Thursday, November 11, 2010

Local Running Trails Are Often Underappreciated

This weekend I ran at Robert Allerton Park in Monticello, IL (that's a picture of the main house to the left).  It's owned and operated by the University of Illinois and has a series of trails throughout the park. Most locals know the "mansion" side of the park with the big house, fancy gardens, and many sculptures.  This north side is quite nice...and there are trails through much of the landscaped a bit of more primitive single-track trail.  In fact, this side of the park hosts the local running club's Allerton Park Trail Run (held each October). It's a good race and these trails are worthy of a few runs.  This weekend, I skipped the north side "fancy trails" and ventured to the "south side" of the park and ran 12 miles on the Schroth Trail.

More often than not, when at Allerton, I run the more secluded south side of the park that hosts the "Schroth Interpretive Trail."  The Schroth trail has three interlaced trails that when combined create a nice 6-mile "outside loop" or about 8 miles if done in a figure-eight pattern.  Less people venture to this side of the park, so you feel more alone and in touch with nature.  It's quiet. The terrain is mostly double-wide dirt trail with gentle rolling hills through forests, along a river, and across a couple of open prairie areas. Perfect for long runs or tempo-paced speed work.  None of the hills are long or steep so you can maintain a good pace for the entire run...but still get some variety.  A map with directions to the south entrance of the park--and the location of the Schroth trail parking lot, can be found here.  The park is free and open to the public.

I encourage you to find local trails and run them.  You may be surprised at the under appreciated resources that lie in your backyard.  Within an hour of my home, I have access to several state and county parks with wonderful trails.  Sometimes I get lazy and run the roads, bike paths, and trails in-town, but forget about the opportunities that are just a short drive away.  Why am I so eager and excited to drive 3-4 hours to do trail races when I can drive 30-45 minutes and have great local runs?  Except for lacking the extra race atmosphere, my regional trails are awesome and I don't have a reason to leave them for a far away race.  I'll be back to Allerton Park soon.


janak said...

I like that trail especially in winter months. In warmer weather it has the nastiest bugs of any trails in Central Illinois!

Chris said...

It does get bad in the summer. So let's get out there a lot this winter! Glad to have you back in the country. We may still have a few barefoot days left this year.