So you’re stuck at home during travel restrictions but still need something exciting to do close to home. I don’t know where you live, but adventure lurks nearby if you know how to plan for it.
choose your activity
I needed a good excuse to keep running…
…but, last year as the pandemic restrictions ramped up, the running store (where we’d been meeting and running from) shut it’s doors. It was geographically convenient and had ample parking. Plus everyone knew to meet there on certain days and times so that we could run together.
The simple approach might have been to just keep running as we were, meeting from a parking lot, and for many runs over the past year we did. Yet, I wanted something more, and I suspected a lot of the crew might start to get bored and go off on their own plans if nothing more exciting happened.
invent a concept
Instead of panicking or just running solo, I decided it might be interesting to find somewhere new and interesting to run as we no longer had any good reason to keep running from a closed-up retail store. I also decided I’d like to see more of the city trails that I had never bothered to check out because they were not particularly reachable on a short run distance from that store.
I called it adventure runs.
plan a goal
A running adventure sounds like a self-evident concept, but in fact it encompasses so much potential… and potential for disappointment.
I was working full time (I still am) and didn’t have time nor motivation to sit down and plot out full miniature courses each week through locations I’d never spent much time traversing.
Instead I set the goal as something simple: if we ran somewhere new, down a new path, in a new neighbourhood, and saw something or somewhere we’d never seen (or hadn’t seen in a long time) then the adventure run was a success.
pick a starting point
The second part of that concept was picking a good starting point.
It had to have access to trails. There needed to be enough parking (since we could not carpool during the restrictions and transit was still not running at full capacity.) Later in the summer a nearby ice cream shop or coffee stop was requested for afterwards. And of course, it had to be somewhere that felt remote-ish or like we were about to embark on some crazy adventure.
invite willing participants
The gimmick then became about the mystery and the invite.
We have a group chat that has been around for years with a tight knit group of runners who have often been up for exactly this kind of adventure.
I would keep the suspense up. Eventually, as the summer progressed, folks would ask in the lead up week “where is the adventure run this week?” or “what are you planning for Wednesday night?”
The rule quickly followed: “The plan would be announced the morning of the adventure run. Keep your calendar open and check your messages.”
On our best days we had as many as a dozen or more people show up.
I always did.
Rain or shine.
If I felt like leading a run or not, I was there.
And this morning, the first good spring Wednesday post-restrictions, I just sent out that notice once again.
Season two of the adventure runs, by enthusiastic request, start tonight.
For the last two summers I have been leading a small cohort group of my running friends on a pandemic-busting weekly series of what I called "Adventure Runs."
The ultimate goals were (a) to keep the group active and alive through uncertain running days and (b) to have a little summer fun by pathfinding on some new routes, trails, and locations.
We've gone exploring in remote neighbourhoods.
We've followed local paths we haven't dared follow on our regular training runs.
We've run asphalt, gravel, streets, single track, and bushwhacked through the wilderness.
Last night was the sixth of the Summer 2021 series, and in the wake of a hotter-than-hell day, we pushed our meetup time to an hour later than usual, and stuck to somewhere more familiar. Also, at least four of the crew had just -- JUST -- returned a couple days ago from a mountain-based ultramarathon and were feeling a bit recovery-oriented.
We started at a nearby dog park, ran across the bridge over the river, and took up some trail locals call the "intestine" which was a twisting, winding, root-covered three kilometers of single track spanning a little more than one kilometer of actual distance.
It burns you out, running in the heat and stumbling around corners and minding the never-ending tangle of tree roots, so it was really no surprise that a hundred meters from the trail exit I caught a toe on a small protrusion and rolled head over feets, landing on my side against the trunk of a tree.
I limped out of the woods, covered in sweaty muddy debris, helped by a group of too-concerned friends who were ready to call an ambulance.
Today I am a little more sore than I should have expected when I planned yesterday's run a mere twenty-four hours ago. But then what does one expect when one goes looking for an adventure.