It’s been months since I’ve been to Town Run Trail Park. That’s pretty odd when you think about it, because I really like the park, and it’s only two miles from my house.
I’m not sure why I stayed away so long. I always have a blast running the seven-mile mountain-bike trail, which is loaded with challenging twists and turns, lots of short hills, and roller-coaster layout.
I’ve called this trail the best seven miles in Indy.
So I decided to get reacquainted with the park this morning. Before breakfast, I drove out there, changed into my trail shoes, and got down to it.
The weather was great, clear and sunny. The trail was nice and dry and the park was bursting with green, just about everywhere I looked.
I didn’t have to worry about running into any bikes this morning. I had the whole park to myself. That’s probably because part of the trail that crosses under the I-465 bridge is closed, due to some construction work on the freeway. That meant that the middle section of the trail — probably about two miles — was off limits.
But it still left about five miles or so of fun trails. and I had fun powering up and down the hills as fast as my legs could carry me. It was a fun workout combining speed and strength, while running under a canopy of shade trees. I finished in 47:05.
It was my best run in the past week or so, which isn’t saying much. I’ve been letting my sore legs recover from the Cleveland Marathon earlier this month, and have done only short, easy, tentative shuffling.
Over the weekend, in fact, I didn’t run a step, as part of my Serious Recovery Program. Instead spent hours and hours doing yardwork, which was probably more strenuous than running a 15K.
So this run was just the medicine I needed. It felt great to run strong again.
Welcome to Indy, Home of Very Few Parks
When I moved to Indy about five years ago, I was stunned by the scarcity of parks and playgrounds.
The city just seemed so lacking in green space for kids to play in and adults to hike, run, or otherwise get back to nature. I really had to make an effort to find parks and trails.
That was such a shock, coming from little Akron, Ohio, where there was a city park within walking distance of just about anywhere, and a national park just 15 minutes from my front door.
What was wrong with this picture? Was I just not looking in the right places?
Well, now I know it wasn’t just me.
Acording to a new report issued this week by the American College of Sports Medicine, green space truly is a rarity in the Indy metro area.
How rare? Let’s start with parkland. In Indy, it amounts to just 4.8 percent of the metro land area. That’s less than half of the national average, which is 10.3 percent.
Or how about park funding? In Indy, it’s just $45 a year per capita, compared to $102 per capita nationally.
Ball diamonds? Just 0.8 of them per 10,000 people, compared to 2.0 nationally.
Playgrounds? Just 1.6 per 10,000 people, compared to 2.3 nationally.
The list goes on and on: We lag the nation in recreation centers, swimming pools, tennis courts, mass transit, people who walk and ride bikes to work, and just everything else that could make us more healthy.
As the Indianapolis Star said in an editorial: “We even scored low in the number of farmers markets. And we live in the Farm Belt, for goodness sake.”
Bottom line: Indy just doesn’t value public parks as much as most of other cities. For whatever reason, most people here just don’t think it’s important to live an active, outdoorsy lifestyle.
So what is the big deal? I’m glad you asked.
The report also gave a snapshot of health and fitness. I’m sure you will be not surprised that Indy scored higher than the national average for the percentage of people who smoke, who have asthma, who die from cardiovascular disease, who are obese, and who have diabetes.
Yep, looks like I moved to the land of the walking dead.
Overall, Indy scored near the bottom of all major cities — 44th out of 50 largest cities — for overall health and fitness. That puts us in the same company as Las Vegas, Detroit, Memphis and Oklahoma City.
And it’s getting worse. Last year, we were 36th. We’re going in the wrong direction.
If I ever get out of this town, it will be for a city that values parks, health and fitness.
Well, what do you expect? The biggest sporting event in this town is a 500-mile car race. That’s about the least green, least fitness-conscious sport I can think of.
If you can find a park, expect to have to pay $5 to get in. Per car. Per day.
Meanwhile, wooded green space is quickly disappearing. The state is allowing contractors to chop down trees practically as fast as they can in state forests, according to Indiana Forest Alliance, an environmental watchdog group.
On the brighter side, Indy scored better than the national average on the number of golf courses per capita.
Now that’s really sticking it to the rest of the country.