The best running paths in Boston and pointers for the novice runner

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A runner out in the heat by the Charles River. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A runner out in the heat by the Charles River. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

As part of our biweekly series “Be Well,” we’re exploring pathways to personal wellness. This week, we’re looking at shaking off what might have been a more sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic — and embracing running. Home to numerous city parks, historic neighborhoods and the Common, Boston is often ranked one of the best cities for inspiring new runners to hit the street.

We invited a running medicine expert and an organizer of a local running club on Radio Boston to take listener questions on the best ways to start running — for sport, for fitness and for fun. Dr. Adam Tenforde, medical director of the Spaulding National Running Center, and Benjamin Lipiecki of The Most Informal Running Club, Ever shared with us what we need to get out and hit the streets today:

Below are highlights from their conversation, which have been lightly edited.

Interview Highlights

On running for beginners: 

Tenforde: "The first thing is that running can be enjoyed by a majority of Americans. And if you're not used to doing the sport or you have any health concerns, just [talk] with your regular doctor to make sure there aren't any other medical issues that need to be considered as you introduce a new form of physical activity."

"It's nice to start with areas that might be a small loop so that, if you are feeling overly fatigued, you have an opportunity to take some recovery. Nice, even surfaces, scenic areas. A lot of people like to run outside, but making sure that it's a safe area where you're not at risk for motor vehicles getting in the way, where you have good visibility and then wearing clothes that make you visible, particularly if you're running at times that are darker during the year."

Lipiecki: "Honestly, as long as you can get out that door, get a good pair of shoes on a comfortable outfit, go for that run."

On the mental health benefits of running: 

Tenforde: "A lot of a lot of runners will describe a phenomenon known as a runner's high. And we don't exactly know why that happens. It's actually been postulated, though, that there's a number of neurochemicals oftentimes that overlap with some of the signals associated with managing anxiety and depression."

"We're continuing to live with this COVID-19 pandemic and being able to physically be active can really have a lot of natural ways of helping the brain and the mind to cope and for people to deal with stress relief. That's why we believe that physical activity is so important. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, as long as there's no underlying health issues that limit ability to participate in physical activity."

On managing pain and injury while running: 

Tenforde: "Well, if it hurts, don't do it, because that oftentimes becomes a barrier for people continuing to enjoy a sport that can be safe."

"Understanding what is good pain versus bad pain can be a little bit of a challenge. In general, if the pain is is mild, in that 0 to 2 out of 10-scale, if that pain improves with physical activity and is getting better as someone continues to advance the amount of running they do, it should not necessarily be a cause for concern."

"We do recommend taking some precautions if pain is getting progressively worse during a run because that could represent a more serious injury, such as a bone injury, or perhaps could be a sign that there's an underlying injury that needs to be addressed first before continuing to advanced running. Or if someone is running in a way in which they feel they're compensating — for example, they're starting to feel their other knee hurts because they feel like they're leaning a little bit differently on their affected side."

On finding motivation for running: 

Lipiecki: "Strava is always a good one. There's a good social aspect to it. I have a lot of friends on the Garmin app, but I can't speak highly enough of joining a physical running club, seeing people in person."

"One of the things we do on our Thursday night runs is pick a different spot to run every single week, and that way you get to mix it up. The variety is the spice of life, spice of running, too."

On their favorite running paths: 

Lipiecki: "I have to give it up for the rivers around Boston, running around the Muddy River, it's a gorgeous park. Olmstead, you got the history right there, too. But my personal favorite is along the Charles River. If you go to Nonantum, circle over by Community Rowing. You can do a nice little loop through Watertown and Waltham. Got trees on top of the sun. You don't have to worry about it. Lots of, you know, waterfalls and stuff."

Tenforde: "I love running on the Charles as well. I also live on the South Shore, so getting into the Blue Hills and getting some of those trails and shade, especially during the the summer months."

This segment aired on June 29, 2022.

Headshot of Aimee Moon

Aimee Moon Newsroom Fellow
Aimee Moon was a newsroom fellow at WBUR.


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Carrie Jung Senior Reporter, Education
Carrie is a senior education reporter.



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