Rediscovering Nature beneath the Soles of My Sneakers

By: Cheyenne Knight

When I signed up for my first half marathon, I vowed to train entirely outdoors. I knew that climbing on a treadmill day after day to stare at the same patch of grass, the same residence hall, and the same students walking to class for four months of training would take all the fun out of it.

So I vowed to train outdoors, even if that meant enduring weather that I never ran in and exploring parts of Pittsburgh that I never saw before. I took it as an opportunity to challenge myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. I also took it as an opportunity to rediscover my love for the outdoors. After spending almost every day sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen for hours, I was ready for a reason to get outdoors and reconnect with nature.Trail Run 1

Over the past four months of training, I have learned a lot about the outdoors during my runs.

I learned that nature doesn’t take in the consideration of anyone. Regardless of what your training schedule calls for on a particular day, the weather is going to do as it pleases. It snowed today? Put on your ear warmers and gloves, slip an extra pair of socks on, and put those dorky shoe spikes your grandmother got you for Christmas over your sneakers to prevent slipping. (If you don’t wear them, I can almost guarantee you’re going to slip. I learned that the hard way.) It’s currently raining? Find a waterproof jacket and a baseball cap. It’s 80 degrees in March? Please don’t forget your sunscreen. This is Pittsburgh, remember. You are bound to experience all four seasons within your few months of training.

I learned that there are places in the city that you can really only experience on foot, and if you haven’t been there before, you are missing out. While training, I finally found the rest of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that I hadn’t seen before, and was blown away by the views that this trail had to offer. I was able to experience Pittsburgh through the woods, near the road, along the river, and across the bridges just by running one path.

I learned that running without music or a friend to talk to really allows you to immerse yourself in your surroundings. I used to not be able to run without music, finding it difficult to really focus on the task at hand and using music as a way to distract myself from how much I didn’t enjoy running. After I started running longer distances through the woods, however, I decided to put my headphones away and really pay attention to what was going on around me—I hadn’t realized how much I was missing. I heard different wildlife, smelled different flowers, saw different trees I hadn’t noticed before. Even the air felt different. I felt more present, and it made for much more enjoyable runs.

I learned that my exercise does not have to be confined to four walls and gym equipment. As a fitness minor and aspiring personal trainer, much of what I enjoy doingSchenley Trail involves working out in a gym atmosphere. As a nature lover, however, it is hard for me to stay indoors on beautiful summer days. I now appreciate that I can adapt my exercise to outdoor spaces and really utilize the parks and trails around me.

I learned that I never regret facing my fears and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Since I’m usually stuck in Oakland during the school year, I don’t know many of the other neighborhoods and parks in Pittsburgh. Prior to training, I stuck to running the same few trails in Schenley Park. I was wary about adventuring somewhere new, on foot, alone. But I did it, and now I am thankful that I can navigate so many different trails in Pittsburgh and have the confidence in myself to embark on new paths.Trail Run 2

If you are looking to sign up for a race or a trail ride, or just want to spend more time outdoors, lace up your sneakers and hit the trails around Pittsburgh. Keep your headphones at home and really listen to the world around you. Be mindful of the path before you, but don’t forget to take a few moments to look around and take the scenery in. I promise that you won’t regret it.

Marathon Medal

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OUTDOOR News

  • The Forty Sixers Club

    May 15, 2018

    By: Sara Cardamone

    In July of 2016, Sophie was looking to try something new. She had already planned to get away from the world for a while and decided to head to her grandparent’s house in upstate New York. Surrounded only by the sights and sounds of nature, it was the perfect place for her to relax and truly spend time with herself. As the end of the school year approached, her grandpa sent a message to her and her sister mentioning a club that he had heard a bit about called the Forty Sixers Club. The club was centered in the Adirondacks and the only way to get in is to reach all 46 high peaks in the mountain range. 

     » Read more about: The Forty Sixers Club  »

  • The Beautiful Truth behind Kayak Pittsburgh

    May 8, 2018

    By: Stephanie Capilongo 

    Stephanie helps secure at PFD on a toddler “We’re not selling an object, but rather an experience.”

    Once a fashion major, I relied on material things to give me comfort. I have long forgotten that outlook and believe the experiences I have had in the outdoors is what has given me confidence to encourage others to do the same.

    Throughout the last two years of working at Kayak Pittsburgh I realized how the things you’re passionate about can also be your job. Maybe it’s the constant dose of Vitamin D or the eager customers. Regardless, there is never a dull moment.

     » Read more about: The Beautiful Truth behind Kayak Pittsburgh  »

  • To Fish or Not To Fish

    May 1, 2018

    By: Patrick Panasko  

    Fishing Along North Shore

    “Raise them on the water with a fishing pole, not in the house playing video games” 
    -Bill Dance. 

    When you see the North Shore of Pittsburgh you see sports stadiums where big catches are made by professional athletes. The sport of fishing can offer a more valuable catch to kids and adults alike. Over the past 16 years Venture Outdoors has hosted TriAnglers Lunch Time fishing. 

    Many inner city youth and adults do not get the chance to go fishing and enjoy the pleasures of it. 

     » Read more about: To Fish or Not To Fish  »

  • Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting

    April 24, 2018

    By: Beth Zabiegalski   

    As an organization, Venture Outdoors does some really awesome and exciting things with local youth in after-school and summer programs, getting them outside for the first time or teaching them something new to do in nature. Most of our outings are a couple hours or less, but when we build meaningful relationships with our students, we create formative outdoor experiences with memories that last more than just that afternoon. 

    Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day Restorative Practices Training through Venture Outdoors’ partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools. I’ll admit I had next to no idea what to expect,

     » Read more about: Restorative Practices in an Outdoor Setting  »

  • Spring Inside

    April 17, 2018

    A Day a Phipps 
    By: Sara Cardamone 

    Now that Spring is finally here, so is the rain! In Pittsburgh, sometimes it can be hard to find ways to be in nature when it is rainy and muddy. However, there are tons of fun alternatives if you look hard enough! Since I’m a student at Pitt, I pass Phipps Conservatory all the time but I always felt like I never had enough time to stop in. Fast forward to now, the first big rainy day of Spring was upon us and I was struggling to find a calming activity to take my mind off of school and then it hit me.

     » Read more about: Spring Inside  »

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