One thing I have learned in the journalism profession is that people love lists. And as a writer and consumer of media, I love them, too. Especially the Best (fill in the blank) lists. It’s fun to look at them to see if there’s one of my favorite restaurants on a best restaurant list, or if the list of best beaches includes a place I have personally played in the sand, and so on.
That said, it’s no surprise an article titled, “25 Best Trail Running Destinations in the U.S.” on Active.com got my attention recently. I love a good hiking trail and have been on some very scenic ones. And sure enough, there were three trails mentioned in the article that I have had the pleasure of hiking/running on. But one of them was somewhat of a surprise.
Number nine on the list was the Palos/Sag Valley Trail system in Palos Park, Illinois, which is practically in my back yard. I have hiked those trails many times. In fact, my running buddy Peter and I even have a nickname for the trail system: Badwater of the Midwest.
The first time I took Peter running out there we had both recently read Dean Karnazes’ book “Ultramarathon Man.” In the book Karnazes talked of running the infamous Badwater race in California. The Badwater race is the most extreme and grueling of any ultra races. The 135-mile course starts in the Death Valley, crosses three mountain ranges and several streams and creeks and finished at Mt. Whitney.
Now, we are under no illusion that the Palos/Sag Valley Trail in any way compares to the real Badwater. But after the first run there, when we were forced to navigate through several mud pits, higher elevations than we are used to, and a tumble by Peter after catching his toe on one of the several downed trees we had to jump over, Peter said to me, “What is this, Badwater?!” We had a good laugh. It was a much tougher course than we were used to running, but it was fun to mix things up a bit.
We ran there again in 2007 when we were doing our last long run in preparation for the Chicago Marathon. Peter still refers to that 24-mile run as one of the most enjoyable training runs he’s ever done. We started that run early in the morning when the deer were still roaming about, so that was neat to see. It was also nice to run in the shade on what was a hot, late-summer day. And the scenery on the trail offers many distractions, which made the run go by very fast.
I haven’t been out to the trail yet this year, but it’s on my bucket list of things I want to do before the snow falls. As for the other trails on the list of 25, and because I love lists so much, I’d like to add the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii to that other bucket list. 😉