Lately, I’ve been wanting to run on the trails more and more rather than on the road. Last year my whole body felt like it was being run over by a semi-truck right after my long runs on the Keystone paved trail in Bellevue. However, that did not happen when I ran my last 20 miler in October on the beautiful dirt trails of Lake Cunningham, where the soreness and pain were not there at all! I was able to feel with my own body how different muscle areas are used in different terrains.
So, when I woke up last Saturday, I decided that it was a good idea to drive 30 minutes from Omaha and head to Schramm State Park in Nebraska. This hidden gem not only offers opportunities for runners to enjoy the almost three-mile loop trail but also for families in general. At the main entrance, there is a small and unique aquarium called Aksarben where kids can spend a few hours learning about the park, or simply enjoy a picnic by the square duck pond with geese and ducks.
The first part of the trail is a paved road that goes up a very steep hill; this road has such an unbelievable inclination in certain sections, that I can easily touch the ground with my hands as if I was climbing it. I was less than half a mile into my run, and I could feel the warmth in my calves and quads because running up a hill is no joke!
Finally, when I reached the top, I saw the beautiful dirt trail covered in brown and yellow leaves that the winter season had left behind. Every single step I made was followed by the crunchiness sound from the dried leaves and branches on the ground. The foliage, the roots, and the fallen branches seemed to create an incredible visual effect as the three of them were camouflaging each other, and were hard to recognize as I was moving fast towards the first downhill portion of my run.
My speed was improving as I kept moving forward, and as I was getting faster trying to enjoy the downhill section, I had the feeling that I was flying surrounded by some tall trees with no leaves that let me see the bright blue sky through them. I was surprised by the first right sharp turn ahead of me, followed by a small rolling hill where the roots of the trees created a sort of staircase that brought me to the top of the trail. The only sound in the park was my steady breathing, my strides, and the few little animals, like squirrels, that were brave enough to adventure out of their homes as it is starting to get warmer in the Midwest.
Once I finished my first mile, I encountered a wooden bridge which was very stable. I saw a little creek running underneath it that brought a beautiful relaxing sound to my adventure as I kept running next to it. A few minutes later, I crossed a second wooden bridge with characteristics similar to the previous one, but a bit longer. After 2 miles, my run was becoming peaceful and quiet, and most importantly… it was enjoyable.
Before getting to third bridge I had to cross, I believe I stepped on a tree root that was covered by leaves, and I rolled my ankle. The stabbing pain irradiated up the side of my right calf, I had to walk a few steps to recover myself. I knew that it was going to hurt even more at night once my muscles start to cool down. But at that point, I had to keep moving.
I simply avoided thinking much of this mishap, and headed towards the third and last bridge where a hill was awaiting for me, followed by half a mile of a downhill path that led me straight to my car where I checked my ankle once again. As it didn’t seem to bother me anymore. I ran 3 more laps inside the trails.
When I was done with my adventure, I called my friend Kalee on the way back home to give her a report of my run. I knew I had to show her the beautiful trail, so we decided to go back on Sunday for another incredible experience at Schramm!