Not many races include numerous scenic courses around the region. But the virtual Tour de Salisbury — created in the wake of COVID-19 — did just that.
Participants had two months to complete 12 courses in the Salisbury area. There were 12 numbered legs that each had a corresponding Strava segment, and runners could complete them in any order during June and July. People could run alone or with friends and could choose to compete for speed or aim for completion.
Put on by Algonquin Ultras, this event was a fun way to keep people motivated and introduce them to new scenic running spots in our area, while staying safe and following COVID-19 guidelines. People could also stay connected by posting about their experiences in an active Facebook group.
Leg 3: Salisbury Park (3.02 miles)
I kicked off the Tour de Salisbury on the first day — June 1 — with the Salisbury City Park leg. The first day of the tour was a Monday, so I was able to run this one after work.
I’ve run at the park more times than I can count. It’s right by my house and has also been a regular Eastern Shore Running Club group run location. However, I do usually run the opposite way at the park.
This loop was clockwise and went over the white bridge instead of the brown bridge, for a total of 3.02 miles.
The first time I ran this leg, my time was 34:55, an 11:34 pace. I did have some shin issues toward the beginning of the Tour de Salisbury, and I also knew it would be easy to run this leg again because it was short and close to my house.
Although I ran most of the Tour for completion, I wanted to use this one as my own personal speed challenge. I made it my goal to get my average pace for this leg to start with a “9” (so 9:59 would meet the goal) by the end of the Tour de Salisbury.
Here were my next five full attempts at this leg (there was another time I started out but knew I wouldn’t make it and changed my route):
- June 9: 34:01 (11:16 pace)
- June 11: 32:42 (10:50 pace)
- June 19: 31:49 (10:32 pace)
- July 16: 30:41 (10:10 pace)
- July 24: 33:23 (11:03 pace)
Knowing I was almost out of time, I headed out for the segment July 30 but turned around when I saw I’d run the first mile in 10:05. The next morning, I started again, running the first mile in 10:15.
The evening of July 31 would be my last chance. I ran the first mile in 9:47, but dropped off, running the segment in a time of 30:51 and an average time of 10:13. I gave it what I had, and once I’m finished with logging miles for the Race Across Maryland, I plan to give this segment another try. I’ve run in the “9”s as recently as the spring for a 5K distance, but I was trying to test myself in the summer heat and humidity.
Leg 9: Cherry Walk (10.28 miles)
My second leg of the Tour was one of the courses I had not yet run, a loop including Cherry Walk Road in Quantico. I ran this leg with my friend Veronica on Saturday, June 7. It was my first run that was not either solo or with my boyfriend since the pandemic really started affecting the U.S. in March.
It was great to run together, and I enjoyed the rural, scenic course. I was still getting used to the heat, and it definitely felt warm, slowing me down.
I completed the leg in 2:12:19, a 12:52 pace. I think I originally planned to go back, but as the summer went on, my paces suffered in the heat more, so a 12-something pace for a long run was OK by me.
Plus, the only double-digit runs I ended up doing during the June and July were this leg and the Cooper Loop Half leg. The heat and humidity certainly didn’t motivate me to get out there to re-run longer routes.
Leg 1: Pemberton Park (3.93 miles)
My third leg of the Tour was at Pemberton Park in Salisbury. I’m familiar with Pemberton’s trails, and this course was similar to the Pemberton 24 course, but since the course was longer than a 5K, it was not exactly the same.
I loaded the course onto my watch — the first time I’d ever done this — and followed the turn-by-turn directions. I got a little turned around, but I got the segment on the first try and ended up with a time of 55:32 (14:06 pace).
Since this was a shorter course that was pretty close to my house, I knew I could return to this one.
I ran Leg 1 again on June 28 in 54:29 (13:50 pace) and on July 25 (with my Strava app — this was while Garmin was down) in 52:04 (13:14 pace). These runs involved walking because of the heat, and the Pemberton trails are more technical than the trails at the City Park.
Leg 10: Salisbury University (6.2 miles)
The Salisbury University course was another familiar course to me, and it was easy to follow the map. I’ve run in the neighborhoods by SU so many times, and the loop included part of the old Tim Kennard course, which has been a common route for me.
This was also during the BibRave virtual summit weekend. I used run-walk intervals for this leg and finished the 10K with a time of 1:14:51, a 12:04 pace.
Leg 4: Salisbury Airport Loop
Most of June and especially July were pretty hot and sticky, but there were a few days that just had awesome weather. One of those days was Monday, June 15, when I ran the Salisbury Airport Loop after work. It was cooler, breezy and overcast.
