This morning as I’m enjoying a little late start to the day due to an unexpected snow day, I just can’t calm the happiness I feel about yesterday’s run. I was so sick of running the same boring routes in my community that it was making me not look forward to my long runs. I simply felt uninspired and bored with the routes. Having also not ran a race yet this year (crazy for me!) I needed something different. Then I came up with an idea that is not so new to me, but easily forgotten-go run somewhere different.
We had originally planned a route that was at a state park about an hour away, but with the inches of rain we were receiving we were not sure what the conditions of the trails would be like and with youth turkey hunting taking place in the park, I wasn’t so sure that would be entirely safe either. Instead the husband and I drove to a nearby city that has miles upon miles of running trails, bike paths, and scenic routes. We visited the city we fell in love in, partied the weekends away in, and hiked the trails of-La Crosse. We thought up a route Saturday night that would highlight some of our favorite spots and running trails.
Sunday morning I woke up excited to run the distance with butterflies in the stomach mixed with some dread (22 miles-eek!) It would be both of our longest training runs. I’ve never ran more than 20 miles training for my previous marathons. Had I not signed up for a 50k I probably would have stopped at 20. I commented to Ryan that it was like we were on a little adventure. We approached the looming 22 miles as just that-an adventure. There would be miles that didn’t feel great, that we would get annoyed with each other, and there would also miles where we would be laughing and smiling.
The route would take us 22 miles out and back and out and back. For those of you who might ever get the chance to run La Crosse these are all great routes below. You could do the whole thing or run a section or two. We parked at Menard’s because it is near the La Crosse marsh trails entrance and in the middle of our planned route. We ran the La Crosse marsh trails to part of the Hixon Forest Trails (here we had to turn around as melting ice and water created an impassable area). I mentioned to Ryan while we were running through the marsh trails that it was just what I needed. The sounds of ducks, birds, frogs. The sights of water, trees, bluffs, and dirt trails. My heart felt full and content. I was at peace with the nature around. Our nature run then took us to the UW-La Crosse campus, past our old apartments to Cass Street where we enjoyed the big beautiful houses before turning around and repeating our route for the most part.
At this point we were back at the car, eleven miles in, to quickly refuel. We then headed out on the La Crosse River Trail in the opposite direction leading us to Riverside Park which borders the Mississippi, past some of our favorite restaurants/bars, to the Cass Street Bridge where we crossed the Mississippi for the first time, to Pettibone Park where we looped around, before heading back onto the sidewalk leading us into Minnesota. Once meeting up with the welcome to Minnesota sign we headed back to our vehicle skipping the Pettibone Park loop. I saw so many runners out doing their weekend long runs. We didn’t talk or exchange conversation, but you can usually just tell a runner on their long run. There was a camaraderie to the whole thing-us runners out doing our long runs on a Sunday morning.
As the Garmin chimed 22 miles (oh, how I love the sound of that chime EVERY time) we high-fived each other and smiled. People in the Menard’s parking lot gave us weird looks as the rain came down, but we didn’t care. We both felt strong at the conclusion of our run and I believe the scenery and change in routes has almost everything to do with it. I mean we were running half the miles (11!) in the rain and it didn’t even phase us much. Part of the fun was also knowing we were going out to eat somewhere local for a meal and a drink after the run.
Our running adventure was just what I needed to love the long run again. So many of them have been just okay. Nothing exciting, got the miles in, and survived to run again. When it comes to running and why I love it though, this wasn’t making the cut. I wanted to love the long run, to get the sense of adventure back, to feel like the explorer I love to be. This long run reminded me that I have complete control over where the long run takes me. I don’t have to run the same routes in town. There are plenty of unexplored trails, routes, bike paths, roads, etc. just an hour away in any direction, but it’s up to me to create my own adventures.
You can bet my upcoming long runs will not be boring or follow the same routes. I’ve found my exploring spirit again and I can’t wait to see what else is out there. I’m already anxiously planning where to complete my next long runs. What new trails can I visit? What city can be explored? Let’s be adventurous. When will you create adventures for yourself?