Where to run in Cassville

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One of my greatest concerns when I moved to Cassville in 2007 was having to replace all my carefully measured running routes. It took almost two years, but I found a variety of road and trail courses that make Cassville a runner's paradise.

Cassville High School track

Cassville is one of those fortunate places where the local high school track is open for community use. Whether you are seeking a safe place for an early morning walk or running a quad-burning interval workout, the track at the Cassville football field is an excellent choice. The six-lane, rubberized 400-meter track was recently resurfaced.

Follow the basic rules for protecting the facility and its users: stay off the football field and the specialized venues (pole vault and high jump areas), put trash where it belongs, leave Fido at home, and NEVER use a wheeled device on the track (wheels can cut ruts in the rubberized coating, especially in warm weather).

Walkers and slower runners generally use the outer lanes so as not to interfere with the faster runners. I don't mind passing people when I run, but I get aggravated when people walk in lane one and then step out in front of me just as I am passing. If you are in a lane, stay in it. I won't run over you.

Greenway Trail

The Greenway Trail is a beautiful crushed gravel/paved trail that snakes north-south through the eastern edge of Cassville. The north end of the trail is at Rocky Edmondson Par, at the foot of Wildwood Drive hill. The south end is a roughly half-mile gravel loop situated just west of Southern Hills. There are a number of rustic wooden bridges along the route.

From the trail head at Rocky Edmondson Park to the paved turnaround at the bridge at the southeast corner of the aquatic center complex and back is 5,000 meters. If you cross the bridge and add the gravel loop to the round trip, the distance is 3.68 miles. I usually run an extra loop around the gravel to get in a four-mile run.

You can run double loops or create variations using the different parts of the course to create longer runs. There are virtually no hills on the trail.

There are drinking fountains on the trail, and very basic restrooms at Rocky Edmondson Park.

The Greenway Trail is a very popular walk/run site, and you will encounter constant traffic on the narrow trail at peak usage times. Be courteous, walk/run on the right side -- we drive on the right in the USA -- and don't mow down other users.

Variety of road courses

For real training though, the best place to run is on the road.

Safety is the main priority when deciding where to run. Besides finding streets and roads with good running surfaces, one must also consider the traffic density, blind corners and hills, bad dogs, etc. There is generally less traffic on dirt road networks, but also more chance of a bruised toe or a rolled ankle from the occasional odd rock in the roadway. I do run on some dirt roads, but most of my routes are on pavement.

My two favorite road routes to run on in Cassville are Highway Y north of the water treatment plant, and Farm Roads 2172/2165/1040 that run east-west just north of the Walmart property.

Just west across the bridge from Rocky Edmondson Park, a runner can start on the gravel drive beside the Wildcats football fieldhouse and proceed north onto Crystal Springs North for a mile and a half until it ties into Highway Y. (I run the Crystal Springs connector road to avoid the dangerous section of Highway Y just north of the high school.) From that point on, "Y" is very safe to run on, with little traffic and plenty of shoulder room in case you encounter a big diesel pickup with a cattle trailer. Houses are few and far between, and the rolling farmland creates a wonderful running environment.

I have never had a bad dog experience on Y, although I have had a couple of very friendly dogs follow me home. Friendly dogs can be just as bothersome as bad dogs. At my age, I am more worried about tripping over a dog and falling than I am about being bitten.

But, there are some mean dogs in town and I advise you to adjust your route if you know a vicious animal is a possibility. Leash laws don't exist here, so protect yourself. Mace, a stick, a rock or a just a stern "Go home!" can all be effective. You can also find a slower running partner. That way, you don't have to outrun the dog, you just have to outrun Joe.

Highway Y generally follows Flat Creek as it winds north from Cassville. Merl's Chapel is about 4.5 miles from the start, and the intersection of Y and U at the Spark's Cemetery is just short of seven miles. Of course, water runs downhill, so you have a noticeable uphill grade to climb once you turn south to run back to Cassville.

For a challenging seven-mile run, you can run about 2.5 miles on Y, then turn west onto Farm Road 2150 (CAUTION! ROLLER COASTER HILLS AHEAD) and then turn south on Farm Road 1115 (dirt road and more hills!). This road will eventually bring you behind Kelly Wade's storage facility and into the neighborhood west of the high school. You should be able to find your way home without bread crumbs.

Farm Roads 2172/2165/1040 combine to make a generally desolate paved country lane that will eventually take you to Wheaton if you stick with it long enough. This is the road I use for my 20-plus-mile training runs. There are a few mild hills, and some intersections where you need to wake up and pay attention, but it is a peaceful and safe place to log a lot of miles. It is two miles from Rocky Edmondson Park to Highway 37 using 13th, Main and 11th streets, and the turnaround point is up to you. It is over five miles to the railroad crossing north of Exeter, and almost exactly 10 miles to a gravel circle situated on the south side of the road near the intersection of Farm Roads 1040 and 2155. I don't know if this is a go-cart path or what, but it is a good geographical reference point, and it shows up great on the satellite feature of Google Maps.

Make sure to carry water or have some water bottles stashed along the route before you tackle this or any ultra-length venue.

The hilly 10

My 10-mile hill route is not recommended for anyone who is not an experienced runner. For one thing, the combination of hills will take a novice runner to his/her knees. For another, almost four miles of it are on a very busy section of Highway 248 east of town.

Here is the course description. Starting at Rocky Edmondson Park, run up Wildwood Drive to Oak Street, turn left and wind around to Skyline Drive. Follow Skyline down to Crystal Springs, then right out to Highway Y. Turn east onto Farm Road 2150 and follow the constant uphills to Farm Road 1145, a little past the 4.5-mile point. Run south on 1145 through the two big hills and past the poultry farm on the left until you reach Highway 248 at the old bridge. Turn west and climb the steep half mile hill, then follow 248 on its gentle downhill section into town. At the Highway 112 intersection, cut over onto the Greenway Trail for the last three-fourth mile back to Rocky Edmondson Park.

Any time you run on a busy state highway, follow the safety rules for runners: run on the left facing traffic; wear something highly visible, such as a green or orange fluorescent tank or shorts; yield to oncoming traffic, even if it means stepping off into the ditch to insure safety; STOP at all intersections and check for traffic both ways before crossing; and make eye contact with drivers at intersections before proceeding, don't assume they see you.

Just hills

Hilly courses are interval workouts in disguise. The steep climb forces you to work harder and taxes your cardio-vascular system even though your actual speed is decreasing. If you want to take that to the next level, then do an actual interval workout on a challenging hill. The hill leading to the cemetery east of the ballfields is an excellent test for runners and is usually traffic free. Wildwood Drive from Rocky Edmondson Park to the crest at Oak Street is a brutal three-10ths of a mile and is also lightly traveled.

Probably the most challenging hill in Cassville is Eighth Street going west from Main Street up to Sky Street by the old water tower. I say "probably" because I really don't know. As Chris Shore and I have discussed on many occasions, some hills are so hard that they are counter-productive for training. I have never run up Eighth Street and have no plans to do so.

Treadmills/cross training

There will be times when you just can't run outside. Weather situations, odd work hours, rehab from injury: all of these can force you to change your training routine. Both Mercy and the YMCA offer good equipment for indoor training in friendly, safe environments. Many people just purchase a treadmill or other fitness equipment for home use, but too many of those end up as expensive clothes racks. Don't invest that kind of coin in a machine that you aren't certain you will wear out in five years.

A lot of where you run depends on why you run. Design your training program around your personal goals, and remember that no training program is set in stone. Flexibility of schedule is one of the keys to achieving and maintaining fitness.

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