First race of the summer season

In the nearly three years that I've been running races, I can't really say that I've been disappointed at my results. There was one race in the fall of 2005 that was my worst ever, but that was all my fault, and I knew it. I had, simply enough, let myself get out of shape too much. And what a difference a year can make. A year ago at this time, my longest race had been four miles. In the past year, I've done considerably longer races including a five miler, a 10K, the Virginia Ten Miler and two half marathons. I've survived knee problems, ankle pain and many other things that just got in the way. Through various training, I've gotten my 5K pace under 8 minutes a mile (7:44 pace) and even did my second half marathon in an 8-minute mile pace. But then came yesterday ... the first race of the season.

Yesterday I ran in a 10K that started in downtown Lynchburg, went up Rivermont to Riverside Drive and turned around. (Click here for results.) Overall, it's hard to say I was disappointed because my pace was right at 8 minutes a mile (49:49 overall), but it's the feeling afterward that let me know I could've ran harder. When running a race, there's this awesome pain to feel after it's over - like you just can't walk. Even though I was worn out and out of breath, I didn't get that race pain yesterday. I had too much energy afterward that I could've used on the course. I've had this happen before, and I'm glad that it's happening now and not five months from now. I'm also trying to get used to distances behind 5Ks. It's an odd feeling to have. I know in a 5K how hard I can push myself - I've now run enough to know what to do. And I still have some work to do at that distance because I'd love to break the 23-minute mark. This also was only my second 10K I've ever done. In a round about way, it's nice to know I could've ran harder - it'll make the next race all the more better. And that feeling I had yesterday following the race is one that keeps me motivated and makes me look forward even more to running my first marathon.

Please leave any questions, comments or suggestions for me. Also, if you're a runner and want me to add your blog, I'm planning to add some links to the side soon of blogs I read. So please let me know what your site is.

Bedford's loop

Bedford's "loop" is a popular course among runners and joggers. It's also home to the Bedford Christmas Classic, which has a 5K and a 10K. It's a fun race to do, and would be even better if more people came out to it. Forget how cold it is - just get and out do it! Click here for my attempt at creating a Google map so you can see the route of the "loop."

101 Reasons to Run

I could come up with a list of 101 reasons to run, but Runner's World beat me to the punch ... and I probably couldn't come up with a more solid list than this. Click here to access the magazine's story.

Want a reason to run in Lynchburg? Simply put, the city's hills will make you a better and stronger runner than, say, running in Virginia Beach.

Endless possibilities at Lynchburg College

One of my favorite places to run is at my alma mater - Lynchburg College. It's easily to log several miles on the campus by running on the roads within the school, running along College Drive behind the school and running on the many sidewalks within the Dell. And there's also the renovated track at Shellenberger Field where you can throw a few laps down. In the early morning before the students rise, or during the summer months when many students are away, it's a very peaceful place to run. Even when the students are there it's a great place to go, but you just have to be more aware of the traffic.

It's also a very challenging place to run. There's really nowhere flat, so be prepared to do battle with the hills. (I guess this is true of just about everywhere in Lynchburg!) Another nice thing about running there is the endless routes. I've rarely done the same route twice.

A one-mile secret

Of all the parks in Lynchburg, one that people often forget about visiting is Riverside Park off Rivermont Avenue. And it's a perfect place to run a hilly mile or two.

You'll want to start your run at the entrance, then take a left where cars aren't allowed toward the old train. Just keep following the path past the train, around the corner, up the tough hill, then past the packet boat, around another curve, onto the gravel portion, then a right at the end of the gravel, then left toward Rivermont. When you hit Rivermont, take a right back to the main entrance. (It makes much more sense when you actually see it vs. what I just wrote.) Total distance: exactly a mile. (Turning around and going the opposite way makes for an excellent two-mile workout.) This is one of the harder miles in Lynchburg and is a key portion of the Virginia Ten Miler.

New to running in Lynchburg?

If you're one of those people who say there's nothing to do in Lynchburg, then you probably haven't tried running ... or walking for that matter. Lynchburg is full of running/walking opportunities if you're looking to get outdoors. This, I hope, will be the first in some sort of series of places to walk or run if you're looking to get off the couch and on your feet.

First and foremost in Lynchburg is the Blackwater Creek Bikeway, and the trails that branch off it. I sometimes get a little bored with the paved part, but it's perfect if you're first starting. When I first started running, I found two miles to be a good start. And with the bike path having quarter mile markers, it's easy to keep up with your distance. If you're unfamiliar with the trail system, I recommend starting at the Ed Page Entrance just off Langhorne Road. You'll quickly think you've traveled outside of Lynchburg about a quarter mile in - there's no signs of city life at all. And that first mile is relatively flat. If you get tired of that view, there's another parking lot near the 1-mile marker on East Randolph Place. Look for signs on Rivermont Avenue.

From that entrance you can go a mile to the 2-mile marker where the trail splits three different ways. This is a good place to go if you're looking to go beyond 2 miles. Take a sharp right to go up the new Kemper Street Extension. This is basically one long hill and offers a challenge to any level runner. But it's a pretty cool route, offering a view of Lynchburg you've never seen before. If you take the left path, basically going straight at the 2-mile marker, you'll run alongside Blackwater Creek to another parking lot off Hollins Mill Road. If you take the middle path, you'll go through the tunnel. When it's hot outside, it's always cool in there. No matter which way you go, you'll still find it hard to believe you're in Lynchburg.

You can also access the bike path downtown near Amazement Square. If you're looking at the side of Amazement Square, you'll want to head toward the left. This puts you near the 3-mile marker of the bike path and you'll have two routes to choose from. Stay straight and you'll head toward the tunnel; head right and you'll go alongside the creek. That portion is actually called the Point of Honor Trail, which gives you access to Point of Honor.

Of course there's much more to Lynchburg's trail system than this, so stay tuned for more. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or want to offer other runs, please leave a comment.

What is 26.2 miles?

Official training for the Richmond Marathon is still a little bit away, but the mind games have begun. While going for a four-mile run the other morning, I started to think: How far is 26.2 miles?

Here are some runs in Virginia that would be close to what I'm planning to do in November:
* My house in Lynchburg to my mother's house in Bedford
* Lynchburg to the town of Amherst
* Bedford to Roanoke
* Harrisonburg to Staunton
* Hampton to Virginia Beach
* Petersburg to Richmond
* various points in Nelson County to Charlottesville
* Buena Vista to Coleman Falls

What's interesting about all of that is I wouldn't get up one morning and say, "I'm running on 221 today to go see my mom." Or, "I'm going to go to Petersburg this weekend and run up I-95 to Richmond." A Buena Vista to Coleman Falls run probably wouldn't be so bad, but would I do it? Perhaps with a group.

I've ran two half marathons in the past year, so running a marathon is the "next thing" to do. It's just when you start to think about what that distance really is, it's just kind of funny. For now, I'll go back to concentrating on a 10K at the end of the month and then get focused on November.