Category Archives: Running

Were Record FKTs in 2020 a warm-up for 2021?

If you thought 2020 put the kibosh on all forms of competition, then you aren’t familiar with FKTs.

Fastest Known Times — that is, the fastest known time that it’s taken someone to cover a stretch of trail. You may be familiar with the concept in terms of a major trail. The AT, for instance, which has seen intense competition over the years to see a new FKT record. The current record, for the 2,189-mile AT, btw, is 41 days, 7 hours and 39 minutes, set in 2018 by Karel Sabbe, a Belgian dentist. Or possibly North Carolina’s 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which saw a new record set last summer, when Tara Dower ran it in 29 days, 8 hours and 48 minutes. read more

GetOut! Your Nudge For Weekend Adventure

Haiku Hike, Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Eno River State Park, Durham. Literary hike / along the gorgeous Eno / read some, compose some. Learn more here.

Occoneechee Geology Hike, Saturday, 2 p.m. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough. The massive slash on the north face of mighty Occoneechee, at 867 feet the high point of the Triangle, means the pyrophyllite peak has few secrets to keep. But despite begin an open book, what does it all mean? Geologist Jean-Michel Margot has studied the mountain for decades, and shares his findings in this monthly gathering. Learn more here. read more

10 Trails Made for Speed

For the most part, I believe trails should be treated like a nice wine: savored and not rushed. But every once in a while you find one that begs to be consumed with abandon. 

Two years ago we published five trails that we found to be especially speed-friendly, in large part because of their generally rockless and rootless treat. Today, we double the list, adding five more that we feel fit the bill. read more

Five trails that appeal to your need for speed

It started as a mellow saunter, progressed to an up-tempo hike, then, on a modest downhill, evolved into a trot. It was one of my first hikes at the Triangle Land Conservancy’s new Brumley Forest property near Hillsborough, and the absence of rocks and tree roots coupled with the gentle flow reminded me of my bygone days of being able to run a 10-minute mile on trail.

For the most part, I believe trails should be treated like a nice wine: savored and not rushed. But every once in a while, you find one that begs to be consumed with abandon. Here are five trails/trail networks where speeding is understandable and should be tolerated.

1. Brumley Forest


7.5 miles

Multiple trails

There are about 15 miles of trail at Brumley Forest, half of which are open to mountain biking and have the best runner mojo. Wood Duck Way is a nice warm-up, connecting to the lengthy — 4.2 miles (more if you aren’t paying attention) — Springhouse Loop. You’ll find a few, brief rocky spots, engineered for the enjoyment of mountain bikers, but they break up the run with some focused tip-toeing. Throw in the whoop-de-doing Buckeye Loop and you’ve got 7.5 miles of fast, foot-friendly fun.

More info here.

2. Pilot Mountain State Park


Mountain Trail/Grindstone Loop

6 miles

Two reasons to run this loop. First, it eschews the crowds that frequent the top of Pilot Mountain, where you can wait 30 minutes for a parking spot, and once you’re on the trail, you’re constantly dodging hikers. (You can begin this loop from the lonely Surry Line Road Access.) Second, it has it’s challenging moments (read: climbs) but none are severe and none last long. Plus, you’ll be spending your time in a nicely shaded hardwood forest, especially important on a summer run.

More info here.

3. Hagen Stone Park

Pleasant Garden

3.5 miles

Chatfield Trail

To indicate how threat-free most of this trail is, it’s one of the most popular cross-country courses in the region. It’s noted for its passing lanes, its push-me-but-don’t-break-me climbs, and its overall flow. As for the half mile or so that’s not part of the course, if you start from the gravel lot just inside the front gate and run clockwise, you’ll get it out of the way first, while you’re still fresh.

More info here.

4. National Whitewater Center


30 miles (with smaller runs easily doable)

Multiple trails

This multi-use network is shared by runners and mountain bikers, but the wide trails (in most spots) make it work for both. A traditional rating system for the mountain bikers makes it easy to see whether a trail is easy, intermediate, or holy-cow-how-did-I-wind-up-here? hard. Designed with mountain bikers in mind, the trail has good flow, and the compacted surface minimizes slippage. One caveat: while you don’t have to pay the Whitewater Center admission fee to run, you do have to pay to park: $5 a day, $40 a year.

