I am not giving up cycling. I just thought I should put that out there in advance, so as not to cause a panic and a rush for the doors. People get crushed that way.
I’ve become increasingly attentive to the prospect of running more to get in better shape. Due to my advanced age and the literal decades of abuse I’ve heaped on my joints I have discovered that running on dirt is much easier on my stems than is running on asphalt or concrete. I know, I know…riding a bike is easier than running on anything but bunny fur. Refer back to the very first sentence in this post.
Anyway, I live near the Daniel Boone National Forest; specifically and nearestly to the Red River Gorge Geological Area. The RRG has dozens of miles of trails of which I have hiked and ran relentlessly for over 20 years now. Until recently my trail running has been limited to the Tunnel Ridge Road area and Whittleton Trail. My earlier trail running exploits occurred when I lived in two different locations in Slade. When I lived near Tunnel Ridge I ran there, most often out Auxier Ridge, and when I lived in Slade proper I most often ran Whittleton.
One interesting (to me anyway) sidebar story was the time I biked from the business where I lived at the top of Slade Hill out Tunnel Ridge so I could run the Auxier Loop. I locked the bike somewhere in the woods and did the run. While I was out on the exposed ridge a storm blew in. I had to hold out under a rock ledge for a while, but finally was able to get back to my bike and pedal back to the store where I discovered drifts of gumball-sized hail. Providentially no hail fell where I was running.
I enjoyed running Whittleton Trail in rainy conditions. It seems every time I ran there it was crazy muddy. These days I think I’d be less likely to run in such condition to spare my ankles. After my sprain back in the winter I’m much more cognizant (read: less stupid) about trail conditions and try to avoid surface situations that would cause me more grief and whining.
My thoughts of late turned to the possibility of mountain biking in the RRG if the Shutdown/Apocalypse were to trend on toward infinity. I know, I KNOW…not a good example and technically still illegal. I ran a few miles of the Sheltowee Trace recently, and as I ran I recognized that the same factors that drew me to mountain biking as a form of proprioceptive therapy also manifested when I ran on trails.
In fact, the experience was so similar I found myself pondering hiking in with a chainsaw to clear some of the more obstructionist deadfalls along the way. But the movement of pounding out a trail that has good flow came close to having the same benefit as riding a bike along a similar trail. There was definitely a significant difference over just simply hiking a trail.
I’ve blathered on this long about this to say this: I fully intend to go back and revisit as many of the trails in the area as I can as a runner in the next 20 or so odd years of my life as I possibly can. Outside the Gorge area where I can ride I will probably just keep cranking away.
So why running? I was a cross country runner my freshman year of high school. I romanticized it too much I guess, but I did enjoy running through the woods. I think those times I ran trails in the late ‘90s I was probably more romanticizing the experience than truly taking advantage of it. These days I need the physiological therapy and these trails are close by. I’ve also discovered that running even on rough trails isn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be.
I get bored on the road easily, and it does honestly bang up my knees to run on hard surfaces where running on dirt hasn’t yet. With this ongoing Shutdown/Apocalypse the temptation to go ride the excellent trails in the RRG has been overly strong. I can legally run these trails for a new and novel experience where hiking them for me is just the same old same old. Gives me a new lease on my lifestyle.