Flamengo Park - 4km
Slightly hamstrung by the fact that it is not a good idea to take a well-earned dip in the sea afterwards (it sadly remains heavily polluted), Flamengo beach and the park that runs along its length are nonetheless beautiful places to get some exercise. From the first rays of sun they come alive with pre-work games of volleyball, frescoball and futvolei, teams of OAPs practising Tai-Chi, and swarms of joggers and cyclists.
Start on the southern end at Porcão restaurant for a little inspiration and follow the path through the trees set just off the beachfront. The route, with handy measured markers every hundred metres, curves to and from the beach front, taking you past football pitches and a skate park before you reach the curve of the Marina da Gloria. From there you sweep around the boats towards the World War II memorial and the tomb of the lost soldier - a good place to stop for a breather or utilise the handy ‘roundabout’ to sling you back the way you came.
So as not to retrace your steps exactly there is always the beachfront boulevard route after the Marina which is plenty wide enough to accommodate all the runner/bike/pedestrian traffic and is a little more direct (read shorter) than the park’s winding path.
Leblon-Ipanema-Arpoador - 3.7km
Runs the Lagoa a close second for the most popular jogging route in the city, and it is easy to see why. Cruise along the most beautiful urban beach among the beautiful people that frequent it. Anyone still lacking the necessary get up and go has all the inspiration that they could need as shiny torsos and expensively-sculpted physiques parade at their chosen pace with the Atlantic waves crashing alongside.
Particularly popular at sunset, Sundays are also a very good idea as the closing of one lane of traffic creates valuable extra space - just beware the motorised skateboards. Also has the benefit of being a decent-sized loop of around 7km from wherever your chosen start point is along Ipanema and Leblon.
Lagoa - 7.5km
The loop of choice for many Zona Sul runners, the Lagoa is almost a perfect 7.5km yomp, a good length for knowing you have had a serious bit of exercise without killing yourself in the process. Again marked out at 100-metre intervals so you can keep a check on how far you have left (the Cantagalo ‘indent’ can be deceiving just when you think you're done), the views are spectacular and you get to skirt four different neighbourhoods on the way.
Don’t be afraid when the path takes you inland around the helicopter port and towards the roadside, it is only a temporary break from the scenery. Be prudent at night as not all of the route is well-lit and there are occasional reports of assaults along the path, but it isn’t as if you are planning on wearing the family gold on your run anyway right?
Copacabana-Leme - 4.5km
The inviting sweep of beach makes for a fine workout, and a hefty 9km run for those determined to go there and back. Begin early morning at the Sofitel Rio just by Copacabana Fort and have the sun come up over your right shoulder, bathing the entire beach in sunlight. Take in the comings and goings of the various international hotels along the route finishing with the mighty Copacabana Palace, and then, depending on the day, feel either envy or pride as you pass the staggering stragglers coming out of the Copa nightclubs and squinting at the morning light.
Peace returns to the route after Avenida Princesa Isabel, from where you can concentrate on Sugarloaf Mountain overhead and the prospect of a dip at the end of Leme, where the bluest of waters sweep invitingly in off the fishermen-laden rocks.
Praia Botafogo-Urca loop - 7km
Not so well trodden, the Urca loop nonetheless provides much to see for the distractable runner. Begin at the end of Praia Botafogo and although the start may be a little car exhaust-heavy, once you descend onto Avenida Pasteur things lighten up and the cooling air of Urca takes over.
From here there are two options depending on your energy levels. First is to carry on to Pista Claudia Coutinho on the left hand side of Praia Vermelha, a 2.5km round trip that takes you on a light and scenic little jog along the back edge of Morro da Urca that won’t stretch your stamina levels too far. Alternatively, just before the end of the road take a left onto Rua Ramon Franco and find yourself running between the historic neighbourhood’s quaint houses and laidback locals. Continue round the headland and past the small beach onto Avenida São Sebastião until you finally reach the water’s edge again.
Try not to be distracted by Bar Urca and its various fried delights and instead head back along the front with Guanabara Bay and the Niteroi Bridge over your shoulder. Past the small beach once more, hit Avenida Portugal and go up over the small bridge past the quaint mini-marina until you return to Avenida Pasteur and take it back towards Botafogo Beach and a good long sit and stretch off watching the boats emerging elegantly from the yacht club.