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In Praise of Favorite Running Routes

Favorite Running Routes

By Cathy Engstrom

My kids learned a long time ago I don’t have many favorites. On long road trips they would spend hours asking one another in rapid fire, “What’s your favorite book, ice cream flavor, movie, smell, cartoon character, color, dinner?” But when they questioned me, I would ruin the mood with, “Well, my top ten favorite meals are…” And they’d roll their eyes and tune out. It’s hard for me to pick favorites! I can’t narrow down all the options to just one.

Except my running route. I do, indeed, have a favorite running route. Just 25 minutes from my house, the Palmer Trail is a 6 mile loop of pure bliss. And every single time I cover it, ninety minutes later I am left delighted, fulfilled, and drained (in the best possible way).

It’s not an easy route. Not by a long shot. The first mile and a half climb a steep, rocky 1,200 feet. For you non-altitude people, that’s the equivalent of the Empire State Building. It provides a lung-busting, glute-scorching warm-up. Once I’ve ascended (sweating buckets and sucking in air like I’m breathing through a straw), I take a minute to soak up the sweeping vista speckled with the red rocks that make up part of Colorado’s front range. Then I offer a prayer of thanks to Mother Nature, take the trail across the ridgeline, and begin the long, steady descent. Other than a few tree roots, it’s a smooth single track that winds back down to the bottom. There are endless trees that block the intense August sun, a small, bubbling waterfall, the sharp smell of pine, and the occasional mountain biker who gives me a thumbs up and makes me feel like a rock star.

What makes this route my favorite? It’s the place that makes me feel like a true b*d*ss mother runner. The challenge of the first mile makes me mentally unload my deadlines, parenting problems, job concerns, and self-doubt the minute I press start on my Garmin. They’re history before I even take a step. There’s no room for them on my favorite trail. Instead, there’s only space for important reminders to myself: I can do hard things, I like getting out of my comfort zone, and I can finish what I start.

A favorite doesn’t have to be the prettiest trail or have the hardest hill or even cover a certain distance.

For my friend Cleary, it’s the lighthouse along the beach a block from where she grew up. “The lighthouse is such a constant for me,” she told me. “It is the place I breathe best in the entire world.” Her favorite is even more sacred these days, as she can only access it when she travels back to her hometown.

For Lynn, it’s a literal circle around the Rose Bowl in California. “What may seem monotonous and boring to some brings me peace and balance. Without having to think, the miles tick by.”

For Cynthia, her favorite route features a piece of history. “It’s a battlefield that feels like a magical path with its tree-lined street. I don’t get to go very often anymore, but when I do, my brain turns off and I just get to be in my run.”

And Jess says, “There’s been something cathartic about walking my simple neighborhood route. I can get lost in my own thoughts, sorting out life right now. Or I can let my mind wander as I admire landscaping and front door colors.” I can’t help but agree with her.

A favorite is a favorite because it’s yours. My wish for you is that you will be able to visit your favorite route very soon.

And if you don’t yet have a favorite? Well, you’re in the best position of all.

Because it’s out there, just waiting to be discovered.

We want to know: What's your favorite running route?

4 responses to “In Praise of Favorite Running Routes

  1. Thank you! very well written.

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  2. I’ve run the Zooma Amelia Island 12k twice just for the route. It goes through Ft. Clinch State Park and the tree canopy gives shade and is just gorgeous. The first half of the race is very hilly(for FL) but it ends coming through the state park, which, by the way, is my favorite place to camp. And then the finish line is within view of the ocean. Running down the country road back home in IL in front of my grandmother’s house and surrounded by corn fields a close second. And finally…running anytime I visit Disney.

  3. My favorite loop is a 7 miler called the Fricke loop along a ridge in Westmoreland County. It’s a very hilly run and the sound of the brook running along the left side of the downhill allows me to think I’m running downhill.

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