Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year's?

Is it just New Year’s resolutions or what that has people out on the trail? On Saturday I made it around Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail and realized that there are a ton of people out there. At least there were a ton of people on the western end of the trail. (My more common east side was still fairly devoid of traffic.) This brought to mind several questions:

1) Is it really just the New Year’s rush out on the trail?
2) Why is the west side of the trail always so much more crowded than the east?
3) How do I go about maintaining the run friendly style on the super crowded west end?

In reality, I think I know the question to all of the questions above but would like to open them up to more discussion. Obviously question 2 is more of an Austin question, but the other two I feel are open for national, or even international, debate. So let’s hear it.


  1. The east side???!?! I hear they attack runners, steal their shoes and sell them for crack on the east side! :)

    1) I've noticed things pick up substantially after new years (at the gym and on the trails) and at the onset of spring. But I bet those numbers are increasing each year because a) tons of people have moved to austin so there are just more people doing the same thing, b) the weather's been wonky - 70-80 degree days in January are perfect for exercising and c) there's a shift taking place. We have a black president! And the republican candidate that lost had a woman as vice president! We're attempting to make hell freeze over by trading in our lunch trip to Burker King for Thundercloud subs and a walk around town lake.

    2) Because people want to keep their Nikes!!! No, honestly, I see very few people farther east than the Congress bridge. I've wondered this myself, and always figured it was because of this: most people start out at mopac/lake austin, by the high scool, or come from the Barton Springs/Lamar Pedestrian bridge area. From mopac to the pedestrian bridge is about a 3 mile loop, or about a 5k. That's a friendly distance for most people to walk/run, and that's where most of the people are (and people like to be around people, even if they don't acknowledge one another). It also takes a person walking it just under an hour or so, and a person running/walking around 30-45 mins or so, which is a nice, unobtrusive amount of exercise. To keep going to 1st/Congress makes it around a 5-mile loop, and that's about as far as most people go. I think also because the trail gets complicated there. If you're running on the south side of the river, heading east, you have to get off the "trail" and run through the back of the Statesman parking lot, out to the sidewalk and run along Riverside up to the highway. I know the first time I ventured out there, I thought I had missed the trail and was doing something wrong. That, and you are looking at a 7-mile loop (I think) if you started at Mopac and run to I-35 - that's a long way for most people. And running past I-35 to Longhorn Dam can be quite the task if you have never been - running through the school fields and by the old power plant can be tricky if you don't know where you're going. That, and it's like 10 miles, which is a long ways for most people, I really only see the distance guys and UT runners out there.

    3) Man, I dunno. I've been running along Shoal Creek and the NW Hills area for the last year and have a little different perspective. I've found that even out here, when I may only run past a few people on a long run, a number of them still don't acknowledge me - with a look, nod, wave, "hello" - they just look down and go past. But some, if not most, do. A pattern I've found with people who don't acknowledge over people who do, is it seems the people who don't acknowledge you aren't out having fun, while the people that do acknowledge you are having fun. Old people almost always wave. People who look friendly and are in shape (they're not grimacing and aren't out killing themselves) typically wave and say hello. But people who are running and obviously aren't totally cool with it yet, it seems like they're in a foul mood or something and don't want to look at you - and seems like they make an effort not to. I know if I'm in a bad mood, I ignore some people because I'll just be ugly. And then you get the guy that I've been, who is out there completely one-tracked, focused on their game and can't let anything break their focus. I think that guy has removed the fun from what he's doing.

    I think if you really want to maintain the run friendly attitude on the west end, run in a clown suit. Or a big, black afro and aviator glasses. I'd do that with you, actually, that sounds like fun. Remind people that they're out having fun and not to take it too seriously. And for anyone that doesn't lighten up after they see you, punch them with your big clown fists, steal their shoes and sell them for more clown suits :)

  2. Yeah, sadly that was what I was thinking. There is certainly a perceived image of the east side being dangerous. What the merits are, I don't know, but there definitely are more areas that appear to be a little more spooky.

    I also agree that the east side is quite confusing. Even after running it a lot I still find myself missing turns and stuff. Plus, there is only one water fountain on the south side of the trail between the Mile 0 and Longhorn Dam. And to top it off it is attached to a very shady bathroom in the park next to the hostel. So if you are running the entire trail there is one water fountain in between mile marker 6 3/4 and the finish line.

    Oh well. I think I am just going to keep acknowledging people and maybe some will respond, some won't. Though I a clown suit would be awesome. Do they make them in tech fabrics?

  3. If they don't, they certainly should!! Clowns gotta exercise, too :)

  4. This is somewhat related: