Just before I headed out to run today, I commented to Margaret that I was a little bored with my 5-6 mile run options from the house. As every runner knows, having some key routes is critical. Fortunately, Peoria has a large number of very fine options for everything from short recovery runs to hill workouts to good old 20 milers. Moreover, I am lucky to have a wealth of options right out my door, including several solid courses in the 5-6 mile range. But, as most every runner also knows, even the best routes can get a little tired. This is especially true when, in the case of my go to 5 mile recovery run, I have ran it over 30 times in the last six months.
While other days I might have explored a new street or two or even drove out to a trailhead to change up the routine, today I went right back to that well-traveled loop. Closing the door behind me, I let my legs unwind beneath me and quickly settled into a nearly hypnotic and totally calming rhythm. In this state of reverie, and since my body already knew every curve and pothole, my mind wandered to some of my favorite running routes.
In my experience, and I think that of many other runners, thoughts of runs past have an incredible power to summon memories, almost transporting me back to different times and places, even to the point of recalling emotions, dreams, and states of mind. But the best thing about this transcendence is that the reminiscences are always positive. Now don’t get me wrong, the traumas, crises, embarrassments, struggles, and failures of those times all come to mind along with the achievements and fun. However, when I think about the negatives, what comes to the fore are the ways I processed these experiences and ultimately grew through, even because of, them. So, my favorite runs become touchstones for recalling the past and, at least as importantly, processing the ways my history made me who I am. Of course, the routes I recall fondly are also beautiful and, quite often, challenging.
Here are five of my favorites:
- The Avenues – breathtaking views from atop Palos Verdes, cool Pacific breezes, a mid-run water fountain on Trump’s golf course, and more than 1000 feet of elevation gain.
- Whirlpool Trail – a pine-needle covered dirt trail that was practically out my backdoor in Oxford, frequent opportunities for wildlife sightings, always a few degrees cooler even in the most hot and humid Mississippi days, and well-used, but never crowded.
- The Capoolon Creek Trail – a creek-side rails-to-trail that provides shade in the heat of the summer and wind protection during the worst of the winter, a couple road crossings break it up and allow the opportunity to be seen by passing drivers as the crazy runner disappearing into the forest…all in Jersey
- La Luz Trail – a tram offers the opportunity to get ferried to the top or miss out on the knee pounding descent, but the hardcore runners just go up and back. fabulous views of Albuquerque, trailside snow well into the summer months, and the good chance of seeing some bears. but, best of all, you will pass numerous hikers who are struggling up the mountain and will think you are absolutely insane.
- South End 8-Miler – a perfectly flat route to the end of Long Beach Island, turtle sighting possibilities throughout June, passing friends and tourists all summer long, and nary another soul in the off-season.