One of the most fun yet challenging parts of increasing my weekly long run for my half marathon training is determining my running route. I have only lived in my town for a little over 2 years now so I’m still finding new streets to go down and new areas to explore. I will drive to sections of the rail trail for a change and also throw in some of my old running routes from my high school cross country team days. I like variety as to avoid boredom but sometimes it’s just easier to run a familiar route.
After 2 weeks in a row of running the northern part of the rail trail into and through John Rudy park I knew I had to try something new yesterday. I already have a 6 mile loop from my house through town and to the more rural areas and back. I often rely on Google maps to see what roads connect to my regular loop. This ensures I don’t get lost (I don’t run with my cell phone so no GPS to reference) but doesn’t indicate how challenging a route may become. It also doesn’t accurately determine the mileage. I did sign up for MapMyRun yesterday but after several attempts at trying to create a 10 mile course I became frustrated as I kept coming up short. I decided to just expand on my 6 mile loop by running farther down the one road to a different road that ran parallel to my usual turnoff and throw in some jaunts down no outlet roads to tack on some extra. Having rode my bike on the rail trail the day prior for 21-22 miles I figured as long as I ran over 8 miles it would be sufficient for the week.
I ran out the first road until it came to a dead end then turned around to pick up the second road. This road has a lot of uphills and downhills in it which helps to engage my different leg muscles. I turned off this road to run down a “rich street” (seriously I think some of the garages were almost the size of my house) until I reached the dead end then returned back to my main road. I passed my usual next road and continued free fall running downhill into a new area that I had never explored. It became very rural which I always enjoy as the roads I run don’t always have wide shoulders and the more rural the area the less traffic on the roads. I turned onto a new road and continued passing farmland and fields. I was approaching my next turn when up ahead I saw a German Shepard outside of the house at the corner.
I will stop right here and say I have always had a fear of dogs. Part of this is likely due to being bitten in the butt by a sheepdog at a very young age; I’m fortunate to not remember the incident but it still left a mental scar apparently. Trick or treating was very scary for me as anytime I rang a doorbell and heard a dog barking it was immediate panic for me. I had a friend in high school who had 3 very large dogs, one of which wasn’t very friendly, and I required him to put them in another room before I would enter the house. I have progressed a great deal as I’ve gotten older and I don’t have such a deep fear of dogs anymore fortunately.
That being said dogs are still one of my biggest fears as a runner. The moment I hear a bark, whether it’s coming from a tiny Chihuahua or a friendly Golden Retriever, my heart races and I immediately locate the nearest car that I could jump on top. Luckily I’ve never had to actually jump on a stranger’s car, but believe me when I say I would do it rather than risk being bit. Even carrying pepper spray I don’t trust it to stop a dog from attacking me.
So back to the German Shepard. I couldn’t see anyone in the yard with the dog nor could I tell if it was tied to anything. There was a swing set in the backyard indicating that children lived in the home, but that just concerned me more as I know German Shepards can be very protective. I know many people love that breed of dog but to me it is one of the scariest looking ones out there. I was torn between wanting to continue on my new route and running the risk of the dog coming out on the road after me.
Caution prevailed and I decided to turn around and retrace my steps. By retrace I mean begin running back that road to my main road which then become an uphill climb. I wasn’t prepared for this climb mentally as I had already mapped the route to include a different challenging hill. Once I reached my former turnoff road I turned on that and was grateful for the slight downhill grade to allow my legs to recover before tackling the next hill. The bottoms of my feet began to burn which was an unusual experience for me and at that point I no longer cared how many miles I accumulated but rather just wanted to finish the run. I had worn my water belt to stay hydrated but was still disappointed when I stopped by the high school stadium to get a drink only to find the bathroom was locked. With only a few streets and turns left until home I mustered up some strength and focused on finishing the run.
As I was coming down the alley behind my house I look at my watch and saw I was at 9.82 miles. This is what a runner would consider a mental challenge. Do I just turn into my property no matter what the mileage or do I continue on to hit that official 10 mile mark? Maybe it was just pure stubbornness to say I ran 10 miles that day, but I ran part of the street parallel to mine twice just so that when I finally turned on my street and touched my yard my watched beeped for the 10th mile.
My planned running route certainly didn’t go as I thought it would, but I suppose a runner needs as much mental flexibility as he or she needs it physically. I guess I have that doggone German Shepard to thank for ensuring I reached my original 10 mile goal.