Reversing daily course offers unexpected rewards

A Special Contribution to Reasons to Run By Robert Trishman

“Want to do our route in reverse today?”

My running buddy asked me this during one of our recent morning jaunts, very early when there’s less heat, less traffic and therefore more oxygen for us to enjoy.

Agreeable as I usually am, I went for it — and I don’t know if I can go back.

Up until that day, our routine five-mile path took us from our Fairpark neighborhood up to North Temple — the route we took dependent on whether there was a slow freight train blocking the road. From there, we’d travel east until crossing State Street, then head through the park and up City Creek Canyon.

The gradual climb up the canyon leads us to Emigration Loop Road, where we’d turn south toward the state Capitol. Then it’s down the hill via 500 North and back home.

It’s a route that I’ve enjoyed, and an ideal way to start a day, especially when heading toward the Capitol with a pre-dawn view of the entire Salt Lake Valley

The trek back down involves at least one block of walking and about two more of holding back our pace — because we care about our Achilles tendons and want to keep them intact, and the steep stretches don’t present themselves as conducive to doing so.

Reversing course changed everything for me, both physically and mentally.

We set out by way of 400 North toward the Capitol. This time, we could exert ourselves and get more of a workout by going up the hill instead of walking/jogging down it. A staircase of about 80 steps is a nice Rocky-like bonus when going this way.

Add the block-long climb on 500 North behind the Capitol, and there’s your hill workout. Yes, it is the same elevation gain as the original route, but the uphill trek is now more concentrated and makes us work harder.

The Emigration Loop Road stretch isn’t much different, but once we head down through City Creek Canyon, well, insert your favorite cliché: “a new world,” “night and day,” “what a difference.”

We were flying — at least by our standards — down the canyon. From the turn off Loop Road back home took us about 10 minutes faster than our average time doing the same portion the other way.

That’s natural, considering it was a gradual descent rather than a gradual climb. But I felt like I could maximize the run more since I wasn’t tempted to conserve energy.

And that’s why, while it was a better, more challenging and more rewarding run for me physically, it was light years ahead of the old route mentally.

I’m very much a mental runner. It goes back to my high school cross-country days when I was a borderline basket case before races and even some practices: worrying about the course, the competition, what I ate the night before and throughout that day, how much sleep I was going on, and other typical teenage stuff.

Since then, I’ve had an on-again/off-again relationship with running, which only a few months ago switched back to on-again.

It’s the mental aspect of it that will keep the relationship in “on” mode.

I do a variety of running workouts in addition to the route my buddy and I take — speed intervals, incline treadmill, increasing speed on treadmill for 30 minutes. Each day, there is one thing less difficult than the day before (I won’t have to go as fast, as far … it won’t be as cold, as hot … there’s less of a climb/no climb).

There are, indeed, three or four things more difficult than what I’ve done the previous day, and I’m fully aware of what those things are, as they help me reach my goals as a runner.

But I don’t concentrate on them. My mind is fixed on that one less-difficult thing. That’s what gets me out of bed with a “YES! I GET TO RUN AGAIN!” kick in my step.

With the reversed route, it was knocking out that steep hill climb before we were halfway through. It made a scenic stretch even more enjoyable while going at a much faster pace.

And the run itself carries me into the rest of the day with the knowledge that I’ve checked off the most difficult physical task before the sun had fully risen.

And that’s what keeps me going, tricking part of me into thinking each stretch, each day is easier, even though deep down I know — and am glad — it isn’t.

Editor’s Note: Robert can be reached at rtrishman@desnews.com

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