Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HAPPY TRAILS

On Monday, my wife and I covered 8 delightful miles on the Bartram Trail, near Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

The trail is a flat, hard-packed gravel path, which follows the Schuylkill River. For history buffs, "Schuylkill" is actually a Dutch word, not Native American, meaning 'hidden.' Dutch traders, who explored Pennsylvania long before the arrival of the English under William Penn, named the river, which was hidden under a thick canopy of trees.

That canopy is beneficial to the many runners, walkers, cyclists, even horseback riders who utilize this segment of the Bartram Trail. The Schuylkill River flows for about 100 miles, from near Pottsville to Philadelphia, and several trails line its banks. It's tree-lined paths offer cooler temperatures during the summer, and protection from the wind during the colder months.

This particular portion of the trail stretches for six miles, from Hamburg to Auburn. It is loaded with animals of all kinds. Deer and wild turkeys are in abundance, and an occasional black bear will wander about. The railroad, once the lifeline of the region, carrying anthracite coal to Philadelphia, runs parallel to the trail as well as the river. Mile markers, carved into wooden posts, mark the trail, and even half-mile splits can be recorded, thanks to wooden mallards impaled onto posts.

Trails are, in my opinion, essential to running longevity. Years of pounding sidewalks and roads eventually take their toll on an aging runner's joints. Logging miles on trails, at least once a week, if possible, eases stress on the body, as well as the mind.

It's a jungle out there, but not in the woods. It's becoming more and more hazardous on the roads. The number one cause of accidents today is distracted driving. Most of us have encountered the driver, looking down, as he or she drives, That means they're texting or looking at their mobile device, and not at you. I don't know about you, but I'd rather swat mosquitoes, hurdle a snake, or dodge a skunk than deal with some of the drivers out there.

Trail running is as good for the mind as it is for the body.

In my part of the world, the next few weeks feature an explosion of colors along our mountain trails. Enjoy what nature has to offer. Snap that selfie, and appreciate what we as runners have the privilege to experience.

In my latest book, "Personal Best," available now at: www.muldowneyrunning.com,  published just last week, I write that for all of us, regardless of age or ability, "Our best running days lie ahead."

Trail running is an integral part of that philosophy. On the trails, we are free, a part of nature. We become primal, running as our ancient ancestors did.

Hit the trails whenever you can

Trail running WILL help you to achieve your personal best.