This year’s NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship will be held in my hometown, the first truly major cross country event ever held here. In advance of the race, I’m giving out-of-towners some useful information about Toledo. Today it’s all about running in the Glass City.
Toledo is actually has tons to offer runners of the average working-class Joe variety (which is just the kind of person who populates the area). The only two things we lack are temperate weather and hilly terrain. Such world-class athletes as Nick Willis and Desi Davila manage to put up with our weather, though, as both make their training bases just to the north in the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas.
The Toledo Area Metroparks include twelve parks scattered around the city and its suburbs, and boast over sixty miles of unpaved trail along with 26 miles of asphalt rail-trail (with 13 more coming on line soon). There are many city parks and other natural areas with even more good places to run.
So, you’re in town. Where do you go?
Located just a few miles away from the University of Toledo and Ottawa Park, the site of the regional meet, Wildwood is where seemingly everyone in town goes to run. The 460 acres of mostly wooded land includes more than seven miles of rolling unpaved trails plus another two miles of paved bike path. It also lies right next to the 6.3-mile University/Parks rail-trail, which connects the park with the University and suburban areas, bike lanes and other bike paths.
This one is way out of town, near Toledo Express Airport, and gets lighter use than Wildwood. It has a lot for runners, though. Named for its unusual oak savannah environment, its 3,743 acres include 29 miles of unpaved trail and 5 miles of paved bike path. The 63-mile Wabash Cannonball rail-trail passes through the park (of which 20 miles are paved with asphalt). One of the more distinctive features of Oak Openings is a small area of sand dunes, left by an ancient forerunner of Lake Erie, so those of you who like Percy Cerutty’s approach can do your sand hill runs!
3. The rest of the Metroparks system
Notable running areas in the other ten Metroparks:
b) Side Cut Metropark, whose trail system also leads into the city of Maumee’s Towpath Park, the National Park Service’s Fallen Timbers National Monument, the Shops at Fallen Timbers, and the above-mentioned Wabash Cannonball Trail
c) Swan Creek Metropark, in a working-class area of south Toledo, with several miles of rolling trail
d) Pearson Metropark, a completely flat area in the east-side suburb of Oregon with several miles of mostly crushed gravel trails
e) Secor Metropark, another completely flat park in a rural area near the western suburb of Sylvania, with many miles of both dirt and crushed gravel trails
4. Ottawa Park
2315 Walden Pond Drive
Whereas the Metroparks are a self-contained autonomous government agency within Lucas County, Ottawa Park is city property. The golf course is the site of the regional meet, but the surrounding park areas have good running opportunities as well, offering several short steep hills. I grew up a block away from the park and still work in the neighborhood, so I’ve logged thousands and thousands of miles in the park.
A 5k asphalt bike path runs around the perimeter of the park, with spurs going off along South Cove Boulevard and Parkside Boulevard in two directions. At Bancroft Street there is a sidewalk connector along Westwood Avenue to the University/Parks rail-trail, which will take you to the above-mentioned Wildwood Metropark.
A nice but little-known feature is a relatively new 3.28 mile mountain bike trail (technically located in Jermain Park, but the two parks are only separated by Upton Avenue). The narrow and winding nature of the trail, with a few sharp hills, makes fast running difficult but your legs will get some work.
5. Ottawa Hills
The natives won’t like me inviting you in, but running in the tony old-money suburb of Ottawa Hills can be fun. Located between the University and Wildwood, just grab a map and go up and down the roads and you’ll be surprised that there are this many people in Toledo who are this wealthy. You don’t have to worry about traffic; the maximum speed limit in the whole village is 25 mph, and it’s enforced. There’s an unfounded rumor that Ottawa Hills native Katie Holmes and her husband, Tom Cruise, own a house here.
6. River Road
If you’re determined to find a section of road with some decent roll to it, there’s pretty much only one option. Park in downtown Maumee and start at St. Joseph’s Church, and head west on Broadway Street. Broadway turns into River Road, taking you through Side Cut Metropark and along the Maumee River, and seven miles later you’ll be at the trailhead for the towpath in Farnsworth Metropark. The consistent roll makes this one of the few areas where locals can truly prepare for the Boston Marathon.
Other decent areas to run include:
Toledo is a wonderful place for average Joe runners, and not just because of our natural resources. Toledo’s road runners club is very active and well-organized, and puts its efforts into organizing races. The result is that the racing calendar is packed, with well over 100 races every year, and they are almost universally efficient and inexpensive. Entry fees in excess of $20 are notable by their rarity (and you can find many for $10 or less), and probably 90% of Toledo-area races are on certified courses.
Some of the more popular and/or interesting races: