When you live near the coast, the idea of mountain running is exotic and unusual. Sand and waves are gorgeous, but there is a beauty to mountain running that is just beyond compare. Last week, in North Carolina, I got to experience some mountain running (and walking and hiking), and I would love to share some of my favorite moments.
Wildflowers (and regular flowers) are everywhere.
There are very few flowers at the beach. Sure, we have shells, and sea glass, and a few runners of flowering vines in the dunes, but nothing quite compares to the flower-filled meadows in the mountains. Florida flowers are a little limited: we have bold tropical blooms like hibiscus and azaleas, but we miss some of the lesser known seasonal florals. I love getting to see them.
Elevation changes are normal.
Coastal running is usually pretty flat. Florida is at sea level, where the biggest hills are intracoastal bridges and parking garage ramps. Not so with mountain running. Runners experience ups and downs, literally, with steep inclines and plunging descents. It keeps things interesting.
The views are breathtaking.
I’m not saying that the ocean and endless palm trees aren’t beautiful, but there’s nothing quite like the view from several thousand feet up. Running with this in your sights is a whole different ball game. Instead of miles of blue sea and blue sky, mountain views offer layers of blue, green, white, and gray, as far as the eye can see.
The summer temperatures can be more bearable.
Summer running in Florida is pretty awful. It’s hot, humid, and the sun is merciless. Up in the mountains, the temps can be cooler and humidity much reduced. There’s nothing quite like wearing a sweatshirt on a July morning to combat the chill. Sign me up.
Waterfalls and rivers are a little more accessible
We joke that in Florida, there is an alligator in every body of water. Every single one. It makes natural water a little less appealing (and it’s a big reason that I don’t go in lakes). In the mountains, it’s much less dangerous to wade out in a spring or river. Plus, waterfalls are awesome.
A feeling of accomplishment.
Hot beach runs are challenging, but there’s a different reward to cresting a ridge, and overcoming the obstacles on the trail. I always feel more accomplished when I complete a walk, run, or hike somewhere that isn’t flat.
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What are your favorite things about mountain running?