In the past month or so I have gone on multiple runs which resulted in Robert saying, “You have to take me there!” After thinking about it for a bit I realized that my schedule and current training plan are allowing me to step off MY beaten path and try someone else’s much more often then I used to do. Oftentimes Robert and I will run one of the same five routes that we cycle through although there are countless options of different places around us to run. However as I have recently been trying lots of new places I have come home excited about a four mile run simply because I get to tell him about the new place I traversed as we check the elevation profile, comparing it to other routes of similar distances in the area. I realized how monotonous running becomes and how quickly that can happen for people who then lose sight of the joy running can bring. However exploring new places on foot is one of the amazing benefits of running and breaking out of the normal routine is a great way to spice up your workout, bring some enjoyment/excitement back to it, and help you explore where you live.
No matter how long you live in a place I think you can always find something new to see. My goal for the summer is to try at least one new spot each week to explore the beauty of my city and all the places I will be visiting throughout the next two months. Now I know that there are some reasons why people have to run specific routes. One might be their schedule. Robert runs in the morning before work. At 4:30 AM it is not feasible for him to drive to a trail, run with a headlamp, drive home and then get ready for work. He stays in the subdivisions around our house both out of necessity and safety. He could try other subdivisions by taking the major roads as part of his route, but those roads lack street lights so I am HAPPY he is in a routine. He also tends to run his long runs on one of about five major trail systems around Chattanooga. This is because these are the longest routes and it prevents him from having to make 5 or 6 loops of the same 3 or 4 mile trail. He also likes training on routes he knows have good elevation profiles ahead of time and that are a good technical trail so he will be ready come race day.
Another reason I know that I have gotten stuck running in specific places is for safety. Obviously I like well-lit areas that have people on them when I am running on my own which is why the Tennessee Riverwalk is a a great after school option for me. However the Riverwalk is 13 miles (and hopefully still growing). On a post work run I am usually between 3-5 miles. I have recently started parking in the various parking lots throughout the Riverwalk so that I can actually see different parts of the 13 miles instead of simply running on the same 3-5 mile section each time. I also do get wary about trying out a new trail on my own even if I do look up the distance, elevation profile, and difficulty rating ahead of time. As a trail runner I know how quickly a new trail can turn on me. Especially now that I am pregnant I have to be extra cautious with my decisions because I do not have the ability to simply push myself to extreme exertion and just get through it. However in order to not deter myself from trying out somewhere new I come prepared. I bring my hydraquiver with a full bottle and a few gels even if it is just a four mile loop. I take a picture of the map at the trailhead to be prepared and have something to quickly reference as I go. I take my phone with me- and make sure it is charged just in case. I wear my Road ID in case something ever did happen so people would know my medical history and who to call. I have my Strava recording where I am, and I always tell Robert where I am, when I start my run, and the distance I am trying to achieve. This way if he does not hear from me in a reasonable time he at least knows where to start looking for me if something ever happened. In all the years I have been running there has been ONE time that I needed to take advantage of the “safety features” I prepare myself with. That entailed me getting lost at the Chickamauga Battlefield on the main road and simply having to look at my route on my Strava to ensure I was going in the right direction to get back to my car. Robert and I also talk about actually paying for Strava Premium simply so that we can live track each other when we are running independently… we’re still debating but I would not be against being able to see that he was still moving on a long training run up on a mountain by himself.
Now please do not take this as encouragement to stop in a questionable area of town at 11 at night by yourself and go for a jog. However find some encouragement to step out of your comfort zone and stop by that park you have to drive by anyway on your way home from work to go for your run instead of the one next door to your house. You may just find a new restaurant or store you really want to try out (after you’ve showered of course), a piece of artwork that you would have never noticed while driving by in traffic, or a sign that makes you laugh. Bring some joy and excitement back to your workout by trying somewhere new.
Here are some of the places I have explored as of late. If you are ever in the Chattanooga area and are looking for a place to run this will give you a basic overview of some of my new (and old) favorites.
