Training Is Like Roadwork, And Other Lessons From The Road

Since my last running roadtrip update, I’ve run in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Before this roadtrip, I never realized what amazing sights you can find covering this country.

You know what you can’t find?

A working wi-fi hotspot.

Consider that the first lesson.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned running “across” America.

Great Runs Happen When You Least Expect Them

Leaving Butte, Montana, I didn’t really have a plan for where I’d be running over the next few states.

Sure, I could’ve planned ahead. There are plenty of tools available to help me do so. But I like spontaneity.

We hit the Butte visitor’s center to try and figure out the best place to run in the vast and mostly unpopulated state of Montana. As we pulled in, I saw this:

I had stumbled, seemingly at random, onto one of Butte’s many trailheads.

The Ulrich-Schotte trail was mostly flat, rolling along beside a small creek. The cool (for Montana) breeze kept me from feeling the blistering sun. And the views of the Montana hillside were to die for.

The lesson here is that you never know when a great run will happen. So keep your eyes open and be ready for anything.

Training Is Like Roadwork

As we crossed into Wyoming, I got the feeling that I was in for a long day.

Summer, as you know, is construction season. And boy was it.

Large stretches of the freeway were shut down due to construction. So, it turned out, was the Connor Battlefield State Park, the site of my intended run in Wyoming.

I fought my disappointment as we returned to I-90 and, you guessed it, more construction.

Sitting in traffic gave me a lot of time to think about the parallels between training and roadwork.

For one thing, most of us train all summer long (fall marathon, anyone?).

It’s hard work that often involves long stretches of time spent in the hot, summer sun. To that end, training is not always fun. But it is necessary.

And when it involves a lot of miles, it has the potential to really disrupt the lives of those around us.

On a sidenote, I did eventually get to run in Gilette, Wyoming. But ended up doing 4 repeats of a ¼ mile loop, since all the roads there were also under construction.

There Is Strength In Perserverance

In South Dakota, we took a quick side trip to the Badlands National Park.

The badlands began as a sea. As the sea receeded, it became a sub-tropical forest, then becoming a flood plain. Since then, the constant pounding of the wind and rain have worn the earth into what you see today.

That’s millions of years of history condensed for you. You’re welcome.

What a gorgeous place for a run. Or to put it another way, I like big buttes, and I cannot lie.

The whole park is a monument to perserverance. The park materials said that the wind and rain could erode the entire park to nothing in as little (in geological terms) as 500,000 years.

But think of the scale of that accomplishment. Wind and rain crushing some hundreds of thousands of acres of earth.

All it takes is time and perserverance.

Each rain makes only a small amount of progress. But, over time, that progress amounts to a monumental success.

The takeaway is that you can accomplish great things when you stick with it.

Many Small Parts Form A Great Whole

We drove nearly all of the way across Minnesota before stopping to run.

I had taken this road trip in reverse when I moved to Seattle. All those years ago, I had somehow managed to completely miss the Mississippi river.

“That was a pretty big river. Wonder what that was.”


This time, I pulled off in La Crescent, Minnesota, determined not to miss it.

If you hop off the highway and drive into La Crescent, there is a pedestrian safe road (MN route 14) that takes you approximately 3 miles from La Crescent into La Crosse, Wisconsin. Along the way, you cross right over the Mississippi river.

It’s two, two, two states in one.

Ahem… sorry.

The Mississippi is a force of nature, to be sure. But it’s only as strong as it it because of all of the smaller tributaries that feed it.

In other words, all those waters merge together just as all the aspects of your training merge to support your running.

Hill sprints. Track workouts. Strength training. Flexibility work. It takes a little of everything if you want to be a force of nature.

Nearly Halfway There

As I’m writing this, we’re nearly to Chicago. More than half of the country is behind us now.

I can only look forward to the remaining runs and the lessons they teach.

What lessons has running taught you? Teach me in the comments.


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