For many years in my life, there was nothing I loathed more than running. It seemingly always involved coaches blowing a whistle while doling out wind sprints, or was the staple of the seemingly never-ending "conditioning practices." Ahh, the memories! Fast forward to college where I, a golfer, ended up rooming with members of the cross country team. Long story short, after a few late night conversations about what is and what is not a "real sport," I became a runner, and they took up golf.
In that experience, I learned that without the constant threat of that whistle blowing yet again, running could actually be fun and relaxing. Now three half marathons and more 5Ks than I can remember later, I find it hard to imagine happiness without a few weekly runs.
As I've embraced this new life as "a runner," the one thing that I struggle with most is getting bored running the same route over-and-over again. Being in Franklin though allows me to vary my runs. With a mix of paved or trail options, plus an abundance of races it is easy to keep every run fresh. Here are six of my favorite spots and races to lace it up and log a few miles.
While the Park at Harlinsdale Farm spent its early days as a famed horse farm, home to a Tennessee Walking Horse Grand Champion even, it has now been converted into a beautiful park in the heart of Franklin. It has many running options throughout the park, with course loops up to four miles long. The beauty of running through the Park at Harlinsdale Farm also knowing what else takes place in the park too, like the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Arts Festival. Where else can you get in your morning run on the same spot where musical icons like Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapelton and so many more took the stage? If you really want to take it full circle; push play on the Pilgrimage Festival Spotify playlist as you run!
Just off the Natchez Trace Parkway, Timberland Park offers a more rustic scene for a run. It offers different length trails, that can be as short or as long as you want. The great thing about Timberland Park's trails is that many of them loop back to a similar starting location, so if you want to make a longer run you can hop from trail to trail without breaking stride. Each of the trail routes gives a variety of views as well. Some are covered by a canopy of trees while others have the payoff of great overlooks to the valley below.
Another great option for those that love a good run through nature is Bowie Nature Park. Sitting on more than 700 acres; it is very easy to get away from everything during a run at Bowie! They have more than 10 different trail options, ranging in lengths from half a mile to almost five miles. Some of the trails are saved for foot traffic only, while others are open to bikers and horses as well. If you love to get lost in nature, like I do, this set of trails will be one you return to over and over to log your miles.
This park sits within a 400-acre greenspace that is largely left in its natural, wooded state. With almost nine miles of trails at Marcella Vivrette Smith Park, you can wind your way through a number of hillsides and scenic valleys. Aside from nature, one sight you won't be able to miss on your run is the beautifully restored Ravenswood Mansion that dates back to 1825 and is filled with Civil War history. If you are needing to log a longer training run, Smith Park also connects to the city of Brentwood's main trail system that winds its way through town along the Harpeth River.
If you spend much time around the running community you quickly learn there are two things most all runners like to do, have fun and help out a good cause. Maybe it's all those positive endorphins kicking in that make everyone so willing to help, either way, the charity 5Kis not a new concept. You've likely all run in one, or at least know of one most every weekend in the spring and summer months. What makes them unique though is when they combine an incredible story, like that of the WillPower 5K's namesake Will NeSmith, and a great course. At 12-years-old Will suffered a rare brain hemorrhage that landed him in the hospital for months and faced with relearning everything he'd known before, including how to walk and talk. A year later, to celebrate his incredible recovery, he launched the WillPower 5K which is meant to be beginner friendly. With that focus, and as one of the only races that allow you to run down Franklin's iconic Main Street, this race has hosted thousands of participants in its five years and was even named one of the three great races for new runners by Forbes Magazine.
For the biggest, and without question most unique, running challenge in town head to Leiper's Fork in June. The Hillbilly Half is not the one you target to set your next PR (personal record); the hills and heat from a June Tennessee morning will put a stop to those thoughts quickly enough. This race is not one you want to rush through anyway. The majestic countryside that you run through is meant for strolling and taking in. Just like some country back roads are made for rolling the windows down as you drive down them, this race route is meant for taking your time and savoring. That all sounds great, but don't forget the name of this race! The Leiper's Fork locals take pride in having fun, and boy do they along this race route. You never know what - or who - you'll see, but if you hear a banjo off in the distance you'll know you are in for a show around the next curve.
These are just a few of my favorite places to lace up my running shoes around town. If you use an app like Map My Run, you'll find over 4,000 routes around Franklin! What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.