Lexington-area Route Reviews
Maybe you inferred from my last entry but I love travel. That being said, the amount of time, money and energy that I invest in traveling belies the fact that I love Kentucky. The more I travel, the more I feel compelled to witness to Kentucky’s under-sung beauty with evangelistic zeal. My drive to become a runner was predicated on that zeal and I probably would have never bothered if the backdrops for my fledgling career were things like suburbs, stoplights and ‘CentrePit’.
Fortunately for me, that was not the case. I began on the country roads and in the hills in nearby Jessamine County. When I moved into downtown Lexington a couple years ago, I found myself oppressed by the sprawl and monotony, the hard surfaces and bad air.
Because I think the best things in life should be shared, I have decided to write route reviews on a regular basis. My target audience is the aspiring competitor who needs a weekly change of scenery to stay inspired. My criteria for the routes are as follows:
1. Less that 20 miles – because anything longer is alienating. If you are willing and capable of running near-marathon distances on a regular basis, you’ve probably got plenty of inspiration and you don’t need this pep talk from me.
2. Within 30 miles of Lexington – many of us have jobs, families, and busy lives that require we opt for something we can squeeze in before work.
Routes will be rated on:
Difficulty rating— beginner, intermediate, or expert
Safety. Obviously, extreme caution should always be exercised when running on country roads and no runner is impervious to an errant driver or a mean ol’ dog. The focus here, with my friends and twin-toting colleagues in mind, will be should you even consider taking a stroller here?
Flow – e.g. do you have a to cross major thoroughfares, wait at a crosswalk, etc.
The reviews will include pictures and elevation profiles when possible.
I’m the kind of person who thinks the best things in life are the things you can share. I think that is a symptom of being terminally extroverted. I also have a complicated relationship with the city: on one hand, I enjoy the multitude of potential gratifying experiences, the community, and the flux; on the other hand, I hate the difficulty of escaping into nature. Parks and arboretums just don’t do the trick for me.
Maybe my standards developed from my upbringing—for the majority of my life and burgeoning running career I spent my free time exploring the hills and winding back roads of small-town Central Kentucky. I will see it as a small community service if anyone, having read this post, finds a new reason to love running and Kentucky hiding right out their back door.
Route Review #1
Directions to start: From downtown Lexington, drive south on KY 68/Harrodsburg Rd/S. Broadway for 17 miles. Turn left on Main Street in Wilmore and park.
Safety: This route is mostly on country roads that experience little traffic. Much of the route is narrow and there are a couple of blind curves that should handled with caution. Be prepared to confront barking dogs; while I have never been bitten I have had them come into the road toward me. Arm yourself with pepper spray if you desire.
This is the first of my route reviews for those uninspired runners who are coming to grips with the fact that the honeymoon is over. Rekindling any love affair requires work and, as such, Figg Lane is hard but extremely rewarding in both scenery and challenge. The route winds up and down some really dramatic topography with some truly unique geological features that are typical the Jessamine Creek Gorge area in southwestern Jessamine County. We aren’t talking horse-country hills here, people!
From downtown Wilmore, runners proceed down East Main St, keeping right after crossing the railroad tracks. Turn left onto Campground Rd. After you crest the hill and run along the outskirts of the neighborhood, the scenery becomes very rural. Keep straight down the one lane road and stay light on your feet because you’re going to have to cross the creek! Don’t worry, it’s usually pretty shallow and your feet shouldn’t be too wet for the rest of the run. You’ll come to an intersection about half a mile down the road, take a right onto Glass Mill Rd and enjoy the scenery during slow descent. On your way down you might hear something that sounds like monkeys going nuts, it probably is; the Jessamine County Primate Rescue is nearby. At the bottom of the hill you’ll see a picturesque house on the right. Cross the stone bridge look for the narrow road straight ahead labeled “Figg Ln”.
An aside about Figg Lane: only 1.7 miles of this 8-mile route are spent on Figg Lane. That this route is known simply as Figg Lane is due to the one defining feature of this run that supplants the memory of the rest. The roughly 200ft in elevation that you spent without a second thought over the last couple miles is repaid mercilessly over the next 600 meters. This is the kind of hill that spends you no matter what kind of shape you’re in and, what’s worse, its smack in the middle of the route so you’ll spend a lot of the remaining miles recovering from it. Here’s a look at just the hill climb:
The 4 miles remaining of the route has plenty of rolling hills but the worst is over. In a couple miles, Figg Ln terminates at Handy’s Bend. Turn right and right again when Handy’s Bend ends at High Bridge Road. Continue carefully down this busy road back into Wilmore.