An ariel view of the Ohio State University Campus

Columbus Running: Scenic Laps on the Ohio State University Campus

Photo: Espiegle

There’s a lot to see on the massive campus of The Ohio State University, which makes it a great place for a run.

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.

Getting There

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.

Recommended Route

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.

A view of the Ohio State University Campus Photo: Spiroview Inc.

Finish on the 50

The annual Ohio State 4 Miler run is held every October, and the race ends at midfield of Ohio Stadium.

Dinosaurs, Comic Books and Art

If you’d like to extend your recreational visit and make it educational as well, there are plenty of options. The Orton Geological Museum is just off the Oval, and includes the dinosaur remains of a 24-foot-long, 1,000-pound Cryolophosaurus. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum is just east of the Oval, near North High Street, and features a fabulous cartoon collection and rotating exhibits. The Wexner Center for the Arts also has a series of revolving exhibits from well-known artists. Orton and Ireland are free; the Wexner charges admission.


There’s plenty of on-campus parking, but it’s pricey: $4.75 for an hour, $8 for two hours and up from there. There are parking meters on some of the side streets east of North High Street, as well as some free parking farther up these side streets. On Sundays, the meters are free.

Where To Eat

As you’d expect from such a massive college campus, there are a lot of bars and restaurants—many nice enough to demand repeat visits. BiBiBop, where you can build your own bowl of Asian meat and veggie favorites, is on North High, just across from the Oval. Adriatico’s New York Style Pizza is a campus classic, and recently relocated to 1618 Neil Ave. You can also get smoothies and wraps in the RPAC, and the Heirloom Café is inside the Wexner Center for the Arts.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.