What happens when a less-than-hardcore runner takes a run-cation?

Katie Conlan warms up before a run at Smith Rock State Park. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

I can’t sit still, even on vacation. I don’t want to spend my free time shopping or going to movies or playing board games.

I want to get outside, move and sweat.

But what’s it like to take a running-themed vacation, where the focus is on running? Would I really want to run every day for five days? On my days off?

Runners run a trail at Smith Rock State Park during a Rogue Expeditions trip to Bend, Oregon. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

To find out what it’s like to go on a “runcation,” I signed up for a five-day trip to Bend, Oregon, with Austin-based Rogue Expeditions.

Then I started to worry. I haven’t been running, thanks to a lingering case of plantar fasciitis. I can count on one hand the number of runs I’ve done the last year. I’m not exactly a fast runner, either. Middle-of-the-packer describes me just fine.

But, heck. It’s my Year of Adventure. What’s the worse that could happen?

The trip began with a shakeout run along the Deschutes River outside of Bend. Our group of eight loaded into a van each morning, and company co-founder Gabe Steger drove us to the day’s trail. Each day, we could choose our own distance. I took the shorter option nearly every day, running between 4 and 8 miles at a time. Others ran farther, but distance and speed didn’t matter. I ran at my own pace.

The group runs toward Tumalo Falls on Day 2 of the trip. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Our run lineup included routes in Smith Rock State Park, along the McKinzey River and to at least a dozen different waterfalls.

Highlights? Grabbing the hands of two of my new-found running buddies and leaping into a 37-degree, marble-blue lake. Running, by myself, along a pine-needle strewn trail beneath towering Ponderosa pines. Flopping on my back at the end of a long run, winking up at the sky and feeling that delicious tiredness in my legs. And did I mention the breweries? Bend is known for them.

In the end, my plantar fasciitis never bothered me. I rolled an ankle one day, but not badly enough to stop me from running (very gently) the rest of the trip. I just took it easy.

We ran. We ate healthy food, we hung out by a hot tub, we toasted marshmallows over a fire.

I’m heading back to Austin today. I’m pretty sure this runcation did something most vacations don’t – it jumpstarted my return to running. For that I’m grateful.

Look for my story soon in the travel section of the Austin American-Statesman.

Ann Baumann stretches out after a run at Smith Rock State Park. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

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