg passes through the Princes’ Gates and the run features scenic views of the city skyline.”
- Rosedale Valley Road – “One of our favourite routes is Rosedale Valley Road,” Lin says. Starting in the heart of the Bay St. financial district, the route heads north past the posh shops of Yorkville. Then, it drops into the Don Valley, offering a welcome change from the concrete jungle. Up some stairs and returning through Cabbagetown, this route provides a great mix of scenery.
The Parkdale Roadrunners have been hitting the streets of Toronto since 2010. Club member Colin Smith says “We take pride in being inclusive and welcome all levels of runners.” The club runs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. rain or shine and on time.
- Toronto City Sights – This route takes you past many of Toronto’s famous central landmarks, beginning and ending at City Hall. Along the way you’ll pass by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Toronto Campus, the Royal Ontario Museum and then do a lap of Queen’s Park.
- Don Valley Parkway – “Toronto may seem like an urban running environment but there are a few escapes,” says Smith. Starting at the base of Yonge St., head east on the Martin Goodman Trail along the waterfront. Then take a trail system along the Don River to the Don Valley Brickworks – a revitalized industrial site. From there you’ll take the Rosedale Valley Road back into the city, where you’ll find a bit of elevation to challenge you.
Running the Numbers
Runners are a pretty savvy group but here are a few things most runners probably don’t know.
- The average time to finish a marathon world-wide is 4:21:21.Spain has the fastest marathon runners with an average finish time of 3:55:35. Canada is fourth at 4:04:29 behind Portugal (3:59:04) and Luxembourg (4:00:46.)
- Marathon growth from 2009 – 2014 was greatest in Asia at 92.43 per cent and lowest in Europe at 10.30 per cent.
- The proportion of women in marathons worldwide is 29.76 per cent. In Canada that number jumps to 44.42 per cent.
- A survey of Canadian runners who participated in races across Canada, reported an average distance of 37.2K per week!
- We’re a hardy nation: 65 per cent of Canadian runners get out there year round.
- Canadian runners love the 10K and half marathon the most. Only 37.5 per cent said the marathon was their favourite distance.
- Did you know 51.5 per cent of Canadian runners say they sign up for races because they sound fun while 37.1 per cent are in it for the finisher’s medal.
Athletics Canada Survey of Road Runners 2015. Marathon Performance Across Nations by Jens Jakob Andersen for www.runrepeat.com.