This city within the city of Columbus, with more than 100,000 students, faculty and staff, encompasses about three square miles and includes several iconic sites, many connected to football, which hardly comes as a surprise. But there’s a lot more than football here.
OSU is a couple miles north of downtown Columbus. The traditional heart of the campus is located between North High Street and the Olentangy River, although the campus is expanding across the river and farther west at a rapid pace.
Start this run just east of North High Street, past the entrance to the Wexner Center for the Arts (art museum), at the eastern edge of the Oval. The Oval is a large field of grass, trees and paths that’s a gathering place for students. Before you start running, take a moment to check out the long wall/bench between the art museum and Oval. There’s something magically auditory about curved concrete. If one person stands at one end of the wall and whispers “O-H,” the person at the other end can hear it quite clearly, and is required by Ohio law to respond with an “I-O.”
A lap around the outer edge of the quad is about six-tenths of a mile. After a lap, head down the center of the quad, toward the big statue of William Oxley Thompson, president of the university from 1899 to 1925, and the namesake for the large library directly behind his statue.
Circle around the library, heading down the road (west) in front of its entrance, toward the tall (26-story) Morrill Tower dormitory off in the distance to the right. En route, you’ll pass two world-class athletic facilities: the McCorkle Aquatic Center on the left, the Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC) on the right. Go down the steps, make a right turn and then a quick left, and run between the tennis courts. When you emerge from the courts, there’s a large field with football yard markers. But this is not the football team’s practice field—that’s across the river. This is the practice field of TBDBITL (The Best Damn Band in the Land). They really are damn good, and, if you’re lucky, it’s football season, you can watch the 200-plus members go through the paces of one of their intricate, fast-marching formations.
Past the practice field, turn right (north) and run through Buckeye Grove, where a tree is planted in honor of every one of the storied football program’s All-American players—meaning there are a lot of trees here. A veritable forest of Buckeye legends. Once through the grove, you’ve arrived at the famed Ohio Stadium, or the “Shoe.” It opened in 1922, was the first horseshoe-shaped, double-decked stadium and seats 102,780 scarlet-and-gray-clad fanatics. A lap around the stadium is about half a mile.
After completing a lap, head east up the street/hill. Head toward the large, red-brick chimney. This road is Annie & John Glenn Avenue, named in honor of the famed astronaut-turned-U.S. senator and his wife (the John Glenn College of Public Affairs is located just off the southeast corner of the Oval).
Head back to the Oxley statue in the Oval, then a little to the south and down the steps for a lap around Mirror Lake. This is perhaps the most quiet, peaceful and picturesque spot on campus. There’s a student tradition (superstition) that jumping in the small lake during the week before the football game with hated-rival Michigan will bring the team good luck. University officials frown upon it for good reason (swimming in the shallow waters isn’t permitted otherwise). The OSU community also frowns upon saying the word “Michigan,” and instead calls it the “team up north.”
After the lap around Mirror Lake, head back east to where you started. This equals a 5K run. If you’d like to add more miles, you can do multiple laps around the Quad or the Shoe.