The most confusing sign in Indy

When I go out for a trail run, I’m runner.

I’m not a hiker.

So what am I supposed to think about this sign, which I see every time I go out to Fort Ben?

What do you think? Are runners allowed on this trail or not?

I’ve actually run this trail a few times. It’s a fun, scenic, loop, probably about three miles around. It connects with the Lawrence Creek Trail (a hiking trail), and winds through a rolling part of the park, with several creek crossings.

During those runs, I’ve never seen a horse on it, although I’ve seen lots of horse poop.

I’ve also never seen a park ranger. But if I did, and he told me to get off the trail, I would say: “Hey, what’s the problem? I’m not a hiker.”

According to Webster’s, a hike is a  “long, vigorous walk, especially through the country or woods.”

When I run trails, I’m usually going about nine minutes a mile. In my book, that’s not hiking.

The sign is ambiguous. What bothers me is that it implies that there are only two possible activities for this trail: hiking and horseback riding.

This is what logic professors would call a false dichotomy — a choice between only two alternatives, as if there were no other options. Like running.

The reason I bring this up is that central Indiana has a shameful shortage of unpaved running and hiking trails. I need every trail I can find.

So when I see signs like this at Fort Ben, I want to know for sure. Does this mean me?

Unofficially, I have heard that this trail is closed to foot traffic from April through October. Yet I can’t find that spelled out on the official park brochure, which contains lots of other rules and regulations.

So, over the last few years, I have occasionally run this trail, and enjoyed it.

Last Sunday, I went to Fort Ben and ran all the hiking trails. Then I started toward the horse trail. And this time, I noticed something different.

About 100 yards into the trail, there’s a new sign that I’ve never seen before.

I guess that clears it up.

I turned back, disappointed, and went back to the “hiking trails.”

Trail Boy loves his trails. But he’s no lawbreaker.



Because there are so few trails near my house, I run pavement more than I’d like to.

This morning, I ran five miles on roads — five times around a one-mile loop in my neighborhood.

It was a bore. I was falling asleep on my feet. Honestly, I don’t know how road runners do it, grinding away these mind-numbing miles on the roads, day after day.

In fact, I got so bored, with no challenging trail under my feet, or interesting scenery to occupy my mind, that I got really desperate.

I began counting footsteps. How many times would my feet hit the ground in one mile?

So on the next full loop, I began counting. My count: 1,346 foot strikes per mile.

I told you I was bored.

But when I got home, I wondered: is that a normal number of steps?

I did a quick check of various web sites dedicated to walking (including The Walking Site) and discovered that 2,000 steps per mile is average for walkers.

OK, but what about running? Remember, I’m a runner — not a hiker!

According to the MD Sports Weblog, the average number of steps required to run a mile ranged from 1,064 steps for a six-minute-a-mile pace for men to 2,310 steps for a 20-minute-a-mile pace for women.

When you run faster, you take more steps. It’s a function of leg turnover. So my count of 1,346 falls smack on the faster side of this range.

But was I really running fast? My time was 40:43 for five miles, which works out to an average pace of 8:08 per mile.

Not fast, but not slow.

I can’t wait to get back to trails.


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