Last week, I was struck by the brilliant idea to attempt membership in the Half Marathon Fanatic club. One way to qualify is to run 3 halves in 90 days. I was able to quickly find my second but the third was proving elusive due to other, previously scheduled races. I then found a local 1/2 trail race at Fountainhead Regional Park and thought I should try a test run before committing. I knew some of the runners in my MRTT group train there regularly so I asked if anyone would be willing to show me the ropes. Three of us quickly settled on a Sunday afternoon run.
Before this, I have run only a handful of “trails”. On a scale of difficulty, it has been 1) paved paths, 2) Lake Accotink, 3) Burke Lake, and 4) Wakefield. I volunteered at a trail race at Hemlock Overlook in March and was a bit shocked by how beat up the runners were as they came through my aid station – I would rate it a 6 or 7 on my little scale based on what I saw. I had heard that Fountainhead was about on par with Hemlock Overlook as for difficulty. I finally looked closely at the map yesterday morning and realized that they were PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM! Oy!
The park is very easy to access and there is plenty of parking. Mountain bikers and runners/hikers stay to separate trails so there is no worry of being run over. The trail is very steep and rough in spots so there are no strollers to dodge (though we did see one poor woman trying to haul one over roots). There is full foliage so plenty of shade and there is a few nice views of streams and the lake. The trail took us over a couple of stream crossings but the foot bridges were very well maintained. The only “bad” part was the number of dogs that were off their leash. We didn’t have any problems but we did have a moment of surprise when we came running around a corner and there was a big, fluffy dog sitting there with the owner several yards away. He just sat and watched us but it did unnerve me a bit.
We decided to just run a 6 mile out-and-back and that was just fine for a first taste. I really did enjoy the run and the trail was fairly well marked and easy to follow. I can see that I need to wear real trail shoes for this one, though. I didn’t slide too much but I can tell it is a slippery, muddy mess when it rains. Amazingly, I didn’t fall once! I stumbled a few times but I do that even on flat surfaces 🙂
Overall, this was a great run! It was fun to try something new and use a totally different set of muscles. I hope to put this park into my rotation for the coming months, especially when things heat up in the summer.