american tobacco trail

I travel to Durham, NC a few times each year and a happy discovery is the American Tobacco Trail. It runs along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s.

I’ve run two sections covering 17 miles. The trail is paved for cycling but there are dirt shoulders on each side where I like to run. The satellite map shows a lot of development but most of the trail is forested, especially compared to  Southern California.


My first run was in late November, 2013. Temperatures were in the mid to low 30s with a strong headwind. The best way to describe the wind chill: bracing. This was and still is my coldest run. Over 7.5 miles I never felt warm, especially my hands and face. The novelty of a new run and the changing fall colors distracted me enough to enjoy myself.


The following summer, I ran the same route. It was a completely different experience. The trail was green and lush and even at 6:30 in the morning the temperature and humidity were climbing. I drained my water bottle halfway through and when I finished, my clothes were soaked. Still, a great run that left me energized all day.


Last fall I ran a new section of the trail. I headed south, away from Durham,  and the trail was more wooded than before with a rural feel. Conditions were perfect: sunny and cool, with temps in the mid 40s. No wind. While running I became aware of the incredibly fresh air and I’m sure it helped my performance. I set out to run seven easy miles and ended up running 10 with the last few at an eight minute pace. I could have run further but I needed to get ready for work.

Even when the time change makes it feel like I’m running at three or four in the morning, I look forward to running the American Tobacco Trail. Once I become aware of my surroundings, the fresh air, and the change of scenery I forget about my fatigue and enjoy the experience. The ATT is a nice change from training in LA and a trail I will continue to run.



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