Running is one of the most stimulating ways to start the day, affording early morning runners the chance to glimpse the sorts of magical moments that arise from striding through the parks or along city avenues as dawn breaks: the sight of galloping horses in London’s Hyde Park, the sun sparkling on the water at Biscayne Bay, Miami, or locals gracefully performing tai chi against a Hong Kong harbour backdrop.
Joggers are also well aware that the first step out of the door is often the hardest one, particularly when it means leaving a snug hotel bed for chilly streets. But anyone who has run regularly in the great cities of the world—Tokyo, New York, London, Hong Kong—knows full well that the effort is worthwhile. To stride through an urban landscape at sunrise, before the population stirs, is a deeply rewarding experience.
Some of the most glorious international running courses are located within minutes of Mandarin Oriental hotels, where the concierges are able to offer suggestions on the best routes, whether it’s a modest five-kilometre jogging path or, for the super-fit, a 15-kilometre around-the-city circuit. For travellers arriving in a new city, running offers the opportunity to capture the beat of the street and the rhythms of everyday life along the way, and serves as the perfect alternative to a power nap, freshening up the body and mind.
The two downtown Mandarin Oriental properties in Hong Kong—The Landmark and Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong—are within easy reach of the leafy Bowen Road, a completely flat, five-kilometre pathway that offers a panoramic view of the entire harbour skyline, with the nine mountains of Kowloon (Kowloon translates as nine dragons) in the distance.
In Japan, culture comes with the territory when venturing out from Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. Completing a circuit of the trails around the imposing, moat-encircled Imperial Palace is a favourite of runners, including novelist Haruki Murakami. Anyone lucky enough to visit the Japanese capital in the springtime will be treated to the added bonus of witnessing the blossoming cherry trees and striding across a carpet of pure pink petals.
Mandarin Oriental, Paris is mere minutes from the venerable Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre. Individuals with the endurance for longer mileage can trek across the cobblestoned promenade of the River Seine, continuing around the Eiffel Tower and back. The City of Lights also hosts a marathon and half marathon, and in October it puts on a fun contest, the Grande Classique, which starts at the Eiffel Tower and winds its way for some 16 kilometres through the suburbs to the Palace of Versailles, the infamously extravagant home of Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette.
Hitting the paths of New York’s Central Park, you might even run into one of the celebrities who live nearby. Mandarin Oriental, New York overlooks this great green lung of America’s most cosmopolitan city, a park that hosts the final stretch of the annual New York City Marathon. The runners have to wind their way through all five city boroughs, and by the end, even the gentle slopes of the park can seem like mountains for racers completing this 42-kilometre feat of endurance.
And Hyde Park, in London—located on the doorstep of Mandarin Oriental—is where the triathlon took place during the Olympic Games in 2012. At all times of the year and throughout the day, this green expanse bustles with athletic activity, from cyclists to Frisbee throwers.
Other destinations have different incentives for guests to lace up their trainers and head outdoors: Mandarin Oriental, Prague is situated in the historic old quarter of Malá Strana, whose quaint medieval buildings and narrow cobbled streets makes for a charming run; Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona is the perfect starting point for a jaunt down to the Mediterranean Sea; the riverside walkway close to Mandarin Oriental, Shanghai has views across to the historical Bund promenade; beach and oceanside runs are easy to catch when staying at Mandarin Oriental, Miami; and a night run from Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, along the Strip dazzles with neon light.
It might be a little tricky to secure a place in the world’s oldest continuously run marathon, held annually in Boston since 1897. But there is nothing to stop Mandarin Oriental guests from plotting their own mini-marathon through the lush urban area, which is especially magnificent in the autumn, when the trees are decked out in the season’s ubiquitous golden-red glow.
Marvelling at such wonders of nature can help steer the mind away from aching limbs and revive flagging spirits. Runners heading back to Mandarin Oriental hotels have an extra incentive to speed home: the option of a visit to The Spa for a soothing and restorative massage.
A version of this article was originally produced for Destination MO by Condé Nast on behalf of Mandarin Oriental and not by the Quartz editorial staff.