By: Brian Elder
In the first post in our newest series, we wanted to share a local place that has some great options for runners to add some miles to their shoes. Athens, Georgia is a community that is full of runners. With two running stores located less than a quarter mile away in five points, these stores outfit a community of runners that is continuing to grow. With college students trying to fight off the "freshman fifteen" and local business people trying to maintain an active lifestyle, it is difficult to drive on Milledge Avenue or Lumpkin Street and not see a runner. While many of these runners stick to the familiarity of the roads, for those who aren't afraid to get off the beaten path, we recommend the trails at Lake Herrick and the IM Fields on the campus of the University of Georgia.
With multiple parking lots the only time it is ever difficult to find a spot is when the Red Coat Marching Band is out and practicing during the fall on an afternoon before a home football game. If you're lucky enough to find a spot and run in this area you won't want to run with music because as the marching band plays the "Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation" you will have all the music and motivation you could ever need.
While you can run around the practice fields dispersed throughout the area, the best part of the intermural fields are the trails. There are multiple entrances: near the back fields and gravel parking lot, beside the parking deck down a gravel path by the Lake Herrick sign, or across the bridge over Lake Herrick. For a first time runner, it can be confusing knowing where to go once you get to this point. There are multiple paths you can take and I would encourage anyone to "get lost" on the trails. While you may feel lost at first, if you follow the trails you will eventually make your way out and back to where you have parked.
If you are looking for a little more information, the trails ultimately make a giant loop back in the woods with short and intermediate trails cutting through the larger loop. All of the shorter trails will lead you back to the larger loop if you ever become lost. If you ever see the chimney pictured above you are near the top of the larger loop. I would encourage anyone to follow the larger trails that are wide enough to drive on for the first time running here and maybe take one of two of the shorter trails until you reach a larger and wider path once more and can continue to run back to where you parked.
One of the best things about the Lake Herrick and IM trails is that there is great variety. There are flatter routes you can take or you can incorporate hills. If you are looking for a place to do a hill repeat workout, there are few places in Athens that have a better hill than the one in the middle of the trails just above the bridge that crosses the lake. If you need a place to do some post workout strides to work on your form the trails have some flat and cushioned surfaces or you can do it on the side of one of the IM grass fields. We hope that you will start the new year off right by running and maybe even use our recommendation and try a new running spot at Lake Herrick and the University of Georgia IM Fields.
Brian Elder is a learner, amateur explorer, and runner that is going to run until it takes him somewhere. He is a graduate from the University of Georgia where he studied English and Religion. After running competitively on trails and roads, he fuels with an appetite so big you would swear it’s competitive. Follow Brian on Instagram.