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St Louis

Mason Road, St Louis, part of my regular morning 10km
Happily, the adductor muscle strain that was bothering me yesterday was not a problem on my easy 5km jog around the streets of Copa this morning.  Nor was my right arch any worse than yesterday, so I'm feeling a little more confident about getting back into full training by the end of August.

Copa is situated in a beautiful part of the world and offers plenty of running courses, but options for an easy 5km are quite limited.  In fact, there's pretty much only one loop that works from my house, and it does get a little boring day after day, despite passing by the spectacular beach.  Fortunately, there are more options for the 10-12km runs that have been the "bread and butter" of my running life.

Although my training load has varied, the standard recovery and/or morning run has tended to be 10-12km.  These runs have been referred to as "garbage runs" by other writers.  They are not quality sessions, nor are they designed to develop a specific running attribute.  But they generally reinforce muscle memory and strength, exercise the cardiovascular system and aid running efficiency.  They keep the engine ticking over, and become the most common session for many runners.  As such, they loom large in my memory of the many places I have been lucky enough to live and work in during my life, and I judge the running amenity of these places according to the variety and interest of these regular 10-12km runs.

I still managed a couple of podium
finishes while living in St Louis
Probably the most boring location, from a running perspective, was St Louis in the US, where I lived in the western suburbs from 1992 to 1997. Our area was characterised by long, mostly straight through roads laid out in a grid pattern, servicing many unconnected housing estates. It was quite hilly and also exposed, with the latter exacerbating the drastic seasonal variations. In winter, the cold air used to sweep down the Mississippi Valley from Canada and months could be spent running in dark sub-freezing morning temperatures, with wind-chills often exceeding -25°C and occasionally reaching -40°C, or worse. In summer, the warm humid air made its way up the Mississippi Valley from the Gulf of Mexico, and even the early morning runs were sweltering affairs. We were lucky enough to have a pool and the sweetest moment of most days was stripping off and diving in to that (hidden from public view) pool at the end of the run.

There was really only one 10km loop from my house, and for variation, I would alternate directions each day for my morning run (I was only training once per day by this stage of my life).  It wasn't a bad course, with a few hills and a semi-rural stretch, but running it most days each week for five years was enough.  In all of the times I ran that course, two runs in particular live in my memory, both weather-related.

Hawk Ridge Trail in Queeny Park, St Louis
At certain times of the year, St Louis used to have some violent storms with barrages of thunderclaps sounding like artillery duels.  As is my wont, I don't like changing my training plans because of weather, so I tended to go for my scheduled runs regardless.  In one early morning twilight, I was about two kilometres into my regular loop, running west along Clayton Road during a thunderstorm, when a huge thunderclap sounded directly overhead accompanied by a simultaneous lightning strike on a tree about 50 metres to my left.  I must have leapt a metre into the air and finished the run powered by adrenalin.

On another occasion, in early morning mid-winter darkness, I was heading south along the unlit and narrow Mason Road in about 7cm of fresh snow when I encountered three snow-ploughs, covering the entire width of the road, approaching me at about 50kph.  I had no choice but to leap off the road down a dark embankment to avoid being hit by the juggernauts.  Fortunately, no harm done.

If time and weather permitted, I sometimes ran a 12km loop that incorporated trails in the nearby picturesque Queeny Park, but the park didn't officially open until 8:00am so I was reluctant to do that too often.  However, it was a great place to run some laps on weekends.