Friday, August 2, 2013

Where I Run

It took me a long time to say "I'm a runner", or even to tell people "I run", mainly because I am not the stereotypical runner. I am athletic and always have been but people who just meet me would probably not put me in the category: runner.

When I tell people "I'm a runner" the question I get asked most often is "why?" or "why do you run, running sucks!" I have my general answer to that question down. It is in many ways a very boring question to ask, mainly because I get sick of giving the same answer, and it is generally the one question I am asked about running.

It is very rare to be asked, "Where do you run?", but it is a great question! It is a question that gets me excited, I want to answer this question, because I love where I run and in the back of my head, I want to convince everyone that where I run is just as amazing as I think it is!

My runs don't take me past oceans, or mountains or national monuments or even great city sights. I run in Mankato, Minnesota, heard of it? Probably not. Mankato is a small town located in southern Minnesota, about an hour away from the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

To best explain where I run, you need to know that Mankato is a town of hills, we are located in the Minnesota River Valley, so if you Run Kato, you have to know how to handle your hills!

Mankato boasts over 100 miles of paved paths for runners, cyclists and walkers. We have just about that many miles of unpaved paths as well, so when choosing a daily route, my choices are unlimited!

Mankato is a town that caters to runners (and cyclists and walkers), the paths are always being maintained and expanded. We hold 2 triathlons, a full marathon weekend, a very challenging 10k, a mud run, a zombie run, and multiple 5ks each year. We are truly a hidden runner's paradise.

While many people in Mankato choose to stick to the sidewalks in the flat areas of town, I love to get outside of the city and run on our extensive trail system. My favorite trail system has over 13 miles of paved trail traveling through the beautiful Minnesota forest area.

I love to run here in the morning, especially when it is cool and foggy. There is always a group of deer standing near or on the trail during morning runs to greet or scare the runners! They are so used to humans being on the trail they don't even move, just watch as we run by, probably laughing at our speed!

The trail starts right in the parking lot of the school I work at, and the local YMCA. When I arrive at the parking lot, there are always groups of runners stretching, some already having come back from their run, others gearing up for theirs. The trail takes runners though some residential area out into the countryside through rolling hills, past our local ski hill (note, not a mountain!), over an old railroad tressel bridge and to the small town of Rapidan.

Weekends are the best, everyone seems to have the same anxiety about their long run. This trail is so popular with runners that there are coolers and water bottles stashed every few miles (where the trail can be reach from the road) for runners to hydrate and refuel. It is a true sense of runners community, we are all out there alone, but also somehow together.

I love the sense of community our on the trail and The Red Jacket trail is my favorite trail to run, but I don't always enjoy the crowds, or the out-and-back route. Instead, I have found wonderful loops to run both from my house and from other starting points on the trail. These loops leave the paved path and give way to lonely gravel roads, long gradual (and some not to gradual) hills, and to my most recent find a unpaved lake trail.

These are the runs that I love the most, I love being outside of town, the only human for miles, surrounded by the hills of Mankato, and the vast blue Minnesota sky.

I run outside all year-long. I love the change of seasons and the best way to really experience them it to run through them. Our trails and paths are cleared of snow in the winter, and I love an early winter run through the woods. It calms my soul, as well as freezes my toes!!

I can't say I have a favorite Mankato run, I love them all. I try to hit all of my loops and trails each week, and feel bad when I have neglected a route. They all have something to offer, the challenge of hills to climb, the beauty of the surrounding area, or a sense of community.

I can truly say that I run Kato, and it is amazing!


Jennifer K. said...

Okay...I know I'm dating myself here, but when I hear Mankato, I think of Little House on the Prairie. Going into Mankato was visiting the big city for them. I've never had the chance to visit Minnesota, but your photos make it look quite beautiful!

Kristine Barnes said...

Lol! Yeah, that's Mankato!

Mar @ Mar on the Run! said...

This is beautiful!!!!!

Michelle said...

I want to run in Mankato! It looks beautiful!

Meg Pudzianowski said...

OhMyGod Where you run is beautiful! I can't believe how much a runners community it is. Lucky gal!

Molto Vivace said...

Wow, that's a gorgeous area! This linkup has been so cool to see others' pics of their runs, now I want to go there.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome place to run! My hometown had lots of places and parks to run in, but my current town is kind of anti-runner :( I typically end up in the gym or dodging bikers on the sides of the road (no sidewalks!). Not super fun, lol.

Karen said...

Beautiful run! I want to be able to do that! :p
Karen @karenlovestorun

Coco said...

Wow! You have so many gorgeous options! When I'm running, I enjoy seeing others out on the trail. When I'm cycling, I'm less enthralled by the crowds!

AmyC @ running escapades said...

100 miles of paved paths for running? That's so incredible! Mankato should be proud!

Lisa Semanko said...

I know where Mankato is! I live at the other end of the state in Thief River Falls! Very jealous of all your running/biking paths...we have none so it's city streets for me! Beautiful pictures!