Since I started Crossfitting, running has changed for me. I no longer run every day, empty miles after miles just for the sake of just running. However, I do still run (and yes, sometimes I run long). When I do run, I want to make it count. I want to experience something beautiful outdoors, or get to see some terrain, some woods, some prairie, some wildlife…. I don’t want to merely run on a treadmill or run loops in my neighborhood.
Are you getting bored on your running route? One of the best things I have done for my running life is to take “field trips”. It may take an extra 10 or 20 minutes to drive to a new locale for a run – but it’s entirely worth it. I have found that planning long runs in new places helps to keep me engaged and interested; it helps to experience and enjoy some new natural beauty; and it helps me to get into a zone where I’m less worried about miles and time.
There are some fantastic trails and paths to run on in the western suburbs! There are 14 trails listed here (I did not include the Prairie Path, because, well, if you live in Chicago area and you run, you are familiar with the Prairie Path) If you find yourself in a rut – always running on the same trail, always running a loop in your neighborhood, or the same old out and back – here are some field trip ideas.
1. Saw Wee Kee Park (Oswego, IL) – single track mountain bike trail. Also great for hilly, technical running with quick change of direction
2. Mather Woods (Plainfield, IL) – off-road trail with some single track mountain bike trails as well. About 1 mile total around the perimeter trail, with many ways to criss-cross the single track trails to make more mileage. Also easily connects to downtown Plainfield, Lake Renwick Preserve and Fort Beggs Bike Trail to make longer mileage.
3. Lake Renwick Preserve (Plainfield, IL) Paved path with easy connections to downtown Plainfield, Mather Woods, and Fort Beggs Bike trail.
4. Waterfall Glenn (Lemont, IL) – crushed ash path, with great hills and many good views of forest and prairie.
5. Knoch Knolls (Naperville, IL) – part off-road and part paved path. Great connection to the Dupage River Trail.
6. Oakhurst Forest Preserve (Aurora, IL) – has one of the largest hills in the area. Part off-road trails, part crushed ash, as well as paved paths. Connects to Lake Waubonsie Trail for more mileage.
7. Lake Waubonsie Trail (Aurora, IL) – has two hills for off-road running, as well as paved paths for running or biking. Includes 3+ parks along the path for kids to take a jogger-break, or for monkey bar/pull-up work. Connects easily to Oakhurst for a longer trail. Easy access to water and bathrooms.
8. Springbrook Prairie (Naperville, IL) – Beautiful prairie views – moderate hills all along the crushed ash path. Can become quite busy mid-morning on weekends – and in the winter, the snow tends to melt and refreeze, so that there is quite a bit of ice. Two rustic bathrooms, but only one building has drinking water. There is an off-road portion which adds to the possible mileage.
9. Rock Run Preserve/Joliet Junction Trail (Joliet, IL) – Mostly a paved path, with a little crushed ash. There are many different increments and loops to make many a variety of mileage amounts. The entire loop is 15-16 miles.
10. Vermont Cemetary Trail (Aurora/Naperville, IL) Easily connects to Springbrook Prairie for a longer run.
11. Virgil Gilman Trail (Aurora to Sugar Grove, IL) This Path has many good trailhead points to start from. The trail starts in Aurora and goes out to Waubonsie Community College parking lot in Sugar Grove: keep in mind that it goes right through downtown Aurora in a not-so-safe area, so either plan appropriately to be safe (run with someone, with your dog), or pick a different spot along the way to begin.
12. Green Valley (Naperville/Woodridge, IL) Similar to Springbrook Prairie, this is partly crushed ash path, partly paved, with beautiful forest and prairie views. You can choose different loops to make a variety of mileage goals.
13. Dupage River Trail (Naperville, IL) This trail is a paved path – in different increments, it can be used to cover a few miles or many. It can connect to Knoch Knolls, Green Valley, and the Prairie Path.
14. I & M Canal (various) The I & M Canal covers an enormous distance. The link here is for the portion of the trail from Channahon to Morris, and from Morris to LaSalle. It is crushed ash – with a good deal of tree cover. There are water and bathrooms along the way. Connects easily to Rock Run Preserve, Joliet Junction Trail, and Centennial Trail.
If you are stuck in a rut with your run, grab your running partner, your water and nutrition, and try one or more of these new trails out for your next long run.
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