The Run-down: Exploring Rutland’s running prospects.

I’m not a runner. I like to run, but I won’t be completing a marathon anytime soon. To be honest, even a half-marathon seems a bit overly ambitious to me. I have friends who do this – spending weeks or months ahead of a race training, waking up at ungodly hours and running increasingly obscene distances all in preparation for that big day when they will wake up at an ungodly hour and run an obscene distance.

To the outsider, running is the most futile form of recreation ever created. People who don’t run are often confounded by what motivates people to do it. Given that in other sports, running is usually a form of conditioning or punishment that most come to revile, the fact that someone would do it willingly seems slightly masochistic. Even the guy in the original story of Marathon had a purpose and destination for his run. (And don’t forget, he died afterwards.)

Yet people run. I run. Like I said, I don’t foresee myself setting any records anytime soon, but I do enjoy it. Running relaxes me at the end of a stressful day. And despite what nonrunners might say, it is rewarding. There is a feeling of accomplishment when you finish. Often, that feeling manifests itself painfully, but that’s all the more reason to go out again tomorrow to increase your stamina and keep your muscles loose.

As we all know, Rutland has taken its lumps for being one of Vermont’s least healthy counties. The sad irony is that Rutlanders have access to a wealth of recreational resources. Organizationally, we have a vibrant community of runners. The Rutland Area Physical Activity Coalition and the Marble Valley Runners organize events and activities throughout the year. The Rutland Recreation Department also features a weekly evening running series at Pine Hill during the summer. Beyond running, the Rec. also offers a variety of programming. Classes are abundant and affordable.

When it comes to running, I prefer to go it alone. Occasionally, I’ll bring along a friend, but for the most part I like to be solo – just me and my iPod. The one benefit I have noticed from running with a partner is that I’m less likely to wuss out when I get tired.

That being said, I’ve long since given up on running with those marathon people who like to chat the whole way because they never get winded. They’re quoting last week’s episode of “The Office” while I’m gasping for air, barely able to interject a single “That’s what she said.”

And at the end, it’s always the same patronizing “That was a good run” comment. Don’t lie; I know you’ll be laughing about this with your distance runner friends later on at one of your meetings. (I’m pretty sure that people who run marathons don’t meet regularly, but if they did, I’m guessing that a portion of that time would be devoted to talking about lame people they’ve run with).

So where does one run in Rutland? I can’t speak for everyone, but over the years, I’ve found a variety of decent routes that I frequent. They come in three categories: city, country and off-road.

1) City: Running in the city is an adventure. While it may not offer the steep inclines of routes outside the city, Rutland offers up an even greater challenge: You may die at any moment. Traffic, potholes, loose dogs, uneven sidewalks – the city’s terrain can be more treacherous than any of Pine Hill’s most vicious trails. But it’s a thrill. Usually, I start out at Rutland High School on Stratton Road.

Pros: This loop takes me onto Main Street and Woodstock Avenue where I’ve found that running with an audience make me push myself harder.

Cons: The pollution from the cars is pretty unhealthy, and the sidewalks are usually covered in sand. This has potential for causing a nasty spill, which can turn the previous pro of running for an audience into an epically embarrassing con.

2) Country: Living in Mendon, running outside the city is my default choice. I’m a big fan of Wheelerville Road; there’s about 8 miles of varying terrain, and it’s cool and shady even in July. For such a somewhat remote location, Wheelerville is well trafficked and safe. On a typical run, I encounter everyone from dog-walkers and cyclists to people fishing the river or exploring the wilderness.

Pros: It’s quieter than the city, cars are scarce and there’s a good mix of hills and straight-aways.

Cons: Deer flies. While the impending bite from one of these guys may keep you moving, they’re still jerks.

3) Off-road: Here, of course, I’m talking about the Pine Hill trails. Fourteen miles on 300 acres. What else is there to say? The trails vary from light to challenging. Trail-running keeps you on your toes. One misplaced step will send you tumbling. But that’s the fun of it.

Pros: The trails are in the city. That’s pretty cool.

Cons: Is it just me or is the Stone Crusher haunted?

I know running is not for everyone (sometimes, it’s barely for me). But the benefits both physically and psychologically are worth it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how far or fast you run, or if you even run at all. It’s finding time in your day to be active – getting outside, getting your heart pumping and keeping yourself fit and healthy.

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