Restaurants and sports arenas may be back in business, but international travel still poses a big question mark. As the U.S. Department of State puts it this way: “Global COVID-19 conditions are dynamic,” with some foreign visitors doing well while others encountering unexpected testing requirements, travel restrictions and quarantines. It’s no wonder many of us plan to hold out until traveling far away feels safer and more predictable.

Aside from 2020, an anomaly in almost every way, there has never been a better time to stay home and advance on your bucket list. This option is particularly attractive for runners; You could spend a lifetime exploring all of the highly touted trail networks on US soil and barely scratching the surface.

So that you can get yourself moving before planning a trip, you will find a compendium of five running hotspots that would make an enviable summer vacation for every type of runner – regardless of whether you are an ultra runner looking for extreme highs, a marathon runner, who is preparing for an autumn campaign, a cross-country or track and field athlete who lays the foundation for the coming year, or just a leisure jogger who longs for a change of scenery. For each destination, I’ve added tips from insiders on running, refueling, and taking with you whatever gear you left at home. These goals are only a tiny (and well-known) fraction of your options, so think of them as a launch pad rather than a shortlist.

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Boulder, Colorado

Of all the cities in the United States, Boulder, Colorado is possibly synonymous with long-distance running. Legions of champions have settled here – from Frank Shorter and Uta Pippig to Scott Jurek and Emma Coburn – and it’s also home to the legendary CU Buffs cross-country program and a handful of professional groups. With an elevation of 5,328 feet and easy access to much higher training ground, it’s high enough to take advantage of all of the advantages of altitude, but not so high that quality workout is impossible (if you’ve acclimated yourself of course). Combined with the extensive network of trails, year-round sunshine, casual college-town vibe, and proximity to Denver International Airport, Boulder is a must for anyone who enjoys running. As a professional marathon runner who has lived in Boulder for the past five years, I show visitors here:

Run: Davidson Mesa, Magnolienstraße, Bobolink way, Mesa path, Boulder reservoir
Eat: The Buffalo and Walnut Cafe for brunch; Dish gourmet and Shaman’s bakery + café for lunch; Rayback collective for beverage and food trucks; Rosetta Hall and Next food & drink for dinner with a view; Cute cow For ice cream
Drink: Boxcar coffee roaster and Precision casting for coffee; Dushanbe tea house for an art / architecture spectacle and an extensive selection of teas; Avery Brewing Co. and Sanitas Brewing Co. for drinks
Gear up: Walking in motion, Runners’ quarters, Boulder running company

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Flagstaff, Arizona

If any city can win Boulder for its money, it is Flagstaff, the mountain town in northern Arizona that has become a hub for professional and recreational runners over the past decade. Not only is it a home base for groups like NAZ Elite and Dark Sky Distance as well as individuals like Sara Hall and Molly Seidel, its inclusive club culture and weekly bagel runs make it just as inviting for casual runners. There’s a reason Flagstaff attracts so many athletes, both for permanent residence and for temporary training sessions; Its network of trails is touted as one of the best in the world, and its nearly 7,000 vertical meters work wonders for those ready to get down to work. As a bonus, Sedona (at just 4,350 feet above sea level) is less than an hour’s drive away, so you never have to stray too far from race-specific speeds or warmer weather if you want to. Matt Llano, op Distance to the dark sky Professional, coach and broker, this must-do list for Flagstaff guests offers:

Run: Aspen corner, Flagstaff Urban Trail System, Buffalo Park, Soldiers path, A1 mountain loop
Eat: Tourist home all day cafe, The roasted owl, The Oakmont, MartAnnes Breakfast Palace and Biffs bagels for brunch; prize and Brothers Pizza for pizza; Diablo burger, Pato Thai, shift and Asian broadcaster for dinner; Sweet business for dessert
Drink: Too late for the train, Firecreek Coffee Co., Stand cafe and Macy’s European Coffee House for coffee; The appendix, Mother Road Brewing Co., Dark Sky Brewing Co. and Hops on birch for cocktails and brews
Gear up: Run Flagstaff, Run Sedona

bend oregon runs

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Bend, Oregon

Not so long ago, Bend, Oregon was a well-kept secret that was popular with athletes but was not very popular outside of the area. No more! The population of Bend has grown steadily and a strong community of endurance athletes is growing with it. At 3,623 feet, it is the lowest “altitude” point on this list (if you can call it that), making it more conducive to shorter training rides than some higher alternatives. But even if you have several weeks to spare, it’s a worthy running goal in every way. Located on the Deschutes River in a high desert landscape, with lakes, mountains, caves, volcanoes and seemingly endless multi-purpose paths, it is the stuff of every nature lover. Plus: its bouncing beer scene, numerous coffee and dining options, and a sunnier climate than the rest of Oregon make Bend a popular destination for almost everyone. Carrie Mack, a marathon runner who Littlewing athletics, suggests the following for travelers heading to Bend:

Run: Shevlin Park, Upper Deschutes River Trail
Eat: Farmers market in downtown Bend for fresh local products and agricultural products (Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.); Midtown Yacht Club for food trucks and beer; Good ice cream for dessert
Drink: Lone Pine Coffee Roaster for coffee (and waffles); Beer pharmacy for artisanal brew
Gear up: Foot zone

Austin Texas is running

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Austin, Texas

Running is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Austin, Texas. Longhorns Football, Austin City Limits and Franklin Barbecue – sure. But running? Surprisingly great! Hillier, quirkier, and freer than most of the other major cities in the Lone Star State, Austin also has nicer infrastructure to run around. A busy loop around Lady Bird Lake, a handful of green belts, and winding trails outside of town make it an attractive option for those looking for a vacation that combines running with lots of culture, a serious food game, and no altitude acclimatization. The Texas heat is no joke, however, so plan on exercising early and spend the rest of the day exploring your surroundings. Mitch Ammons, an Austin-based track and road runner, shares these insider tips for the out of town:

Run: Lady Bird Lake Trail (formerly known as the Town Lake Trail); After your run, schedule a swim in the Barton Springs Pool
eat: Counter café for breakfast, Veracruz All Natural for tacos
Drink: Greater Goods Roasting for coffee, SaftLand for smoothies
Gear up: The loop running supply

Mammoth lakes run

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Mammoth Lakes, California

It’s a challenge to reach and an even greater challenge to run, but Mammoth Lakes, California (elevation 7,881 ‘) is well worth the effort for a summer training trip. Despite being a small mountain town, over the past two decades it has become a mecca for long distance running Mammut Track Club to date 14 Olympians, 64 national champions and 29 American records – including the Olympic medalist Deena Kastor, who still lives with her family in Mammoth. Aside from its rich running heritage, the natural beauty of Mammoth Lakes (crystal clear lakes, dense forests, and breathtaking mountain panoramas) is hard to beat. There are plenty of running options near town and more if you’re ready to venture out a little. Bishop, for example, is much lower at 4,150 feet and is only a 45-minute drive away. Here are some personal favorites from the summer I trained in Mammoth:

Run: Shady quiet park, Mammoth Rock Trail and See Mary (and other lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin)
Eat: Stellar Brew & Natural Café burritos for breakfast; Toomeys for eating from breakfast to dinner; Blue market & kitchen for sandwiches, ready meals and more
Drink: Black velvet for craft coffee; Mammoth Brewing Co. for beer flights
Gear up: Footless sports

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