In 2015, I lived very close to the airport, so I was familiar with Airport Road. However, this loop included some beautiful dirt roads in the woods, on Twilleys Bridge Road and Fooks Road.
Several years ago, I ran on some roads that reminded me of these in the general area with a small group. However, I think these particular areas were new to me.
Once again, I did run-walk intervals, with a solid run toward the end. My segment time was 1:27:07, an 11:51 pace.
When I returned, a concerned resident was happy I’d made it back. Her son had gone out to look for me. They were worried about me alone on the rural roads, but I did feel safe.
Leg 6: Blackwater Loop (6.63 miles)
I was planning to bike in the Cambridge area with my boyfriend, Mike, and our friend, Dave, on Saturday, June 27, but the flat tube I’d just had fixed the previous day had resulted in another flat (it’s now fixed). I already wasn’t planning to cycle as far as they were, but since we were headed to that area, I dropped Mike off in Cambridge and then headed toward the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
As beautiful as Blackwater is, it is close to an hour from Salisbury, so I’d only run here twice before. I blogged about it in 2018 if you’d like to read more about the scenic Wildlife Drive.
The course started near the Visitor Center, but the Visitor Center parking lot was closed, so I parked about 1.35 miles away and ran to the start. When I started my run for the segment, it was 10 a.m. I only had one bottle of water with me, and it was hot.
I brought my dollar with me for the self-pay box. I did run-walk intervals, adding more walking as I got further in. The heat was killing me.
I did enjoy the beautiful scenery, taking photos along the way, and it wasn’t crowded at all. My time for the segment was exactly 1:30:00, a 13:35 pace.
Rather than running back to my car, I walked back, not wanting to expend any more energy that I had to, as I was exhausted from the heat. I was happy to replenish with water and Gatorade at a gas station after picking up Mike (who had gotten a long bike ride in, but had a flat) and returning to my car. I logged a total of eight running miles, plus the 1.35-mile walk back to the car.
Leg 5: Trap Pond Loop (4.59 miles)
On the Fourth of July, I headed to Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, Delaware, for Leg 5. I still did run-walk intervals, but I remember feeling great for this run.
I did the alternate Trap Pond course because after the Tour de Salisbury started, part of the trail was closed, so an alternate course was created.
Trap Pond is a pretty place to run and somewhere I’ve run a few times with the Delmarva Moms Run this Town group.
My segment time was 58:04, a 12:38 pace.
Leg 2: Naylor Mill (3.59 miles)
I’ve gotten lost at Naylor Mill before, so I wanted to have a guide for this one. When I got a text from Kristen inviting me to join her and a small group for the Naylor Mill leg, I decided to join, even though they were meeting at 5:30 a.m. July 6.
Luckily, this was a close one to me, so I was able to get up at 5 and still make it over there to meet her, Diana and Trent. Naylor Mill is definitely the toughest trail in the area, a single track trail with lots of twists, turns and even steep hills.
We started out running, and I did end up having to walk some. I didn’t want to hold them back and just kept them in sight. They even created an arrow for me out of branches. Near the end of the loop, I caught back up to them.
My segment time was 1:03:05, a 17:32 pace. I knew my pace would not be too fast, and I was glad to have gotten in a run with friends before work and to have the segment complete.
Leg 11: Blades (5.46 miles)
With a half-day off work on Friday, July 10 for building maintenance, I decided to head out to the Blades trail, at the end of Blades Road in Pocomoke City, during the second half of the day.
I’d heard all about the flies in the event Facebook group. Since it had rained that day, I thought the flies might not be as bad, and they weren’t.
I had run at Blades once before — read my blog post here — but I still wasn’t that familiar with the trails. I looked at the directions as I tried to follow the course.
Early on, I was suspicious I’d done something wrong because I got to the road before I was supposed to (it said I’d be there at 0.9 miles). However, I kept going. I did run most of the course correctly except for a wrong turn on that orange trail in the beginning, but I didn’t get the segment.
I stopped at Chesapeake Bay Farms in Pocomoke City for ice cream before heading home.
The next morning, I had a bike ride at 10:30 a.m., but I was determined to get this segment. This time, there were a few more flies — although it wasn’t miserable — and I was able to run the segment correctly. My segment time was 1:14:10, a 13:35 pace.