April 20th: Booker T. Washington State Park Trail System (Highway 58 on the way home)- I ran a four mile loop, but there are multiple single track trails here that range from beginner to intermediate and total 7.3 miles if you do them all. Elevation gain was 299 ft. with a max elevation of 799 ft. Love that this is only a 15 minute drive from home.
April 25th: Stringer’s Ridge Trail System (Northshore of Chattanooga, right by school)- It’s about a .25 mile run to and from the car and about 3.5 on trails. The trail directions switch for bikers and runners throughout the week to keep the trails in good shape so be aware. There is definitely a HARDER direction to have to run in (and I have heard it is the same experience from my mountain bike friends) . This run was the more difficult direction and I ended up with 626 ft. of elevation gain with a max elevation of 1,000 ft.
April 28th & 29th: Monte Sano State Park (Huntsville, Alabama- really close to downtown)- This was for the stage race we completed. Stage 1 was 12.5 miles on the beautiful trails with 1,256 ft of elevation gain and a max elevation of 1,4442 ft. Stage 2 was 15 miles with 1,191 ft. of elevation gain and a max elevation of 1,627 ft.
May 14th: Enterprise South Nature Park (Exit 9, next to the Volkswagen Plant)- I did a five mile route while Robert completed 12 miles that day on the same trails. There are numerous trails throughout this park which was preserved (we are not sure who pays to maintain it) by Volkswagen when they built the plant in Chattanooga. There are numerous picnic areas throughout the park for families and a whole mountain bike section. This is also a ten minute drive from our house which makes it great. We did have to run across a HUGE snake on this run though which scared us like no other so be careful!! In my 5 miles I accumulated 527 ft. of elevation gain and a max elevation of 992 ft.
May 20th: Cumberland Trail System Mushroom Rock to Edward’s Point (Signal Mountain)- The Cumberland Trail system is supposedly 210 miles long however not all of it is currently connected. The part that is on Signal is around 15 miles point to point. From Mushroom Rock being the high school to Edward’s Point (arguably one of my favorite views in Chattanooga) it is about 4.25 miles so it equates to an 8.5 miles out and back. This is a technical single track trail for sure, but is runnable most of the time. When we ran it the other day though the overgrowth was somewhat bad (Robert had a tick on him by the halfway point) and the amount of fallen trees across the trail made it pretty difficulty to traverse. If you come at it from Signal Point (another gorgeous place to look at the River from the mountain) you have to descend a ridiculous set of stairs (if you can call them that) which I am not a huge fan of. Elevation gain was 2,040 ft. with a max elevation of 1,775 ft.
May 24th: Wolftover Greenway (Collegedale / Ooltewah Area) Found this awesome path that was right behind Wolftover Elementary School and literally ran me right into the Collegedale Veteran’s Memorial Park on my way home from school last week. It was a four mile paved loop that was really well kept and trafficked. Someone did warn me (thanks Nicole!) that there was a bear recently around there so definitely going to have to keep an extra eye out if I head back there anytime soon. With only 38 ft. of elevation gain and a max elevation of 791 ft. about ten minutes from the house I think this will be a good place for me to go with the running stroller in a few months!
May 27th: Bay Point Loop Trail (Harrison Bay State Park) About ten minutes from the house is this four mile run right along the water but yet still on trail. Only 23 ft. of elevation gain with a max elevation of 727 ft. but a great trail system that had multiple hikers and a few mountain bikers on it with me.
May 30th: McCoy Farm Tail (Signal Mountain) This is a one mile gravel loop right on the mountain between Anderson and Taft if you take the W road. I walked three laps with Mamma Kitty and we got up to 189 ft. of elevation gain with a max elevation of 1,975 ft. It would definitely be a great place to do trail mile repeats if you are looking to improve trail speed specifically.
As you can see I have been exploring new places as much as I can lately. I hope you will too! Let me know if you have found a gem recently. Stay safe out there on your next adventure. Happy running!