Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nature's Way - Valrico, FL Running Trail

 This is the fourth in a series of blogs about favorite running spots. The spots where no matter how slow of a pace we did or how bad it felt; it is always a good run just because we're in our favorite spot. If you have a favorite spot that you would like to share please e-mail me by clicking HERE. Thank you JC for doing a phenomenal guest blog on a location that used to be not so far from where I lived, but is not 1000+ miles away. Check out JC's blog at FatSlowTriAthlete.com for more awesome posts from JC.

I am not a runner. Let's be clear on that from the start. I run, yes, but I run as a ways to get to the end -- to the end of a triathlon, or to the end of my weight issues, but does that mean I am a runner? Some would say yes, but I have never considered myself one.

What I do believe is that I am more common than those that do call themselves runners, and in this I am uniquely qualified to write on a favorite run, even though that term is an oxymoron to me.

When I choose a place to run it is more often than not based on what my team is doing that day. That can vary from a short run through a neighborhood nearby, to the bike trail at Suncoast Trails, a 7-mile loop around Flatwoods, or it can be a nice, cool saunter down Bayshore Blvd in Tampa. All are great places to run, but when I am asked, "what is your favorite place to run?" I have to go to the most convenient place. The place that I can get to easily and I know like the back of my hand. So, that has to be Nature's Way in Valrico, FL.

Valrico is a small town east of Tampa. It's quiet and out of the way, which is why I chose this area when relocating from DeLand in 2002. Nature's Way is a local road about a mile from my house. The loop is 4.1 miles and half of it is well shaded by oak trees.

I usually start from a small park called Bloomingdale East and head right. The first mile is open with no trees, but has a couple of benches at .25 miles and .54 miles (not needed now but when I started running these were Godsends). It's a straight course where you need to watch for vehicles coming in and out of housing developments, but not so much that it affects your pace.

After a little more than a mile, where Alafia Elementary is located, you hang a right and are met with a gently rolling run through tree lined streets and well manicured areas. Across from a very nice duck pond there is another bench at mile 1.3. It is easy to get "lost" here if you let your mind wander, but if not, it continues until you meet Nature's Way again.

This stretch is tree lined as well but has a nice little "climb" right before mile 3. It is a climb by Tampa standards and is just enough to get your heart rate elevated a bit. Once the trees stop it's about another mile back to the park.

This affords the ability to stop and get some water from your car, or keep going for as many loops as you can do. This morning I ran 2 loops and then backtracked for another 3 to finish up the plan. It's a really nice area to run. The people have been very friendly, and although I mostly just see runners and walkers here, I noticed for the first time a number of cyclists doing the loop.

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