I am not a runner. Let’s be clear on that from the start. I run, yes, but I run as a ways to get to the end … to the end of a triathlon, or to the end of my weight issues. But does that mean I am a runner? Some would say yes, but I have never considered myself one. What I do believe is that I am more common than those that do call themselves runners, and in this I am uniquely qualified to write on a favorite run, even though that term is an oxymoron to me.
When I choose a place to run it is more often than not based on what my team is doing that day … so that can vary from a short run through a neighborhood close to the bike trail at Suncoast Trails, or it can be a 7 mile loop around Flatwoods, or it can be a nice, cool saunter down Bayshore Blvd in Tampa (the run I was going to write about but decided against at the last minute). All great places to run, but when I am asked “what is your favorite place to run?” I have to go to the most convenient place, the place that I can get to easily, and I know like the back of my hand. So, that has to be Nature’s Way in Valrico, FL.
Valrico is a small town east of Tampa. It’s quiet and out of the way which is why I chose this area when relocating from DeLand in 2002. Nature’s Way is a local road about a mile from my house. The loop is 4.1 miles, half of which is well shaded by oak trees. I usually started from a small park called Bloomingdale East and head right. The first mile is open with no trees, but has benches at .25 miles and .54 miles (not needed now but when I started running these were Godsends). It’s a straight course where you need to watch for vehicles coming in and out of housing developments, but not so much that it affects your pace. After a little more than a mile, right where Alafaya Elementary is located, you hang a right and are met with a gently rolling run through tree lined streets and well manicured areas. Another bench is there at mile 1.3 if needed (across from a very nice duck pond. Easy to get “lost” here if you let your mind wander), but if not it continues until you meet Nature’s Way again. This stretch is tree lined as well but has a nice little “climb” right before mile 3 … a climb by Tampa standards. Just enough to get your heart rate elevated a bit.
Once the trees stop it’s about another mile back to the park. This affords the ability to stop and get some water from your car, or keep going for as many loops as you can do. This morning I ran 2 loops and then back tracked for another 3 to finish up the plan. It’s a really nice area to run in I have found. The people have been very friendly, and although I mostly just see runners and walkers here, I noticed for the first time a number of cyclists doing the loop.
I will be trying this soon as well. 🙂
The mere fact that I can write about a favorite run is a big difference for me. It is well documented in this blog that I am not a good runner. It’s not that I don’t like it … well … I don’t like it … but that’s probably due to the fact that I am so bad at it. There are days when my run is good, where my feel feel light, my heart rate is controlled, and I feel like I can go forever. These are rare, though they are coming with more frequency now. I may never turn into the type of runner that can go sub 9:00 pace for 26 miles, but I am trying to get where I can run enough not to totally destroy any enjoyment I have in racing.
And if I can get to that point then that will be enough.