In 2020, COVID-19 showed up, and travel shut down–abysmal timing for someone ready to ramp up a travel blog! My travel writing plans were disrupted (to put it diplomatically) because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean I sat still. With everything turning upside down, my walking habit became an even more essential part of my daily routine. As the year wore on, all things pedestrian became my new focus for local travel in and around the southwest metro Denver area.
My Walking Routine
In early 2020, while things were still “normal,” I was training to race walk (see the note on race walking below) the Platte River Half Marathon that would take place in April, something I’d done for several years.
Because consistency is critical for race preparation, I had a habit of training in the same places. During the week, I took a circuit around my neighborhood. On the weekends, I’d head to a trail for my “long day” workout, usually the Mary Carter Greenway (paved) along the Platte River, or the Goodson Rec Center trailhead in Centennial, Colorado for the High Line Canal Trail (gravel).
After my area went into a lockdown, I continued my training, grateful to get outside. The half-marathon became a virtual race (of course), and I completed all 13.1 miles (21.1 km) on the Mary Carter Greenway:
Following this intense training and effort, I kept walking but went into recovery mode. Dropping my workouts’ intensity for a while, I also replaced some race walking with more casual walking and hiking.
One step at a time – further and farther
As I continued my walks, signs with social distancing rules started appearing along “my” trails. They were becoming more and more crowded with new outdoor enthusiasts. Understandably, with a lockdown in place, I wasn’t alone in needing to get outside in the beautiful Colorado spring. But I did need fewer crowds and a mental break from COVID restrictions.
I began to look for less-crowded places to walk. Rather embarrassingly, I realized that I hadn’t been taking advantage of all of the nearby urban trails, greenbelts, parks, and open spaces available to me. In some cases (hey there, Mount Falcon Park), it had been a while since my last visit. There were also options I was entirely unaware of, like the East-West Regional Trail in Douglas County.
With no travel to arrange, I started planning my walking routes more intentionally. I visited places like Waterton Canyon as long weekend walking days took on new importance. Getting up earlier on weekends to get to trailheads further away became a thing. I took advantage of a Colorado State Parks Annual Pass to hike in nearby state parks.
The more I planned, the more I saw that it could take me several more months, or even years, to really explore ALL of the places for walking and hiking within a couple of hours’ drive from my home base.
As a result, I covered a lot of ground in 2020, over 1200 miles (1931 km). These walking adventures will be described in more detail in upcoming posts. In addition to the areas mentioned above, some other topics that will be included are:
• Walking over 57 miles of the 71-mile long High Line Canal Trail
• Hiking in Castlewood Canyon State Park
• Walking the 14-mile Sand Creek Greenway
• Hiking in Jefferson County Parks
Looking Ahead-Walking in 2021
I’m on track for even more walking in 2021. While I know “normal” travel will come back eventually, there’s no reason not to continue to travel by walking in and around the Denver metro area. I won’t be doing another virtual half marathon this year because I want to maximize my ability to look for new walking routes. Instead, I’ve signed up for the Fit Year 2021 Challenge from Colorado Runner for additional motivation.
I’ve got many more steps to take, and I look forward to sharing them with you. What kinds of walking information are you looking for? Let me know in the comments below.
A note on race walking
Race walking is an Olympic sport and has been since at least 1908. The main rules are:
• one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times; and
• the leg in contact with the ground must remain straightened until that leg passes under the body.
It’s an activity that deserves more respect than it typically gets in the United States.