*Scene from the upcoming BBC special: “Planet Earth: The University”*
The end of August marks one of the great migrations this world has ever seen. Students – thousands of them – return from a summer-long hibernation. It may take days for them just to open their eyes, a week before they will speak. They’ve traveled from as far as China, Australia, South Africa, all with the single goal of returning to their home for the next nine months: the university.
How they know to return to the university… no one yet knows. Some think that it is the incessant nagging of the student’s mother and father. Others believe that the students are driven purely by the chance of an encounter with the opposite sex. To this day, the reason remains one of science’s unsolved mysteries.
(I hope you were reading that in the elegant style of David Attenborough as opposed to that permed freak Sigourney Weaver or, heaven forbid… Oprah. *Shudders*)
If you’ve just made said migration, I’d like to welcome you back to the ‘Ville. The town was almost empty and really quiet (read: perfect) while you were away. In all seriousness though, I think most people, myself included, are excited to see the Big G vibrant and alive with students again.
One neat aspect of the beginning of the school year here in Gainesville is the inevitable influx of runners. Unlike, say, the influx of cars a new school year brings, runners aren’t causing traffic, taking parking spaces or degrading the environment, so the more the merrier!
As I seem to discover a little more each and every day, Gainesville is as close to ideal a town for running as I’ve ever experienced.
It’s about more than just nice places to run, though.
There is a friendly and determined running community here in town. And that’s really what this post is all about: getting you connected with the community.
Let’s check out some local online resources for runners here in Gainesville:
- Gainesville Running Google Group: Looking for a group run in town? How about an upcoming race to run in? Gainesville Running is the easiest way to stay connected to fellow Gainesville runners online. The folks in the group are friendly, knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions you might have. Sign up already!
- Florida Track Club: I recently attended my first Florida Track Club meeting, which I documented here. For runners that are serious about improving, the FTC meetings, held monthly, are enormously helpful. And free! Although the FTC website has some rarely updated sections, the race calendar is always up to date. The FTC also has a blog and a Facebook group (search: Florida Track Club).
- Alachua County Parks and Facilities: If you’re in the hunt for nature parks and trail systems to run in Gainesville, the ACPF page is a great resource. There’s no reason not to find a beautiful trail near you. Ben’s note: For some reason, I have a hard time finding this site through Google, so I would recommend bookmarking it.
- Recreation Guide to District Lands: If you’re like me, you’re probably willing to drive, occasionally, to a beautiful running spot. Well here’s a comprehensive list of county-owned conservation properties along the St. John’s River, which spans from Jacksonville to Vero Beach. Newnan’s Lake Conservation Area is definitely your best bet in Gainesville.
- NATL’s Self-Guided Nature Trails: What’s that? You have no car, you say? Well, did you know that the University of Florida has its own trail system on campus? It does! These trails are tucked sneakily behind the UF Center for Performing Arts and are just west of the Entomology & Nematology building. They’re also really close to the Southwest Recreation Center (known by students as Southwest Rec.) Great for a run after pumping some iron.
I hope these links and, of course, RunGainesville will help you get connected to the running community here in Gainesville. Furthermore, I am sure there are more local running resources that I’m not aware of, so if you have more helpful links, please post them in the comments section, and I’ll add them to the list!
Hope to see you out on the trails – happy running!