Wednesday, November 3, 2010

John: Road Trips Revived: A Running Road Warrior's Top "Run Stops"

Like many Americans, I am constantly traveling from coast to coast for business. Because of the many small town I visit and the rather short distances between them, I spend a great deal of time in my car.

Recently, my business has required me to travel the eastern seaboard. As an avid runner and fitness enthusiast, I've found a great way to exercise and stay fit while on the road. I regularly research running trails either online or through local parks and recreation departments and find trails that are right off the highway! Not only am I able to explore new places on foot, but it is a welcome break during my long road trips.

I've spent a good amount of time on I-95 in the past year. Being cramped in a rental car for long periods of time is certainly hard on the body. Seeing the sign for the Palmetto Trail when I pulled over for gas one day gave me an idea. Why couldn't I plan ahead and fit in a run on these trips? I decided to start leaving a little extra time so I could stop and check out some of these opportunities. There is simply nothing better for refocusing your energies and priorities than jogging outside, taking in the fresh air and sounds of nature. This interstate has a lot to offer as it meanders from Florida, through the Carolina lowcountry, the Virginia countryside and continues north passing within easy reach of many quaint New England towns. Whether Palm Trees and Live Oaks in South Carolina or golden cornfields in Virginia, there is certain to be scenery that will take your breath away. Though I have visited many, here's a short list of some great "run spots" I've explored on my treks on I-95:

Virginia: James River Park This park area is built into the city/urban area as a nature area for the residents to enjoy. While not exactly the raw nature that I crave and usually go for, it does have its charm in being a very pleasant piece of manicured nature inside of the city. The trail runs along the James River Waterway where you can observe fishing and small recreational boats. There are great views of the city skyline and a run at sunset allows you to watch the city light up in preparation for the night to come.

Virginia: Powhatan Trails (Wildlife Management Area) Virginia is interesting because instead of numerous national parks, they have an array of wildlife management areas. This trail is approximately 12 miles long with a variety of scenery. It begins in the forest and then opens up to wetlands and fields filled with large hedges. I was fortunate to not only see a woodpecker but I was lucky enough to also spot a Buck in the distance during my run.

Florida: Retro River Run (Jacksonville Area) An old friend and fellow runner took me on this route while visiting Florida. It's a city trail, which I usually don't prefer, but this route crossed over three bridges to two different sections of Jacksonville so I was able to see a lot of the Historic City. The trail starts appropriately at the statue of “the Runner” and goes down the Acosta Bridge. After two miles it loops back around Main Street Bridge. In total, this is a four mile city loop which allows you to observe the interesting and intricate architecture the city has to offer.

South Carolina: Palmetto Trail (Capitol City Area) South Carolina is home to the Palmetto Trail, a combination of trails in the state that run across its entire length. This section was by Capitol City; a good 7 mile trail that's a lot easier than its nearby cousin, the heavily wooded Fort Jackson Trail. This is a paved trail which uses the sidewalks of downtown Columbia. There are trail heads laid out that will guide you through different neighborhoods of Columbia as well as historical sites such as University of South Carolina and the State Capital Building grounds. And of course, if you are really ambitious you can follow this trail east to the sea or west to the mountains!

Helpful Tip: Purchase a small portable GPS with a “create a marker” function, so you can mark where your car is and also mark the path you took. That way you can find your way back if the trail ends up being a little to rough or underdeveloped. Though I don't rely on other electronics, such as heart monitors, timers, or even watches, if you're exploring a new area you should be prepared. Besides being a great way to squeeze in a workout, jogging in new areas is also an excellent way to kill time when the inevitable traffic jam hits!

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