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Trail Running in the Dunes


Trail runner at Tolleston Dunes

One of the best things about living in the dunes is the ability to get out and exercise in the great outdoors. There are so many beautiful places to run in our area. Hopefully this week’s blog will help get you familiar with some of the best running trails. Or, if you are not a runner, it can help get you started. (No worries though! You don’t have to run these trails, you can always walk them!)

When I first moved to Ogden Dunes my daughter was two. I bought a running stroller and hit the roads, and hills! After living in Chicago for over 10 years and running the busy lakefront path, the solace was something new to me. I could be alone with my thoughts and not have to dodge rollerbladers and bikers.  I loved it! It was so easy for me to step off the road and hit the beach. The beach then led me to trails and now that I’m a trail runner, I don’t think I can ever go back!

The prairie at Little Calumet River Trail

The prairie at Little Calumet River Trail

The dunes offer so many wonderful places to run. One of my favorites is Cowles Bog. It’s a nice long length, but there are many short cuts you can take. I also like Tolleston Dunes and the Little Calumet River Trail. The prairie at the beginning is my favorite part.

Tom Little, one of my hard-core runner friends, knows the area very well. He runs with two running groups.  I asked him to share his favorite trail.

“As for a favorite trail, I really enjoy running out at Bailly Homestead & Chellberg Farm. It is quiet and peaceful and there are a lot of different options connecting to various other trails to run like Cowles Bog or even the Dunes. The trails can be somewhat technical and at times single track trails. There are some elevation changes on the backside along the river trail, and then there is the long board walk that goes over the marsh area before you head back into the woods. Then you can run over to Bailly Cemetery for a quick out and back. With the new pedestrian bridge that spans over US 12 and the bike path which snakes around the DNR property we now have a nice trail connection between Bailly Homestead/Chellberg Farm and Cowles Bog, which comes in a close second for a favorite trail run.”

Diane Kellenburger, a friend that has amazed me with the number of races she runs (sometimes twice in a weekend!) added, “we are blessed to live in NWI where we have so many trail options. From the State Park, to the National Lakeshore and their many trails, and many county and even city parks such as: the Calumet Trail, Sunset Hill Farm, Imagination Glen Park, to name a few. The thing I truly love about trail running is the scenery is never the same. It’s new every time and the changing seasons here in NWI make trail running spectacular with new growth in the spring and changing leaves in the fall and blankets of snow during the winter.”

Succession Trail at West Beach

Succession Trail at West Beach

So where do you get started? There are several running clubs in the area. Tom runs with two running groups.

Tuesday evenings in Chesterton. They meet at the Prairie Duneland Bike Trail parking lot on Jackson Blvd at 6pm and typically run anywhere from 3 to 5 miles. It is an all paces running group.

Wednesday evenings in Portage. They meet at the northeast corner of the parking lot for Bass Pro Shop at 6:30pm and typically run 3 to 4 miles. This group is also an all paces group. This group is lead by Lorie Arnold.

Diane is involved with the Calumet Region Striders which is the premier local running club with 1,000 + members. They promote trail running with their gold cup series. She also mentioned the Crazy Legs race series run by Paul Stofko. His races take place at Stoney Run, Red Mill and Oak Ridge Prairie County parks to name a few.

Both Tom & Diane suggested stopping in at Extra Mile Fitness in Valpo to get your running gear. Or, Fleet Feet in Schererville. Both offer “fun runs”, training programs and give back to the community.

Now, I couldn’t write a blog about running without having my sister-in-law contribute. I am in awe of what Lisa has accomplished, including running the Boston Marathon in 3:35:56 and running a 50 MILE trail run!! See below what can go through the mind of a trail runner!


by Lisa Landrum

I love trails. I love the natural, crisp feeling of the leaves in the fall; the coolness of the shade in the summer; and the starkness of the branches in the winter.

The trails bum me out. Those leaves are slippery! It is always at least 10 degrees colder, even in the winter when it is already cold. I once almost got hit by a falling branch– a big falling branch– that would have surely knocked me unconscious.

I love the rush I feel when running trails. I love feeling like I am being chased, Hunger Game Style. Like I’m from another era. One with a giant, cool (and nice) prehistoric animal around the next bend.

Running trails stresses me out a bit. It’s like I’m being chased or something! Like a bear could jump out at any minute and maul me so I’d better run fast.

I love the challenge of a good, technical single track. Watching where my next step will land. Anticipating a hidden rock or root that pops out of nowhere. The satisfying effort of winding up a steep incline and the bombing of the downhill.

Those technical single tracks kind of freak me out. There are rocks and roots everywhere! Ones I can’t even see that pop out of nowhere. One wrong step and I could fall! Hard. And crack a rib or something.

I love not worrying about cars. Cars that get as close to me as possible so I have to step off to the side or the ones that don’t look when turning.

Those mountain bikers sure do whiz by runners on the trails. I don’t like having to jump out of the way of an oncoming mountain biker or, worse yet, one that wasn’t behind me 30 seconds ago but is suddenly right up my ass.

I love that I can’t really do speed-work on trails because one mile repeat is never the same thing twice. I love being free from time. I love the slower paced running and enjoyment of the run.

I hate how seemingly slow my pace is on the trails. I feel like I am flying down them but check my Garmin (which frequently loses its signal due to those darn trees!) to see I am at least a good minute slower than on the road.

I love the fresh, clean air. The peace. The nature sounds. I love the badass, hard core feeling I get when I am running trails. It makes me realize that I am tougher than I thought.

—Lisa is a 3:30 marathoner (on the road) and a slower-than-that finisher of a few 50ks and one 50 mile from which she is still recuperating. Those trail falls really do crack ribs.


Thank you all for reading! I know there is a lot of information here. I hope this will help get you out on the trails. Until next week — keep digging the dunes!

~ Eve

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