I headed to XO beanery & bites in Pocomoke City afterward, because I knew on Saturdays they have my favorite doughnuts, from Corner Bakery in Onancock. Once I got home, I quickly grabbed my bike and headed to the bike ride. It was a tight squeeze.
Leg 12: Assateague (6.99 miles)
I knew I had to do a lot of the further and/or longer legs on the weekends, so the next day, Sunday, July 12, I headed to Assateague.
It seemed like most people had gotten up to run this leg to see the sunrise. That would have been awesome, but I am not a morning person, and I was not meeting up with someone, so I ended up starting my run at 10:19 a.m.
The run started at the Visitor Center parking lot, went over the Verrazano Bridge and then onto the beach. I knew this leg included running on the sand, which is tough.
I’ve run on the sand before, but not as part of a seven-mile run. Whenever I’ve run on the sand before, I usually do maybe three miles or so and run barefoot.
I had worn my old shoes, and I started out running in the shoes. I felt like I was going so slow. It was hot, and I decided to take off my shoes and head into the ocean at one point. I figured I wasn’t going for time and it would be fun and refreshing. I’d worn a Senita cropkini swim top and Baseline shorts.
After a quick dip that didn’t include going underwater, I decided to run barefoot for a bit. However, I did not like carrying my shoes. When I went to put them back on, I’d lost a sock.
I ended up losing the other sock and found one of them later, so I ended down one sock. I ran the rest of the way with my shoes on, but without socks. Somehow, this did not turn out to be a problem.
My sand miles were very slow, but once I returned to the road/trail, I was able to speed up a little, although still not that much.
On my way back on the paved trail, I stopped when a group of wild horses were on the trail. I stopped to take a few photos and decided how best to get around them.
The last part of this segment was the Rackliffe House Trail Loop. I’ve run at Assateague before (and you can read about it here), but I’ve never run this trail. I did take the wrong turn initially and went a tiny bit wrong on the trail before turning around, but I made it back to the start.
Then, I was able to enjoy a little time at Assateague State Park before heading home.
My time for the segment was 2:00:36, a 17:14 pace.
Leg 8: Cooper Loop Half (13.11 miles)
The Cooper Loop Half was my only other super early start of the Tour de Salisbury, and of course, I was able to start early only because I met up with people.
This was only my second double-digit run since the Tour began, and I also knew it would be hot. When Phaedra mentioned she, her daughter Olivia and friend Jeanelle would be running the loop Saturday, July 18, I was happy to join.
Despite this loop not being that far from my home — starting and ending at the Upper Ferry on the Riverside Drive side — I hadn’t run this loop before. In addition to the regular rural roads, part of the course included a gravel road in the woods.
I arrived to meet them a little bit before 6 a.m. Then, they went out to drive the course and leave a cooler for us along the way. We started the run at 6:37 a.m., which was still much earlier than most of my runs.
We walked when we needed to, finishing the segment in 3:23:40, a 15:32 pace. It was great to have company!
Afterward, I headed to Rise Up Coffee for a coffee smoothie and acai bowl.
Leg 7: Ocean City Boardwalk (4.4 miles)
Even though I’d just completed the half marathon the day before, I decided to finish the Tour on Sunday, July 19, with a run on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
I normally like running on the Boardwalk, but I was a bit worried after seeing photos of the crowded Boardwalk because of COVID-19. So, I knew I’d need to get up early (for me).
I didn’t get up for the sunrise, but I was able to start my run at 7:05 a.m. The segment was up-and-back on the Boardwalk from the Inlet. I decided to get free parking and extend the run by running from the parking lot in West Ocean City, over the bridge and back. So, I ended up with a total of 7.35 miles that day.
Since I was out there early, the Boardwalk was not that crowded, and I did wear a Buff around my neck but felt like I was able to avoid people on the Boardwalk. I did pull it up when I passed people on the narrow, pedestrian section of the bridge.
My segment time was 1:01:25, a 13:42 pace.
The Boardwalk is another place I’ve blogged about running (you can read that here).
I’d brought my bib with me, and after returning to my car, I checked the last box. The Tour was complete!
I’d been wanting to try Casita Linda, so I got an iced horchata latte and a breakfast torta before spending a little time on the beach.
After finishing the Tour, the only legs I repeated were Pemberton and the City Park.
My final time for the 75 miles was 17:28:02.
This was a fun way to stay motivated and switch up my running during this odd summer with COVID-19. I hope the event returns next year, even if COVID-19 is not as much of a concern by then.
Update – 9/16/20 – I have added a BibRave review for this event to BibRave.com. Check it out here.