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A Run in the Park

By Robin Mayes, Farm Educator
I log a lot of miles on city streets and sidewalks, but by far my favorite places to run are within parks. Because I work for Preservation Parks I have the advantage of being close to nice trails every day. Even though our park system doesn’t have any extremely long trails, we have a nice mix of surfaces that present a pleasant running experience.

I normally work at Gallant Farm, and on many days at 5 p.m. I shift from my 1930s oxfords to my New Balance Minimus shoes. The adjacent park, Gallant Woods, offers a variety of trail types – paved, gravel, grass and even a primitive “adventure” trail (my personal favorite!). The paths flow through woods and prairies and over wetlands. The primitive trail has the added features of downed tree trunks and other natural obstacles to keep your run interesting. I must admit I have gotten up close and personal with the ground more than once on that trail!

Not only does the running itself within the parks bring enjoyment, but so does the anticipation of catching glimpses of unusual flora or adorable fauna! An encounter with wildlife can bring a smile to your face AND to your heart. This summer I had the privilege of watching twin fawns grow large as they accompanied their mother in the evenings to visit one of the small ponds near the northern edge of the park. Twilight in the woods can be truly magical. I sometimes feel as if I have been transported to the planet of Endor! I never tire of seeing the fiery sunset glinting through the trees or the moon rising in the eastern sky. There is a great horned owl that can often be coaxed into a brief conversation even though my owl imitation is truly terrible. What a hoot! Ha ha!

A mile or two of trail per park is the norm, but you can still get a good workout and even train for a big race with a little repetitious running. A few from the local running community regularly use the Gallant Woods trails to prep for ultras. (An ultra-marathon is any race covering a distance greater than 26.2 miles) One tenacious runner spent several hours on multiple Saturdays this summer training for the Olde ‘96er, a point-to-point race of more than 100 miles from the Ohio River up to Lake Erie. Another couple of runners covered the trails multiple times getting ready for a 24-hour race. Twenty-four hour runs usually take place on a one-mile loop track and the goal is to run around it more times in 24-hours than anyone else.

But you don’t have to run the PPDC trails to enjoy them; we have many loyal walkers, too. I can think of two right now who hardly ever miss a single day, covering 3 to 4 miles at Gallant Woods and around the loop through Gallant Farm.

Blues Creek Park offers a couple of miles of trails through woods and meadows with a sledding hill for added elevation. The glacial ridge trails of Char-Mar Ridge Park can be challenging, and Deer Haven Park takes you through various habitats and offers some stairs and a creek crossing. There’s no doubt we have unique opportunities for running here in Delaware County. In addition to the combined 16.1 miles of trails within our county parks, we have two fabulous state parks, a fantastic metro park and numerous city and township parks. Even a portion of the Ohio to Erie Trail passes through the county. Of course, I feel the most “at home” in MY parks.

Recently, a month-long stay at the Cleveland Clinic with an ill family member was an unsettling reminder of how much we as humans NEED the outdoors and how much I, personally NEED to run daily in that environment! The Cleveland city skyline looked beautiful as I ran laps around the upper floor of the parking garage, but those well-lit skyscrapers cannot compare to the massive old oaks surrounding the prairies of Gallant Woods Park.

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