Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Top 10: Norwottuck Rail Trail

In November 2010, I accidentally ran the Philadelphia Marathon. One of my best friends, who was intentionally training for the marathon, asked me to join her for an 8-mile run on a disgustingly hot August day. I said yes. I continued to follow my friend’s training plan when I moved back to Western Mass for the fall semester. My friend, her father, and I completed the Philly marathon together and signed up for the Cleveland Marathon the next spring. 

This past January I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon. Next week, I am running the San Diego Marathon.

I was never a runner. I played the sport that requires the least amount of running: softball. Even then, I’d get on base and someone would pinch run for me. But, I found that training for a marathon coincides nicely with the rhythm of a semester. An 18-week training schedule keeps all aspects of my life on track. The flexibility of a graduate school schedule requires some sort of coherence. Further, there are very few finite and tangible milestones in a Ph.D. program. Running a race provides a much-needed sense of accomplishment.

Western Mass is a gorgeous place to be a runner. When I began running, the Norwottuck Rail Trail was my favorite route. This 10-mile paved trail runs from the Northampton side of the Connecticut River, through Hadley and Amherst, to the edge of Belchertown. There are views of the Holyoke Range, conservation areas, swamps, and farms. The Schuylkill River Trail cannot compare. The rail trail was the perfect place for me to learn to run (without cars). I ran on the trail every month of the year. Many winter days I was the only one out there.

People think that running more than one marathon is insane. As the daughter of a football coach, I grew up with concepts like “mental toughness.” I have always known that being a great athlete is not entirely about physical strength. There is a mental component to athletic success. Running a marathon cannot be done without willpower; your body gives out somewhere after mile 20 and your mind must do the rest.

I will miss running in Western Mass. I finally accepted the hilly terrain and came to enjoy the challenge. I learned to run in 20-degree weather with 5-foot snow banks. Running in Philly will be difficult for a variety of reasons, but to quote a classic movie, "the hard is what makes it great."

Norwottuck Rail Trail
446 Damon Rd.
Northampton, MA 01060
413 586-8706 ext. 12

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