I took an inadvertent stroll down memory lane this evening… dirty, smelly, memory lane. I speak of course of the South Farms, a tract of University of Illinois property just south of campus where the college of agriculture does its research.
I did a 12 mile run after we returned from Rockford. Ever since my knee surgery 3 years ago I have only a limited tolerance for running on pavement, so I try to stick to running on grass and dirt as much as possible. Fortunately, we live only a block away from the arboretum, which has a nice 1.5 mile cross country loop. Knowing that I wanted to do a longer run I chose to expand this evening’s route to include the nearby south farms and Meadowbrook park. I was able to stay entirely on grass except when crossing 3 streets.
Incidentally, this was also the farthest run I’ve done in the last 3 years. I may yet return to my former half, full, and ultra-marathoning glory.
As for the south farms, I haven’t run there in 11 years. In the fall of 1996 I was on the UIUC (men’s) cross country team, and we practiced at the south farms at least 4 times per week. There is a 3000 meter loop around some of the corn & bean fields where we did both easy and hard training runs, both short and long distances. Most frequently we did it as part of an easy (and by “easy” I mean 6:40 miles) 4 mile wake-up run at 6:30 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Yes, this was in addition to the afternoon practices.
In order to get to this loop from campus we needed to pass near the pig sty and endure just about the worst smell imaginable for 100 meters or so. Fortunately, in the past few years the pigs have been moved further off campus and this particular area of the south farms is more tolerable to the senses.
I remembered stretching next to the metal fence that separates the fields from a little gravel road. I remembered a particular 14 mile Sunday run early in the fall, which at the time was the farthest I had run in my 17 years. I remember a 5k practice race runners 10-14 (I was 12) did some Saturday while runners 1-9 were away at a race. I believe this was the fastest 5k I ever ran but I don’t even remember the exact time. It was just a tad over 16 minutes.
Tonight’s 28 degree temperature and gusting wind did little to distract me from reliving some of my glory days. I doubt it will be another 11 years before I make it back to the south farms.