Every runner I know has a favorite place to run. It could be beachside during the annual trip to the OBX or in the mountains of Colorado where they ski each winter. Perhaps it's through a state park or national monument area. Or it could be one of those forbidden runs, where you sneak onto a closed roadway that's under construction before dawn.
We runners catalog places we enjoy running like most people catalog items in their retirement portfolio or "must visit" restaurants. And contrary to what you may think, these runs may not always revolve around a trip out of town/state/country.
I personally have two "favorite run" lists. List #1 is the list of unique destinations that I may or may not ever have a chance to revisit. These are those surreal, can't believe I'm here places where the running is almost imperceptible.
List #2 contains those places I seek out locally or regionally as either scenery busters or for some other specific purpose.
Part of the intrigue of running is where it can take us. And by "take us," I mean both mentally and physically. Sometimes where you are in your brain is better than where you are in your body. On a boring, regular 5-mile loop, that brain thing oftentimes helps influence the run into a positive experience that it might not otherwise be. Runners don't like to be bored. Pool running is boring. Roads, tracks and trails are not, IF you go in with the right mindset.
Those other-worldly runs can't happen unless you're physically able to get there. Back in 1999, my father and I were in Seward, Alaska. We had a whale-watching trip planned for mid-morning, but first I needed to run. Mount Marathon is located in Seward (Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage) and rises 3,022 feet from Resurrection Bay. There is a famous trail race up and down the mountain (it's just over 3 miles), so I decided to run the course. It took me nearly an hour to run the course (about 15 minutes of that was the descent). You bet it's on my favorite list!
Other List #1 runs for me include a 10k race in Reykjavik, Iceland, the 11-mile loop road in Cade's Cove near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the 12-mile battlefield tour road at Saratoga Springs Battlefield in New York and (don't let my wife read this) an 8-mile run into a super-cell in Omaha, Nebraska. No tornado, but plenty of rain, wind and lightening.
My List #2 runs are those runs that serve me some purpose in my regular training and are places I love. These are the places that I go to when I need a "go to."
Valley Forge Park, the C&D Canal, the GW Parkway south of DC, Bellevue State Park, and Creek Road outside of Newark all serve that purpose for me as regular, local favorites.
Page 2 of 2 - Lately I've become a bit less adventurous and will look to change that in 2014.
If you don't have a favorites list, I challenge you to come up with your own. Strapping on the trainers can have so much more meaning when we are in a place (mentally and physically) that challenges our senses and gives us an esthetic return far beyond what the daily 5-miler can do. Running south of the canal can have some challenges for that "favorite local" list, but I know one runner who loves to run Money Road because there are llamas somewhere out there. It's probably easier than you think.
Just don't neglect the daily 5 either. Without those, I would have never made it to the top of Mount Marathon and the llamas would never have been discovered. Remember, without fast food, good food is just … food.
Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andrew Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer.