There is something in a name. The first time I run a new route I am lost- I have no bearing, no expectation or where I should be, when I should be there. Unknown are the hazards or pleasant surprises that may exist… and on those new runs- it is exciting and refreshing, sometimes even a little scary.
In the day to day life of a runner though, we are creatures of routine. I find myself returning to the same 3 or 4 routes on a daily basis- my easy route, my long run road, the other easy route… these carry simple descriptions- usually the road name itself is enough.
Then, there are test workouts, gauges throughout training that carry true weight. Speaking their names conjures excitement, despair, and possibly anticipatory hypoxic fits! These runs become best friends over time. Something brews in that sweat, pain, focus and “shared” experience with these routes. They become something like pets, they earn and carry names. They are spoken of and remembered for years across moves and they bring back vivid, lucid memories.
Here are a few of my local favorites:
The Pyramid is named for a pyramidal shaped home at the course’s terminus. Rumor around the wood shack is this pyramid harbors a large crystal of unknown power… though the home itself is mostly a crumbling deathtrap beside the road…
The route climbs steadily for 4 miles before flattening out above the imaginary line dividing North Carolina from Tennessee above the Watauga River… over that time the route gains about 1000 feet. Atop the ridge the road is gentle, fast even and offers views of Beech Mountain ski slopes, and Watauga Valley and rolling green fields. Total mileage about 10 miles round trip.
Grady Hill is not really much of a pet name… because well, if you’d ever run Grady Hill you’d know it speaks for itself. Unfortunately it is all too convenient to get there from my house and I find myself running easy runs on this 20% grade often… occasionally, I race against my prior self to see where I am in my fitness continuum.
After a 3 mile aggressive climb Grady Hill falls away severely- almost dangerously. Now that you’ve thrashed your legs you get 2 miles of rolling asphalt to finish on! Any nickname for Grady Hill would be one syllable and 4 letters long.
The Goblin is an untasted fruit combining the most difficult portions of the Grady Hill and The Pyramid. The crux of it is a lot of climbing, much of it very steep and lot of descending… lots of it very steep… all packaged around some flat, fast running. It forms a figure 8 loop which when mapped resembles a Goblin… or a random bunch of squiggly lines. I believe my legs and head will feel like haunted strands of cooked spaghetti when I finally run this route.
The Royal Tanenbaum takes its name from the combination of my fandom for Wes Anderson films and the road which marks the 7 mile turn around on this out and back. It is mostly flat and punctuated with a few bursts of short and steep hills. The approach to Tanenbaum Rd. is a long and gradual grind.
Alternate name: If a Run Could be an Asshole 14. The final 2 miles are filled with spiky mountainous hills, darting territorial dogs and a good long hill to my finish line. I love this run for marathon prep… and masochism.
I have many old favorites from my running past. It is nice to sit back and allow my mind to re-run along these old familiar friends. This is a special gift running gives back to us, experiences you only earn by getting out there.