A runner’s guide to Milwaukee

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Legendary Marquette basketball coach warms up before the annual Al’s Run, now called Briggs & Al’s Run & Walk for Children’s Hospital. JOIN MARQUETTE’S TEAM.

Milwaukee has become a runner’s city. In the last decade, Milwaukee has expanded and enhanced trails, opened a state park on Lake Michigan, and started a race that traverses the iconic Hoan Bridge — just to name a few ways to lace ‘em up.

Fortunately, Marquette’s campus is a short jog from several runner-friendly locales. Here is your guide to running in the city, depending on what mood you’re in.

A version of this tour complete with links to maps can also be found at http://go.mu.edu/RunMKE.

For the nature lover

You’ll feel like you left the city when you step foot on Lakeshore State Park, a peninsula that juts out on Lake Michigan between the Summerfest grounds and Discovery World. The park is an oasis of nature, with paths that meander past a beach and a short grass praire. You may even see a family of foxes that have made their home in the park.

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The Oak Leaf Trail runs throughout Milwaukee County, with the closest segment starting about a mile from campus in Juneau Park. You can take it north for about five miles. And if you’re looking for an extra long run, you can keep running around Estabrook Park.

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If you’re up for venturing off the beaten path, take a turn to the west where the Oak Leaf Trail forks at the Urban Ecology Center (under the big wooden bridge). Here you’ll find a sprawling series of single track dirt trails along the Milwaukee River, where you’ll see fly fishermen and even a waterfall. A word of caution: These trails are well-worn, but they can occasionally be technically challenging and lack signs or markings. Run with a friend and use a GPS to find your way back.

For scenery

If you head due east from campus, you’ll literally run into the majestic Milwaukee Art Museum. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the “wings” (formal name: Brise Soleil) open and closing. Go out at night to see it lit up over flowing fountains.

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Keep going north along Lincoln Memorial Drive, which hugs the shore of Lake Michigan, to see beautiful sunrises, crashing waves and the occasional ice formation in the winter. If you stay next to the lake you can also run through Veterans Park, past the marina, to the red lighthouse behind the Summerfest grounds and under the Hoan Bridge.

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Just south of campus, the Hank Aaron State Trail takes you across the Menomonee River and past such sights as the Harley Museum, the Sixth Street Viaduct and Miller Park.

The Marsupial Bridge is a hidden gem on Milwaukee’s east side that takes you across the Milwaukee River, overlooking Lakefront Brewery. Once you get to the north side, you’re rewarded with one of the best views of downtown.

For people watching

Take a run through the Third Ward during lunch to see the downtown crowd dining on outdoor patios at trendy restaurants. Take the downtown Riverwalk to the Third Ward for extra people watching opportunities.

On the east side, take a jog along Brady Street to see the hipster side of town. Here you’ll see people hang out on the street next to coffee shops, tattoo and piercing parlors and bars. There is also an access point across Prospect Ave between Brady Street and the Oak Leaf Trail.

Along the lakefront, run past Bradford Beach bustling in the summer to see volleyball games going on, rollerbladers, and fellow runners and walkers all over the place.

If you want to stay on campus and people watch, do the Marquette Mile loops around the side side of campus. It will take you past nearly every academic building on campus, from the Law School to Nursing to Engineering Hall.

For the competitor

Need to get some speedwork in? Bring your Marquette ID to get into Valley Fields, where Marquette’s track and field team practices. Do 400 meter repeats while watching the lacrosse or soccer teams practicing in the nearby fields.

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For those looking to do hill repeats, the lakefront has plenty of options. You can run up and down Lafayette Hill and finish at Alterra at the Lake.

Or you could go north and run up the long, twisty Water Tower Hill — or the adjacent sledding hill if you’re feeling particularly masochistic.

Keep going past the North Point Lighthouse in Lake Park — which was designed by the same person who designed Central Park and you can continue your vertical workout on the steps behind Lake Park Bistro or the Lincoln Memorial Drive hill.

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You can also join the Marquette Running Club, which meets everyday at 5 pm at SHAMU (the area between Schroeder Hall and the AMU) to train together. 

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When you’re ready to race, Milwaukee has no shortage of options. If you do one race all year, make it Briggs and Al’s Run for Children’s Hospital, which is named for Marquette’s legendary basketball coach and begins at 12th street on Marquette’s campus. You can get ready to by following their training program.

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Other popular Milwaukee races include Storm the Bastille, the Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole, the Race for the Bacon, the Great Milwaukee race, the Badgerland Striders Lakefront Discovery Run 15K, the Lakefront Marathon, the Brewers Mini Marathon, the Hank Aaron State Trail 5K, the Sausage Race andthe Color Run 5K. New this year: The Spartan Race comes to Miller Park.

These are just the places within running distance of campus. When you venture a little farther off campus via car or bus, you’ll find many more options such as the Menomonee River Trails in Wauwatosa, South Shore Park in Bay View, a gorgeous waterfall at Kletzsch Park in Glendale and beautiful bluffs of Grant Park in Cudahy, to name just a few. Keep exploring.

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Thanks to Children’s Hospital, Alyssa Stevens and Scott Kutcka for help with photos.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?