A return to trails

After a miniature running comeback in the past two years, I’m starting to feel a little “over” the marathon. I proved to myself I could still do it … and now I don’t really want to do it any more. We’ve all been there — I don’t know if I’d call it burnout, but I would definitely call it boredom — and its friend, unmotivated.

So as we’re all sketching out training plans and races for the spring cycle, the question looms: how to get the joy back into running? There are certainly many options — pick a particularly exciting race; pick a different distance; diversify your training with different running workouts or with other cross-training opportunities.

For me, it signals a return to the trails. For the past couple of months, I’ve found myself naturally gravitating to trails. On days I don’t feel like running, the idea of zipping through trees, over logs and through creeks will get me out there. (On those same days, the idea of road running sounds like a death march.)

I don’t know how to pinpoint what it is about trails that makes me so happy; I’m not sure the reason matters. But I do know the logical next step is to just focus on trail races this spring.

Fortunately, there are a ton of trail races in Kentucky. There’s also many in Indiana, but I won’t dwell on those here since that’s a bit of a haul for most Running Journal readers. I would, however, love suggestions for more trail races in the southeast, so if you have a favorite, please send it to me either by email at tfltft@gmail.com or on Twitter at @tfltft.

My first big trail race of the year is Louisville Lovin’ The Hills on Feb. 8, held outside the city at Jefferson Memorial Forest. While there is a 50k option, I’ll be easing into the spring with the 15 miler. The 50k is very popular and features some 5,500 feet of elevation gain, so if you’re looking for something silly to do this spring …

Jefferson Memorial Forest is a gorgeous place, and even if you can’t make the race, I’d recommend a jaunt on the Stiltstone Trail any day. It’s an out-and-back trail that will get you a total of 13 miles and includes four major climbs each way. My philosophy is that if the climbs have names, you’re in trouble. Be sure to take hydration if you go — there’s nothing out there and if the weather goes crazy (common in Louisville), you could find yourself in a pickle.

Second on the agenda is the Land Between The Lakes race. This one has several options, including a half-marathon, marathon, 60k and 50 miler. I’m shooting for one of the middle options — the marathon seems manageable, but you get a belt buckle for the 60k! Really, what’s 11 more miles?

This is another popular and long-standing race, put on by the West Kentucky Runners Club, this year on March 8. Because of the variety of distances, it’ll be a good race to take a group of friends. There are plenty of camping options in the area, but there are also lots of vacation home rentals available, too. It could be a great weekend retreat for a couple or just a group of friends.

My last big one for the season will be May 10 and is up in Indiana. For years I’ve wanted to do the Dances With Dirt event in Gnaw Bone — and it’s finally going to happen. Gnaw Bone is near Bloomington, Ind., actually in the gorgeous Brown County State Park area. This one has some different distances available, too, including a 50k and 50 miler. I’m aiming for the 50k but have the 50 miler on my radar just in case training goes really well. This would be my second ultra, following the now-defunct Rattlesnake race in West Virginia.

So that’s the plan — the trail is paved with good intentions! I have a smattering of shorter races penciled in, depending on scheduling and training and such. I hope each of you finds your own key to success this season — even if it means trying something totally different!

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