Loops, Out and Backs and Running Partners

Just two weeks from my first marathon and my training is going very well. We ran our last long run this past weekend and the mental barrier of running 20 miles is behind me. Now it is time to start easing up and saving energy for the race.

I have learned and seen a lot on this journey. I have met some great people and seen some great terrain. Not to mention this guy to the left who wondered across my path a couple of weeks ago.

The running community is a great group of people who are all passionate about the sport. Even people that you have never met become your friends out on the trail or road. Some bicyclists seem to not like runners very much and seem to think they are the sole owners of the American River Trail (which makes me wonder how triathletes get by), but everyone else I have seen on the trail has been like a long time friend.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that I enjoy running alone or in a group. I have to say, though, that my performance (especially on long runs) greatly suffers when I try to go on my own. Training with a large group is even more of a benefit. The motivation and the camaraderie from running in a group is very encouraging.

I’ve also discovered the beauty of night runs, especially on the trails. Running at night with a headlamp and a dozen other runners (and my dog, Stout) is truly a rush. The sounds and sights (or lack thereof) of the night envelop the runner in an entirely different environment than the daylight provides.

A distance run generally presents with two option: a loop or an out and back. You could do a point to point, but that requires cars at both ends of the run and carpooling back and forth. Point to point runs are great, but usually more of a hassle and time consumption than we want to experience (although once in a while is still a great change). Loops have the advantage of starting and ending at the same place without covering any of the same terrain twice. To make sure you get the desired distance on a loop requires some planning, usually with a map. An out and back, however, comes with the advantage of starting off in one direction until you are half done and then turn around and head back. As long as you don’t have any problems (like injuries or equipment failures) the distance is easy to achieve. These are great for trail runs, since you can usually find a parking place near a trail head and then head out. The only draw back is duplicating your terrain, but then, if you are running far enough it really doesn’t matter and it is nice to recognize when you are getting close to being back at your starting point.

Truth be told, I have rediscovered the joy of running. On days when I don’t I miss it. I love the trails. I really enjoy running with a partner or group. I like loops, out and backs, point to points and running with my dog. I plan to just keep running.

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