Running in Nashville: A Quick Guide for Visitors

Nashville Post Card / Southwest Airlines mural

Do any of you Salty readers have country music on your iPod? How about a road trip to Nashville?

I put a few thousand miles on my legs while living in Nashville earning my M.S. from Vanderbilt. Although deservedly famous for the music scene, Nashville has a great running community as well!

Whether you’re there to stay or just there for a short trip, I’ve got the skinny on the best way to have a great time running through Music City, America!

Break Into the Community

The Nashville Striders are your best resource for group runs and races. The Striders organize the majority of area races and do so perfectly; even most of the 5ks are certified. Check out course maps on the website. They also organize free training runs with water stops leading up to the Country Music Marathon. Nashville runners are extremely friendly; although I went to races and training runs solo I always ended up socializing with a group. Check out the Striders’ message board if you’re interested in a running buddy during your trip. The East Nasty Running Club is another resource for local runs, with a regular Wednesday evening group run.

Find a Great Route

The second half of the 11.2 route features downhills steep enough to require switchbacks and warning signs for the cyclists.

Now that we’ve covered the who, let’s talk about where to run.  I’m not going out on a limb to say that Percy Warner Park is a must-run. Lace up your shoes for 11.2 or 6.8 miles of serious hills. Don’t miss the add-on for Luke Lea Heights — on a clear day there’s a fabulous view of the Nashville skyline!  If you’re really brave, the Flying Monkey Marathon in November covers 26.2 miles of these hills, but you better also be pretty lucky since the race sells out quickly. Percy Warner Park is located in the nearby suburb of Belle Meade and is well worth the short drive.

Campus trees provide much-needed shade in the summer months.

If you don’t have a car to drive to Percy Warner, don’t worry, there’s great running routes in the city proper. Vanderbilt University campus is an official arboretum and a great place to hit the ground running. One loop of the campus is about 3 miles; add on the one-mile paved loop at Centennial Park to check out the life-size model of the Parthenon.

Just east of Vandy, keep an eye out for country music celebrities while running past all the record labels and recording studios on Music Row.  If you’re in town to see stars, this is where you’ll find them!

If you’d rather stay closer to the honky-tonks downtown, there are several greenways along the Cumberland River. Cross the pedestrian bridge to East Nashville to run the Shelby Bottoms greenway. It’s flat — and as a native Ohioan, you can trust me when I say that.

The Country Music Marathon (April) is undoubtedly the best-known Nashville race, but here’s a few of my personal favorites:

Get Your Gear On

Finally, shopping! There are three local running stores in Nashville: Team Nashville, The Athlete’s House, and Nashville Running Company. Look for the water jug in front of the Athlete’s House on your trots near Belmont University!  Of course, the local running store is good for more than just purchasing gels, socks, and the shoes you forgot to pack; check them out for information on group runs and races as well.

Keep in mind that, like most small businesses in the South, the stores are closed on Sundays, and races and long runs are generally on Saturday rather than Sunday as well.

Any Nashville runners out there? What would you recommend for runners visiting your city?

*And if you would like to write a Salty Running guide to running in YOUR city, contact us!

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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  1. Nashville is one of my favorite cities for a weekend getaway! I will definitely keep your list handy. I have run in Centennial Park before, and it’s neat to see the Parthenon during the sunrise.

  2. The Parthenon is so striking, isn’t it? So funny to have such a giant structure like that. Have you been to Percy Warner Park?

  3. Nashvillian here, I can second recommendations for Shelby Bottoms! I also like to add mileage between lower Broadway and Centennial Park on the weekends. Much of downtown has next to no traffic on the weekends, making for a great opportunity to site see on foot.

  4. I lived near Vandy and never made it to Shelby Bottoms often enough. Love downtown Nashville, too. Thanks for that recommendation, Jackie!

  5. This is really comprehensive! I was gonna do a running guide to Nashville for Salty, but you nailed it. The only thing I even *could* add is trail running suggestions, but I’m not a trail runner and hardly know where to go!