A Huge Runcheap Weekend Thank You To… Florida Parks and Trails
This weekend’s huge runcheap thank you goes out to Florida Parks and Trails!
Thank you for your excellent, convenient, extensive, and cheap spaces to improve my running!
*****An especially big thank you to Starkey Park and Flatwoods Park, where I have logged many quality miles ****
Now I could write a huge posting about all of the ways I dislike Florida for runners. There are plenty. But thats not what this series is about, so I am going to take this opportunity to focus on something extremely positive about living in the Tampa area of Florida. Namely- the copious, well run, convenient, and ultra cheap parks and trails. A big thank you to all of these trails for all of the following reasons.
1) Convenience- I have talked a few times in previous postings about how much I am sick of driving and do not want to add more mileage or spend more gas money than I already have to for my commute. I need places to run that are NOT out of the way and near locations which I already frequent. In the Tampa area there are parks and trails everywhere, and they are super easy to find. They are not tucked away but very often right off of or near major roads and locations. 2 in particular have been particularly valuable to me. Starkey Park in New Port Richey is a delightful park thats close to where I work and has superb running trails. Then there is Flatwoods Park in New Tampa which is directly near my parents house and off of a major north south road and near the interstate (both of which I have to drive for various reasons). That park is likewise well kept, well used, and perfect for all sort of runs. Finally, the Suncoast Trail parallels the lengthy Suncoast parkway and is incredibly easy to access. It goes on for miles and miles. I am just starting to use this one because-Like Starkey Park- I can get to it directly on my way home from work. Convenience is so lovely, and makes things cheap and easy to plan for.
2) Cheapness- These parks used to be free. Reality is that the economy in Florida blows worse than it does in most of the country so now they charge a 2 dollar fee to park for a day. I used to gripe about this, but the reality is that its fair compensation for what they provide and what you get access to.
3) Quality- I have done most of my “park running” at those 2 locations , and one of the reasons I go back is that they are quality locations. How could I not go back to a running location that provides me a quality place to run without a lot of personal expense? What do I mean by quality? They have good parking. Their trails are well paved, well mile marked, and have copious water stations. They WANT athletes to come use them. Whether it be runners, hikers, cyclists, or just people looking to walk a dog- all are welcome. I have seen a few other trails in Florida and they have similar characteristics. Also from what I have heard, many of the parks are really good for camping as well
4) Safety- Florida is not one of the safest places to run on roads. Its just not. It has a high pedestrian accident rate, and its reputation for having bad drivers is (in my opinion) well earned. If you are lucky enough to live near one of Tampa’s extensive housing communities with the stupid flowery names, they usually have runnable sidewalks and trails. I did a decent chunk of my base building at my parents community. Still I never felt really safe and I never do unless the trail really isolates itself from the road. You dont have to think about that when you are running in parks. When you are there, you get ” race time” conditions. You can just let it go and blast a good tempo run or chill and enjoy the nature around you with a LSR . Obstacles and what not can be fun, but to me, my running improved because I didnt have to worry about traffic lights, stop signs, and cars while I was trying to build mileage.
5) Races– Lots of parks with trails also means lots of great chances to run races. This weekend I am running the Florida Beach Halfathon, one of a four road race series in this area that all take place (at least somewhat) on these trails. Additionally, there are races on the Pinellas Trail which goes through Palm Harbor and through Clearwater quite frequently. There are ultra races up at a park near my house this weekend, and a few trail races in local/close parks this summer . Hell there was a half marathon at Starkey Park just last weekend. Races abound. I think the extensive park system in the area really lends itself well to setting up a variety of races, which is why there are so many in Florida during race season. To me races on these trails also seem cheaper. This is an unscientific theory, but one I will pay closer attention to in the future.
Whenever I move away from this area to another permanent location, I know one of my requirements will be that my new location has a great public parks system with runnable trails. Florida has set a super high bar for that. So a huge runcheap thank you once again to Florida Public Parks and Trails!
Enjoy your. Enjoy Your Day :0