More info here.

5. Harris Lake County Park

Holly Springs

5 miles

Peninsula Trail

The true joy of this hike isn’t the smooth running surface, or the absence of elevation. Rather, it’s the ever-changing scenery that makes this 5 miles fly by. You’ll run through a swamp, amid the longleafs of a pine savannah, along the lake, past a disc golf course — you’ll even catch a glimpse of the nuclear reactor over yonder. That smooth trail surface lets you enjoy the views and allows your endorphin-energized brain to emphasize the pure enjoyment of the run.

More info here.

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Trail etiquette: play nice

Trail etiquette — even teamwork — is much appreciated on the trail.

We head into the wayback machine again to revisit the timely topic of trail etiquette. The following first appeared here on March 19, 2010. It reappears today, with minor revisions. 

Sunday, I was running the bike and bridle trail at Umstead when I came upon a sizable obstacle: a phalanx of hikers bearing backpacks spanned the width of the trail, spilling over onto the shoulders. The trail is quiet generous, a converted fire road that should be capable of handling boatloads of trail users without conflict. Provided those trail users are cognizant of other trail users. Which brings us to today’s topic:

Trail etiquette.

It’s a particularly relevant topic considering highs reaching into the mid to upper 70s accompanied by ample sunshine are bringing legions of hikers into the woods. Warm weather, lots of sunshine, plenty of people on the trail. A few gentle reminders for making sure everyone has a good time out on the trail.

  • Pay attention. Even as runners, mountain bikers and other hikers took evasive action to dodge the aforementioned backpackers, the oblivious party continued to block the trail. I appreciate the group experience, but it’s just as easy to appreciate in blocks of two or three on half the trail. Hike/run/bike for a while with that group, then mix it up. But above all, just pay attention.
  • Be alert. Runners especially like to hit the trail plugged in to music. I’m quick to admit a recent addiction to Pandora; the unpredictable mix provides welcome surprises, especially on a trail I know too well. If you are plugged in, keep the volume low enough so it doesn’t block out the sounds around you. And keep to the side of the trail.
  • Share the trail. I touched on this a while back, but a quick reminder can’t hurt. When sharing the trail, mountain bikers yield to hikers and equestrians, hikers yield to equestrians. And runners? We’re quick on our feet: Don’t worry about us.
  • Uphill yields to down. If you’re on a steep, narrow trail, the downhill hiker/biker/runner should yield to the person laboring uphill. While this is a general rule, there are times on a mountain bike where both parties know instinctively that the downhiller should have the right-of-way. And frankly, it’s common practice that the uphiller is only to eager to cede passage — and take a rest in the process.
  • “Passing.” This mainly applies to mountain bikers: When you come up behind a slower trail user, announce your intentions to pass. Something simple, such as “Passing on your left” is good. Announce your intentions far enough in advance so that the person has time to react. A “Thank you” after passing a cooperative party is a nice touch. And if they’re plugged in, don’t hear you and continue to take up the middle of the trail, well, be patient, take a breath, remind yourself you’re on the trail on a gorgeous day.
  • Stop to the side of the trail. If you stop to take a drink, check a map, eat some gorp, step off the trail.
  • Don’t block the trailhead. Another annoying thing that happens at Umstead, at the Lake Crabtree neighborhood entrance: When people — runners and cyclists especially — finish their workout, some like to linger on the road and, based on how long they linger, discuss world politics. On my bike, I’ve actually made eye contact with folks blocking the road who STILL fail to move. Grrr. I mean, Grrreat that they’re so engrossed in what they’re doing.
  • Hello! Finally, would it kill you to say a simple, “Hey,” “Hi,” “How are ya?” A little wave, a quick smile, a peace sign. A simple sign of basic humanity goes a long way on the trail.
  • read more