The other day my sister was telling me about her 13 mile training run and the route she normally runs. As I listened to her explain where all she ran, my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. She runs on some of most unsafe roads and her normal route includes the steepest hill in town.
Our running routes certainly could not be more different. I choose my route based on safety and for that reason I only have about 3 or 4 "regular" routes that I run when I'm at home. I've noticed that the pace (and quality) of my run is based largely on the route I run it on.
For instance, my island is the closest route to my home so it's the one I visit more often but I rarely have what I would call a "fast" run there. It is a very safe route because there are no cars but because it is an island, the route is circular with lots of twists and turns and I find it hard to pick up speed when I 'm running in a circle. A majority of the route is not paved so it is a bit harder to run on the earth's surfaces (I think). Also, this island is not flat. There are no hills but just enough inclines in some places that make you exude a bit more energy. If I need a long run, I don't go to the island.
My long runs are always at the rail trail. This trail is a little further from my house but it is so worth the drive. The trail is completely flat and is a straight shot. It's a combination of surfaces and I've had many "fast runs" here. This is probably my favorite route and where I have my "best" runs! A plus for running on this trail is that there is a Starbuck at the end of it (or beginning depending on which way you go).
When I don't have time to drive to the rail trail, I drive into town (or sometimes I run there from the island). This is a pretty safe route because I am running on the side walk that is on the river side, which means I don't have to stop for any cars. I've also noticed that I can pick up speed when I run on the sidewalks. Sidewalks feel so good to run on after running many miles on the trails. I remember doing a 10K PR on this route! It can certainly be a pretty fast route, but there are certain things about it that can slow me down. For one, I have to watch my footing in certain areas because the sidewalk is not always even. Also, if I do more than 6.2 miles, I more than likely have to cross the street. If I'm on the other side of the street I now have to watch for cars and potentially stop at red lights. In turn, all things that add time to my run.
Do you have routes that produce different result in your running? -M