Think of Montgomery County, Maryland, and the first thing that comes to mind may be suburbia. But inside the county that’s right outside our nation’s capital is a trail runner’s paradise.
I’m training for the Baltimore Marathon, and I had 14 miles on my schedule for Sunday, Sept. 20. I stayed at my grandparents’ house in Montgomery County on Saturday night, and I looked to see if there were any local running groups that did runs on Sundays.
I found the Montgomery County Road Runners Club, and saw on the club’s website that it has weekly group runs on Sundays from the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail at 7:30 a.m. The group doesn’t always meet at the same trailhead, but on this third Sunday of the month, the group was meeting at the Route 355 trailhead, which is in Germantown.
I hadn’t run on this trail before and I wasn’t familiar with this specific area of the county — it’s about half-an-hour away from where my grandparents live — so I did some research to try to find out exactly where the trailhead was. However, once I was driving on Route 355, it was easy to see the group of three runners in the parking lot.
The club members were very welcoming, and one of them even had me text her to make sure I got back OK (since I was doing a longer run and would be running by myself after running with the group), which I thought was very considerate. I ran three miles or so with two of the runners, with one leading me to a turn-off point to make sure I went the right way.
I quickly realized this was going to be a slow run. There were plenty of hills to climb up, and the terrain certainly made me slower, too. I tripped and fell twice — both times in the first four miles — which I’ve learned is kind of just a part of technical trail running. There were no injuries, just a lot of dirt.
Even the faster trail miles I logged were in the 11-minute-somethings. Once I was by myself, I walked some during the run, and I was OK with that. it was a really beautiful trail, and I really enjoyed the change of scenery.
I ran 14.14 miles total, according to my watch, and my watch was on for just more than three hours. This didn’t include a bathroom stop, but it was running during some other times when I wasn’t running.
After running about four miles, I needed to go to the bathroom and realized I hadn’t really seen any portable toilets. Another person happened to be coming up behind me, so I asked her, and she didn’t know of any that were there on a regular basis. I still had a lot of my run left, so I looked up where the closest public bathroom was, and I ran about 1.5 miles out of my way, on a hilly road, to a grocery store bathroom. I ran back and returned to the trail.
If I were to do the same run again, I would have refilled the one water bottle I brought at the grocery store’s water fountain. One small water bottle wasn’t really enough to sustain me for the 14-mile run, and I was parched by the end. Luckily, I did have water in my car, and quickly drank what was left of one water bottle and then another one before buying some more water at a nearby gas station.
But it wasn’t too hot out. The weather was beautiful, and it seemed to be a perfect day for this sort of run.
The part of the trail that I ran is detailed here. I don’t remember seeing a sign for Huntmaster Road, but based off of the descriptions and information (maps are here), I’m pretty sure I ran past Huntmaster Road, then turned around when I hit the mileage I was going for and ran back. The part of the trail that I ran on was, for the most part, pretty narrow.
I’m sore today — even in my arms. My watch logged 673 feet of elevation gain for the Sunday run, which is something I would have to try extremely hard to do in Salisbury, and that would probably involve running up and down the same hill for 14 miles. Even that might not get me there, and that type of course wouldn’t be interesting at all. (My Saturday run, a 3-miler in Salisbury, had 6 feet of elevation gain.)
The next run that came even close to this one as far as elevation was when I gained 448 feet of elevation on an 8.5-miler in Westminster.
It seemed like a safe trail, and I saw a handful of other people, but use precautions if you decide to run by yourself. I liked having a phone with me anyway so that I could take pictures and be able to use the map to find a bathroom. But make sure your phone is in a case, because when I fell, my phone flew out of my hand. (It was not damaged.)
I’m glad my schedule worked out so that I got to meet some new people and experience this trail.
This post has been updated to correct my elevation gain.