If you live in or travel to Charlotte, NC I would strongly encourage you to enjoy a trail run at the US National Whitewater Center (www.usnwc.org). On a Saturday afternoon, the Whitewater Center is a party – rafting, ziplining, rock climbing, mountain biking, beer, live music, food carts, and tons of people watching…it is a lot of fun. But if it is peace, quiet, and solitude you are looking for there aren’t much better places than 6am on a Wednesday at the Whitewater Center!
If it is your first time, I’d recommend the Lake Loop, a relatively easy 3 mile jog in the woods around a couple of small ponds. Make sure you finish the loop and run all the way to the whitewater channel to see the sun coming up near the water (see above). It is unlikely you’ll encounter many folks at USNWC at that time of morning and this morning I was all by myself with the exception of a few frogs, a turtle, and some birds. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had in awhile and it reminded me that I need to make time for those types of runs more often.
If you’ve never done a trail run, but you are a runner, I would strongly encourage you to try the trail. When you run on the trail you need to slow down (your pace will likely be one and a half to two minutes slower per mile), shorten your stride (so that you can ensure you don’t slip, fall, or trip on the things in your way), and pay attention (unlike the sometime mindless run on pavement, you need to watch where you put your feet down and focus on the twists and turns of the trail). Trail running is a great way to cross train both your legs and your mind because it works different muscles as you aren’t going to land the same on any two steps (be sure to stretch hips and ankles especially before and after); it also requires a concentration that forces you to focus on what you are doing in a way that will really help you relax when you get back to the road.
I don’t trail run as much as I’d like now, but every time I do I wish I did it more. There’s nothing like a run in the woods to clear your mind and start your day right. Today was a great start at the USNWC.