Keeping Your Running Fresh and Then Some!
We all run for many different reasons. Most of us consider it fun. However, at some point, most people find that running becomes just too routine or boring. So how do we keep it fresh and fun? Well, getting faster and testing ourselves is one way to keep it exciting. Hence, many people will add speed work or do new races or try new distances (marathons, ultra’s etc..). Many of these ways involve extra money and even some extra anxiety. However, I recommend a different way to keep it fresh and add adventure—do your long runs on weekends a couple times a month on new trails and routes!
Finding the trails is as exciting as running them. DuPage, Cook, Lake, and McHenry Counties all have many trails that are not too far away and allow for many miles of safe running for your long runs. In DuPage, some “must-do” destinations include Herrick Lake and Waterfall Glen Forest Preserves. In Cook, you have Palos Forest Preserve, Busse Woods, Paul Douglas, Tower Road, and Bode Lake Forest Preserves just to name a few. Lake County has many options but if you haven’t tried St. Mary’s or Independence Grove Forest Preserves, they are a must! The Des Plaines River and the Fox River Trails are also great options for running. For a hilly loopy run, try Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry County.
Going a little further out, remember that you can also drive downtown or take a trail and run along the Lake in Chicago! I have found it easy to run very long runs while watching the lake, skyline, and people downtown! In addition, Rock Cut State Park in Rockford has many miles of trails as well.
If you want to venture over the border, Wisconsin has many great destinations. Peninsula State Park is an epic running destination in the Door County Peninsula. There are many trails in the South Kettle Moraine State Park system (Nordic, Scuppernong, Lapham Peak) and some of these are fairly challenging! The glacial Drummond, mostly paved, Trail is a rails-to-trails path that runs from Waukesha to Madison.
When you’re traveling and need to do a long run, it’s always a good idea to look for colleges. I often target college campuses to run around. It is always neat to check out the campus jogging around on foot and exploring. You will tend to see a lot in a 3-5 mile run and they are usually safe places to run. Many have trail systems that connect the college or university to the community. It is also fairly easy to find a bathroom and water fountain, if the need arises.
Many of the aforementioned places usually hold races throughout the year so it can be fairly easy, after a bit of Internet research, to get an idea of running loops and distances.
However, please keep in mind that not all of the places I’ve mentioned are easy running trails; some have big climbs and off-camber trails so make sure you do your homework before heading out. Ask around since there is a good chance someone knows about running in these areas and can give you some guidance. If not, drop me a line—I pretty much have run, or biked, most known trails in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan!
Lastly, I just wanted to mention: For those of you who haven’t run much on anything other than pavement, you are missing out! Running on trails is not only fun but can also help with your strength and agility and even keep you from overuse injuries. After a long Summer of running on the road, it’s a good idea to mix things up. Especially with Labor Day approaching and possibly some fall Marathons on the horizon, now is the perfect time for a day trip or even a weekend gateway to one or more of these places. Fall is a great season to run so get out there and explore those trails!