By Bruce Andriatch
This is the time of year when everyone from novice to elite runners are hitting the road to prepare for the dozens of road races approaching on the calendar.
What they have in common is the constant search for routes that will fill their distance needs – some days they might need to run a mile, some days, they might need to run seven – without falling into a boring routine.
The question is: How?
Here are some things you can do and places you can go to make sure you’re accurately piling up the intended miles while staying interested in the journey.
If you’re already serious about running or are just getting serious, you probably have dropped more than a hundred bucks on a pair of sneakers. If you can afford another hundred or so, consider a device like the Garmin Forerunner, which looks like a bulky wristwatch but tracks time, distance and pace. Spend more money and get even more features and never again wonder, “How far did I just go?”
You’re not really a Western New York runner unless you have put in some miles around the meadow in the region’s recreational hub. A lap in the park is 1.8 miles, so whatever distance you need, divide by 1.8 and that’s the number of laps it will take.
A trip to The Ridge in Orchard Park will tell you if you’re as strong as you think you are. The upper route is a gently undulating 2.4 miles. The lower portion is about 5.3 miles and is a constant reminder that the word hill is only one letter different from hell. (Wear your Garmin here because depending on twists and turns, your mileage may vary.) The highlight of the lower is a “hill” lovingly referred to as Big Mother, which is so steep as to defy description. Don’t worry about wondering which hill it is. To paraphrase U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, your legs will know it when they’re halfway up it.
People training for marathons are regulars at The Ridge, but even 5K trainees can benefit. (Note: Ridge Runners are happy to share other routes of varying distances near the park. Whatever your mileage need, just ask one of them.)
The Ellicott Creek Trailway
Commonly known as the UB Bike Path or Bike Trail, it’s 5.2 miles of some of the prettiest Northtowns scenery around, occasionally interrupted by overprotective Canada geese. The fully paved trail – which is clearly marked in tenths of a mile – runs from the tennis courts at North Forest and Maple roads, through UB, to Niagara Falls Boulevard at Ellicott Creek Road and includes several wooden bridges that span Ellicott Creek. Unless you’re planning to finish where you start, you’ll need a ride back to your car.
The above staples of the local running scene share two other desirable traits: lots of people use them, which means you should always have company during daylight hours and should feel relatively safe; and there are plenty of parking options so you don’t have to live nearby to take advantage of them.
If those are not for you, here are some other possibilities:
• mapmyrun.com. The website does pretty much what it advertises: It allows users to map their runs. Go to the site, register, enter your ZIP code and you’re off to the races. The site looks like a Google map, but the cursor becomes a tool that allows you to draw lines down streets and trails, counting the miles as you go. It is amazingly accurate and a great way to diversify your routes.
• Take a drive. Runners, especially those starting out, often begin to take note of how far routine car trips are. It’s 2.5 miles to the supermarket? There and back could be your 5-miler. Or go around your block once. On days when you want to stay close to home, do a few laps.
• Go back to school. Many area schools keep their tracks open to the public or, at the very least, don’t prohibit people from using them. The track around the old stadium on the North Campus of the University at Buffalo is one example. Track runs might not be the most thrilling, but you can be almost positive that a lap is a quarter mile and the newer, rubbery track material will give your feet and knees a much-appreciated break.
On the Web: What routes do you like? Tell us about them on Twitter at @BNRefrsh.
Related: It’s five weeks to the Corporate Challenge – get training! See Page 10