Have you been experiencing reduced stress, better sleep, and overall improvements to your mental health? Have you noticed your muscles, joints, bones, and heart getting stronger? Do you find yourself getting outside, breathing in fresh air, and soaking up vitamin D from the sun? If so, there’s a good chance you may be a runner
If you or someone you know is interested in taking up running, there is no better time to start than now. There are endless benefits to be had just by running. Research has shown that running, even once per week, lengthens lifespan by benefiting overall health and decreasing the chances of dying from many preventable diseases. Not only that, but, running greatly increases the quality of life, especially in later years.
If you are new to running and feel intimidated, there are many approachable ways to build up to running your first steps. Taking regular walks is a great way to build an exercise habit. Once a good walking base is built, running can be incorporated by alternating 1 minute of running with 1 minute of walking. Increasing the ratio of running:walking is a great way to build towards running nonstop.
A great way to find motivation to build up to running longer distances is to sign up for a local race. The Uncompahgre Valley hosts a number of 5K races (3.1 miles) throughout the year, many of which benefit great causes. Putting a race on the calendar will provide a clear goal to work towards with a definitive timeline. To keep motivated, try finding a friend who’s interested in running and sign up for a 5K together; working towards this goal will be a fun and rewarding experience.
The Uncompahgre Valley offers a great variety of running paths. The cities of Delta, Montrose, Ridgway, and Ouray offer paved paths that can be used for running and walking year-round. Portions of the paths existing today will eventually link up to become the Uncompahgre Riverway Trail, connecting Ouray to Delta with 65 miles of continuous path.
The valley also boasts extensive trail systems that are great for running. Trail running has become increasingly popular in recent years because it reduces the impact on your body compared with concrete. Trail running also promotes balance and stability. Getting out on trails is a great way to experience nature and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the area.
In the summer months, trails at higher elevations can offer a reprieve from the valley heat. In colder months; snow and ice can be avoided at lower elevations. It is important, however, not to run on muddy trails, doing so causes damage and increases erosion on the trail.
Dennis Weaver Memorial Park has a great trail network that is perfect for those new to trail running or looking for an accessible short loop. The park is located about 1.5 miles north of Ridgway. Turn west off of Highway 550 onto RiverSage Drive and continue across the river to a trailhead on the right. It is possible to walk, run, or bike from downtown Ridgway to the park on a paved path. Networks of trails radiate out from this trailhead, offering a variety of difficulty levels. One popular option is the two-mile lollipop route which starts up the Stagecoach Trail, climbs to the top of Boot Hill, then around the Riversage Scenic Loop and back down Stagecoach.
For more experienced or more adventurous runners, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of public land surrounding the valley with some incredible trails with amazing views. Northeast of Montrose, Ute, Bobcat and Sidewinder trails in Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area are beautiful. Northwest of Delta is Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area which has truly staggering scenery to turn through.
Whether you are an experienced runner or just beginning a walking routine to work towards running your first steps, the Uncompahgre Valley is an amazing place to travel on foot. Running is such a simple sport; it doesn’t require much equipment and can be done just about anywhere or anytime. There are considerable benefits that can be seen by incorporating running into your routine. Of all the benefits that running offers, the most important is the simple lesson that it has to teach us. Running teaches us that if you take one step at a time, just one simple step, you will get where you want to go in life.