Is Your Community Runner Friendly?

Recently, Cilantro pleaded with her town’s government to make her town more runner-friendly – even just sidewalks would be an improvement! If you had a chance to build the ultimate runner-friendly community, what would it have?

  • Off-road paved trails?
  • Natural trails in the woods?
  • Marked routes with distances?
  • Bathrooms?
  • Drinking fountains?
  • Sidewalks?
  • Lighting?
  • Call boxes?
  • A great running club?
  • A lot of races?

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has a Runner-Friendly Community designation for communities that these meet criteria and others in three areas: infrastructure, community support and government support.

Infrastructure refers to: network of sidewalks, multi-use trails, paths, share lanes, etc.; pedestrian networks which allow a person to complete 3-10 miles of distance, either continuously in one direction or through a loop course; a running track that is maintained, well lit, and open to the public; water fountains along a trail or pedestrian network; bathrooms; available parking near a trail or path system; trails/paths maintained year-round with snow removal in winter; and emergency phones on pedestrian networks and pedestrian networks well-lit after dark.

Community Support means the area is home to one or more nonprofit RRCA running clubs whose mission is to promote running as healthy exercise and a sport; nonprofit running club is working in collaboration with both public and private organizations to support and promote running throughout the community; has a specialty running store along with other runner friendly businesses.

Government Support: officials work closely with the local running community to secure race permits for safe and desirable racecourses with a reasonable permit pricing structure; race permits issued for preferred course locations and dates; local government should not impose excessive liability insurance requirements on the running community; law enforcement is a positive partner in event planning as opposed to a roadblock; law enforcement proactively supports pedestrian rights, address complaints about pedestrian safety including monitoring dangerous intersections; no to low reports of crime on pedestrian networks with runner/pedestrian safety measures in place and areas patrolled regularly by law enforcement; community actively promotes physical fitness, including running, as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The RRCA names Runner-Friendly Communities every year. The designation doesn’t mean that these communities are running nirvanas, but they are doing pretty well.

Indianapolis, my hometown, was named the RRCA Outstanding Runner-Friendly Community of the Year for 2016. It was a great opportunity for the community to be recognized at the RRCA convention in Detroit and then for Indy Runners to present the award to the Mayor of Indianapolis (who is a runner) at a club run in the early summer.

Living in a Runner-Friendly Community, I enjoy:

  • Having a great local running community, with training programs and resources
  • Choosing from a variety of races nearly every week
  • Running on pavement, gravel, grass, natural trails, or a track
  • Having the ability to run hills or flat courses off road
  • Being able to run any distance on a connected network
  • Access to group and individual/private coaching
  • Opportunities for free or paid cross-training

What can you do to make your community runner-friendly? Is it ready for recognition?


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1 comment

  1. Interesting! I’m in a big city and we’re very runner/cyclist friendly here which is awesome.

    We have lots of multi-use paths along rivers and canals, which is amazing three seasons of the year. We have one that is reasonably plowed and salted in the winter, which is awesome considering the snow and cold we get. The city is also putting in more pedestrian foot bridges and cross walks to make it even easier for people to access these trails by foot or by bike. There are fountains all the way along (though only open spring/summer/early fall due to freezing). Our city hall (downtown) is open early on the weekends so it makes a great bathroom or water pit stop during long runs.