I’m off this week to Cleveland for the North Coast 24 Hour Run with ambitions to set new world age records for 12 hours and 100 miles. Since running the Leadville Trail 100 back in August, I’ve transitioned to focusing on running at tempo on flat paved surfaces. While to many this may sound boring and misguided given how beautiful our Wasatch trails are in the late summer and fall, I can tell you that I’ve discovered a couple of gems right here in Salt Lake City.
|Runners in Liberty Park, SLC|
First I’ve discovered, or more accurately rediscovered, how great Liberty Park is for running. The wide concrete sidewalk circumnavigating the park almost exactly replicates the North Coast 24 course in distance and in grade. It has been the perfect place to run while trying to teach my body to run at a 7:42 pace. No faster. No slower. Just one speed no matter how good, bad, tired, bored or broken I feel. In addition to being a great NC24 approximation, there are myriad amenities to running in Liberty Park – water, bathrooms, runners to chase (but only at a 7:42 pace – no faster), and amazing people watching. Can I exclaim – “What a great scene!” From drum circles, to scantily clad roller-bladers, to displays of antique cars, and even an occasional appearance by Darth Vader on a skateboard – every loop is both a discovery and an adventure.
I’ve enjoyed reflecting on how the Park has changed over the past 30 years. Before rediscovering the Park earlier this year, my image was that of when on a whim I decided to see if I could ride 400+ miles in 24 hours on a bike when I was in college. For 24 hours I rode round and round Liberty Park. Back then there were not the concrete barriers that make it difficult to make complete loops. It was kind of a seedy place and after dark it was definitely sketchy. Few people spent time there like they do today. Oddly, my most vivid memory was being very hungry in the wee hours of the morning and asking a friend to go to McDonalds and get me a Big Mac with fries. Not only has the Park changed over the years, so has my diet!
|Jordan River Parkway - Photo SL County|
The other gem I have discovered is the Jordan River Parkway path. Running approximately 42 miles from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake it provides a diverse snapshot of the Salt Lake Valley – from wetlands and marshes to industrial parks with surprising interjections such as an Islamic Center, TRAX depot, golf courses, a canoe dock, and myriad parks. For my final long training run I ran from “Lake to Lake” (at a 7:42 pace of course) and committed to making this an annual run. The diversity of people I encountered, the majesty of the mountains both to the east and to the west, reminded me (as if I need reminding) how lucky I am to live in Salt Lake.
So if you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to mix it up. While I think we all agree that we have some of the best trail running in the country here in the Wasatch Front, don’t forget that we also have some other amazing running opportunities. If you have a special “alternative” running gem that you think others would enjoy, please share…
And, good luck to Christian this Saturday who is running the Virgil Crest 100 in New York. Best wishes for an enjoyable and brisk run!!