Hi! I’m so excited to be a part of this blog and this amazing group of women. I’m hoping to share some of my many fitness experiences with you….especially as it pertains to Apex and our surrounding cities. My family and I have only lived here a little over a year and I can tell you it would take A LOT to get me to move! I don’t even think I could put a monetary value on it. We moved from Greensboro which is also very lovely, but there is just something more here that I’m guessing many who live here feel since we were just voted the #1 small city to live. For me and my family the “more” has come in the many opportunities to be outdoors. From the parks (sidebar…my girls and I spent an entire week of track out going to different parks and we never drove more than 15 minutes in any direction) to the greenways, trails, and even just SIDEWALKS everywhere. That may be silly to some, but I don’t remember ever living anywhere with this many sidewalks. My husband and I both run and do triathlons (mostly casually now that we reached the 40-45 age group!) so we were excited and anxious to explore our new surroundings.
We moved here in one of the most perfect months in NC…May! Another added bonus is our new house was minutes from the new Apex Nature Park. Yay, I had my new runnning spot! It was probably my husband who went out for that first run and I’m pretty sure this is how it went: wake up, shoes on, run. He came back and said it was great. The end. My first experience was slightly different. I probably woke up exhausted from unpacking and then spent a few hours motivating myself. I then drilled him on exactly the route he went and where every street in the neighborhood ended up. I picked out my best running outfit so I would look really official if any of my new neighbors saw me and then I was ready. It was the worst run ever. I know being tired and moving had a lot to do with it, but I was dying from the hills in the Nature Park and couldn’t seem to find a nice loop that didn’t have me zig zagging and back tracking. Luckily now I’m used to it and have found some great routes around here…and those routes continue to grow as our neighborhood grows, but those first runs here did prompt me to find some alternate running locations! Enter my awesome new running friends and I had my first run on The American Tobacco Trail or ATT several months after moving here. We met one early humid morning at the Wimberly entrance of the ATT. I was looking forward to the flat trail and the hard packed dirt surface, but I have to say it wasn’t love at first run! I was so used to running on roads that I felt the hard packed dirt was hard to push off. I very much enjoyed the shade and the flat terrain (although now after running there so much I do detect those slight grade changes…this is more pronounced if you are alone and your music dies), but it really felt harder than I was expecting. I will sometimes mention this to other runners and I feel like they think I’m a little crazy, but I had two friends come in from Greensboro to run the Tobacco Rd 1/2 and full marathon and they had the same feeling! So there. Justified. Of course now the surface is one of the reasons I love running on the ATT and here are a few more:)
My husband thinks I’m crazy for driving somewhere to run, but running doesn’t naturally come easy to me so if I need to drive somewhere to get my head straight about it then so be it! The New Hill Olive Chapel access is closest to me, but I prefer Wimberley or White Oak really just because my first time at the New Hill trailhead I saw a BIG BLACK SNAKE. Now, I wouldn’t say I have a huge fear of snakes, but one slithering across the trail when I could possibly step on it kind of freaks me out. And to be perfectly fair I’ve seen several snakes at all different points, but guess it was just that first impression thing. Do not let wildlife deter you from the trails! I’ve seen worse in my backyard. That’s just NC for you! Anyways, back to the good stuff and that is I can be to at least three different ATT trailheads in 10-20 minutes. This is important because when I schedule early morning runs I like to sleep as late as I can. I’ve attempted to study future plans for the ATT and it looks like I could even have a connection from the Nature Park at some point, but those who have lived here a long time tell me that could be years away if ever. Oh well, I at least like that they are always forward thinking and maybe my grandkids and I can enjoy those extra 30 trail miles in the future.
I have now run the ATT during all four seasons and unless there is a crazy snowstorm the trail is always in good condition. I even assume they clean up all the pine straw that collects based on times some of the trail is cleared and some is not. The trail is litter free too which is amazing to me based on the number of people I see on the weekends. There really seems to be a sense of pride with frequent trail users. I know I have stuffed my empty gel packets down my sports bra before I would dare litter on the trail….causing several articles of clothing ruin when these gel packets are run through the washer, oops. Now, I have definitely experienced the stinky bathrooms. The White Oak access in the middle of summer on a weekend morning is not a good combination. However, at least there are bathrooms and most runners are used to a stinky bathroom or 20! There are new bathrooms off the New Hope Church Rd access and water fountains that look really nice. If I had any complaint it would be the lack of water fountains, especially around White Oak, but I wouldn’t have that if I just walked out my door to run either.
Depending on when you run on the ATT you can have completely different experiences. On a Saturday or Sunday morning the trail is filled with runners and bikers. I LOVE this time. I’m always motivated by seeing people doing their thing! I can admire (and be jealous) of the hard core athletes sprinting by and share an understanding with those just putting one foot in front of the other. All the cliches here are true…running and I’ll throw biking in there too is really an amazing community of people. Now, if crowds of sweaty people aren’t your thing and you want a peaceful run go during the week mid morning or afternoon. Even though I prefer the busy weekends, I have still had some cool experiences at this time. The best was the first time I saw horseback riders. I was actually a little nervous…I didn’t know whether I should stop and wait for them to pass, but in the end I just got over to edge and slowed down and all was good! The other cool part to me is the older adults who use the trail at this time. They are a sharp contrast to the hard core weekend athletes, but no less motivating! I can only hope I can enjoy the trail in twenty to thirty years:)
I mentioned earlier how the trail surface was something I had to get used to, but now that is one of my top reasons for running there. I love how one of my friends put it one day when we were deciding on a run route…she said “my knees are craving the ATT.” So true! I’m getting to the age where my body is starting to cuss me out about things and too many road running miles is one of them. I have to say I usually feel pretty good after running the ATT. The other thing that helps the experience for me is the mile markers. I know this will not be true for everyone, but the frequent 1/4 mile markers seem to make the miles go by faster for me even when I’m having a slow day. (This is really most days since I turned a certain age…and NO…sadly it’s not even 40).
So there you go! Again, I feel so lucky to have a place like the ATT. Definitely check it out for yourself if you haven’t been! If you are new to the area or are hesitant about exploring alone there are several running groups in the area who meet at the ATT. I actually coach one called Raleigh Running Mamas. We usually train for a Spring and Fall race and run the ATT Saturdays at 7:30am. Another great group is the Lifetime Fitness Run Club. This is a free group…we usually see them on the ATT on Saturday mornings, but they have some other meeting times and locations too! If you know of any others or would like to advertise your group feel free to post in the comments. The more the merrier on the trails in my book and there is always a place for everyone to feel comfortable if groups are your thing. I know there are some who want to keep their running spots to themselves…totally get that too!