After one week, four cities, and 1600 miles, we finally arrived at the purpose of the entire trip: my friend’s wedding in Bloomington, Illinois. And as luck would have it, our hotel backed up to the Constitution Trail, a 24-mile long running/walking/cycling path that runs along the route of the old Illinois Central Railroad through Bloomington/Normal. So Saturday morning when I woke to temperatures in the low 60s, well, this was a no-brainer.
A short path led from the hotel parking lot to the trail, and on advice from my friend, I turned right. This section of the trail didn’t seem heavily-traveled, and since I was running alone in a city I didn’t know, a couple of times I got a little nervous when I ran under dark (potentially sketchy) bridges. But I think it was really just my overactive imagination–as I ran I saw an increasing number of people, both alone and in groups, and I felt completely safe.
After a mile or so, the trail appeared to dead-end at a street crossing. Hm. I knew it didn’t really stop there, but I couldn’t see where it picked back up. Fortunately another runner came up behind me and turned right, so I followed–it was a block or so away.
A couple of historical markers enlightened me on the history of the railroad and the town. For example, the Camelback Bridge (below) was built in this shape in order to permit early wood-burning locomotives’ tall stacks to pass under the bridge. It’s the only surviving bridge of this type in Illinois.
A canopy of huge trees covered almost the entire trail, so it stayed cool and breezy the whole time. This section was heavily-traveled but not annoyingly crowded. Many runners waved good morning, most cyclists coming from behind me gave the “on your left” warning, and no one hogged the trail. The whole thing was extremely civilized.
A couple of times, the trail crossed neighborhood streets, but I’ve been told that in Illinois, vehicles must stop for people in crosswalks (not the other way around) so it’s common for runners and walkers to venture into crosswalks even if cars are approaching. While that’s technically the rule in Texas too, the “Austin drivers suck” in me didn’t push my luck there. I only crossed if it was clear or if another pedestrian was already in the crosswalk.
Another great feature of this trail is its frequent placement of water fountains, probably every 1-1.5 miles. The morning felt cool (to me–I heard others complaining about the heat) so I hadn’t brought my own water, and the fountains were perfect. Some areas also had a picnic shelter and porta-potty, but about two miles from my starting point I also encountered a really nice public restroom.
A little further ahead, the trail forked and I went left for another 1.25 miles or so, until I decided I was ready to head back. A cottontail rabbit greeted me at my turnaround, and a chipmunk scurried across my path a while later. Some kind of volunteer group had begun a project at the park with the restrooms, and by now a lot more runners and walkers were out and about.
I turned around at 3.25 miles, so to give myself an even seven I ran .25 the other direction from the fork and back, which coincided perfectly with a street crossing I didn’t have to make. And in the end I still had to run a little past the turnoff to my hotel to get that even seven miles.
I haven’t run more than six miles in a while, so my legs were feeling those seven when I finished. But I don’t get many opportunities to run in 60-degree temperatures in mid-July, so I wanted to take advantage of this great trail and go a little further. It will be even cooler overnight, but I’ll miss out since we have to hit the road for home at the asscrack of dawn. Bummer, since I won’t likely see these temps again until October.