TITLE: Running on the Road: The Oxford, Ohio, Area
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: July 20, 2010 6:59 PM
(The seventh stop in the Running on the Road series.
The first six were
Allerton Park, Illinois,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
St. Louis, Missouri,
Much time has passed since my last Running on the Road report,
written three years ago after a high school reunion. My
conference travel schedule has not been as extensive in the
interim, but I have been to SIGCSE in places such as
a couple of SECANT workshops
and a few other meetings. I've also vacationed in places
such as San Diego and St. Louis. I've run at least a
little bit all these places, though persistent illness
often had me running far fewer miles and so not seeking
out routes more adventurous than shorts loops near my
hotels. Still, Portland, Milwaukee, San Diego, and even
West Lafayette deserve reports of their own. Time and
inclination to write them have been scarce at the times
they needed to be written.
Here in the dog days of summer, I find a few moments where
writing about running on the road seems the right thing to
do, even though the location isn't a big city or common
conference or vacation destination. Over the weekend, I
informal reunion of college friends,
which we held at
Hueston Woods State Park,
not too far from the college town of Oxford, Ohio. This
park has, in addition to all the features one expects
from a nature refuge, a
that lives more like a resort center or a vacation hotel.
From that base, I had a chance to run two different
routes that I will want to remember and which other
runners might enjoy.
I have just begun training for a fall marathon, about
which I will surely have something to say in the coming
months. For this trip, though, it meant that I had a
7-mile run planned for Friday morning and a 14-mile long
run planned for Sunday. Between the kind of resort we
had planned for the reunion and the eight-hour drive to
it from my home, I decided to save my Friday AM run for
the evening and the park and to hit the road sooner.
Why run the same old 7-mile loops at home when the
prospect of beautiful new scenery called from Ohio?
Like many parks of this kind, Hueston Woods offers quite
a selection of off-road trails for walkers, hikers, and
mountain bikers. At the right time of day and under the
right conditions, these trails might be perfect for a
runner, too. I decided to play it conservatively and
stick to the roads in and around the park, which
themselves offered relaxing views without the risks of
trails: bad footing, slopes that are occasionally too
steep for running, and the potential of running into
people who are taking a more leisurely trek through the
wilderness. So I used the lodge itself as the starting
point for both of my runs.
Main Loop Road
After a long and tiring day driving, I decided not to
venture too far from the known for my evening run. I
picked up a
map of the park,
saw that there is a nice loop that circles Acton Lake,
and asked the staff at the front desk about its length.
They gave me an idea of driving distances to various
attractions around the lake, and from those numbers I
extrapolated that the main Loop Road must be in the
6-7 mile range. Perfect. So off I headed.
Perhaps I should have played it safer by driving the
loop myself or at least trying to use the scale marker
on the map to estimate the road's length more
accurately. First, the road from the lodge to the
loop was longer than I anticipated, about 1/2 mile.
Once on the loop, I found myself running, and running,
and still running. After 50 minutes, I started to
worry that I had not seen the last landmark along the
way. After 60 minutes, I knew that my estimate was
way too low -- but by how much? After 70 minutes, I
decided that I should limit my losses and stop soon.
At the 78:00 mark, I stopped running and began walking.
I was not too far from home... I walked about seven
minutes before finishing the loop. When I got back
to the lodge, I asked a different staff person, who
told me the loop is 11 miles long. Given my times
(73 minutes running and 7 minutes walking), the
conditions (lots of hills to slow me down and a day
having sat stiffly in a car), and my fitness level, I
doubt strongly that I ran seven-minute miles. So I
estimate that that loop is nine miles, certainly no
more than 9.5 miles.
Were I better reporter, I would have driven the loop
myself before coming home Sunday to confirm my
estimate. But in the end I enjoyed the route enough
to recommend it for future runs. The scenery is simple
but pleasant. As the park's main road, it offers many
options for side trips to extend or replace part of the
loop, including access to the park's dozen or so trails
at several points along the way. There are several
hills of varying length and grade, which added a bit
of spice to the run. This road makes for a solid basic
component on which to build runs at Hueston Woods.
The Road to Oxford
Once I saw the kind of roads that lead to the state
park, I quickly decided to do my long run by running
from the park to Oxford and back. Oxford is home to
Miami University, an athletic rival of my
and an strong academic school. I'd never spent much
time in Oxford, and that was over twenty years ago.
My group dined in town Saturday night and found a
surprising variety of cuisine, including an Indian
restaurant, a couple of sushi places, and several
small bistros with the sort of trendy food one finds
in college towns for students and faculty desiring
Hueston Woods State Park is 5 miles up the road from
State Road 732.
The jog from the front door of the lodge to the main
Loop Road is 0.5 miles, and the road from there to the
park entrance is 1.7 miles. I confirmed all of these
numbers with the help of one of my buddies on the drive
back from the restaurant Saturday night. Thus I was
able to go out with confidence early Sunday morning and
run an out-and-back route totaling 14.3 miles.
This route offers a rural vista common to Ohio, my home
state of Indiana, and the rest of the Midwest. Being
in southern Ohio, it also presents many curves, few
straightaways of any note, and half dozen or so hills
of varying length and grade that challenge any runner
accustomed to training and racing on flat land. There
are stands of trees, farms with corn and cows, and even
a covered bridge that
merits a paragraph in Wikipedia.
One warning for my friends from other parts of the
country: Do not expect shoulders alongside the road.
Rarely on SR 732 is there room on the pavement for
cars in both directions and a runner on one
side. When my future wife first visited my family in
Indiana, one of the first things she noticed was that
there were no shoulders on the country roads leading
to our house, or anywhere in our county. Ohio seems
to have the same feature. The roads in the park were
somewhat better, but only because they tended to be
wider. I did not have any trouble on the state road
leading into and out of Oxford early on a Sunday
morning, but I remained alert throughout.
Even with the hills and the curves, I surprised
myself with a brisk two-hour, three-minute long run.
I enjoyed each minute along the way and will happily
run this route again when I next visit Butler County.
Next time, I wouldn't mind adding some mileage to
explore the Miami U. campus or to press on south
of Oxford back into the country.
I'm back home now, my usual routes. Hueston Woods gave
me a welcome break and a boost of energy as I press on
with beginning of marathon training.