Some time ago I declared my intention to develop a trail that covers a max of the diversity surrounding my hometown Nijmegen. As July draws near and I hope to do a lot of recceing during my three weeks back home, I’ve giving my intentions some more thought.
The city has an active trailrunning community and over the last years several great events have been added to the racing calendar:
- The classic 60k of the ‘Autumn ultra Berg en Dal’, already for the 8th time in October 2014, a great course doing all of the good stuff of the forested and push moraine terrain to the Southeast. Have a look at the route.
- The N70 Trail run, 2nd edition in September 2014, follows 14k of our locally best known push moraine nature trail, and offers 14, 28 and 42k distances. This is the route.
- The first edition of the devil’s trail – ‘Rijk van Nijmegen’, with three distances, all variations on the same theme (11.11k, 22,22 and 36,66km). This is the longest route.
When I lived in Nijmegen (i.e. before 2002) we only had runs like the long-established 15k ‘seven hills’ (started in 1984, route), never a trail race but with some non-surfaced road in its first editions; the Nijmeegse (NS) Nieuwjaarsloop, longest distance 15k) in my back yard (started 40 years ago, oldest trail in Nijmegen, route) and the Leemkuilcross (going on for 23 years now, current longest distance 8.4k. route).
All of the races limit themselves to the push moraine terrain, and limit themselves to the Dutch part of it, while historically and ecologically, the forests West and East of the border, were one: the Ketelwald. Nowadays they’re called Reichswald (German part) and Nederrijkswald (Dutch part). One of the Netherland’s best trailrunners, Thomas Dunckerbeck, is an exception in including a border crossing in a longer training run (video above), but he lives in Nijmegen, and knows what is to be had at the neighbours.
The max diversity element of my intentions hasn’t changed. Therefore, my route should include both the Dutch and German push moraine area, and also the river forelands at both sides of the border (i.e. the Dutch Ooypolder and the German Duffelward – obviously also an administrative rather than an ecological division). I’ve got a pretty good idea what the general route will look like.
(Ignore the red line, it’s not relevant)
The route will take a tour through the green areas, starting just West of the red line, first straight South, then sweeping Southeast, moving into the large darker green Reichswald and then going North all the way to Kleve. From there it moves Northwest through the Duffelward back to Millingen in the Netherlands. The route will explore the Dutch forelands all the way to the gateway of the city, then swoop back Southeast to enter the push moraine terrain again at Wyler. It’ll include most of the famous N70 ‘nature trail’ circuit, then move Southwest through the green again, to end where it started, at Nijmegen’s athletics complex.
What has changed is that I originally wanted to include everything that is worthwhile seeing. But I realized that one then quickly ends up making many kilometres in each of the various, relatively small, distinct areas of Nijmegen’s surroundings. Including as many different areas as possible would result in a non-feasible total route length. Also, the route would be ‘all over the place’, taking continuous turns, including all kinds of not very obvious small trails , and would require continuous checking of one’s GPS device for guidance. Not my favourite idea of unencumbered running. I don’t mind route finding, but have a strong preference for reading the landscape with the use of a map, which gives a feel for one’s position within the larger setting, over dependence upon a device that doesn’t look further than the next turn.
Rethinking my options I conclude that designing a max diversity route that makes (to the extent possible) use of existing trail markings, in conjunction with a map, an accompanying explanation of which markings to follow where, and a description of ‘connecting bits’ that lack markings, while aiming for a route that requires the minimum amount of text possible to do the job, would be my best option. This obviously constrains possibilities but also forces me to compare possible route designs in terms of what I consider the optimal mix of landscape diversity, route length, and ease of finding the route while moving. So it forces me to make my choices as explicit as I can.
The rethink also resulted in more clarity about what I consider a good enough result: a description for others to follow and try the route, hopefully not get lost too much, and then comment upon it to improve it, either the description of the route as it is, or proposing route changes. My conclusion of what route represents the optimal mix is of the ingredients mentioned above is not necessarily the only route possibility; also, others may come up with alternatives that weigh the various ingredients differently, which would result in even more possible alternatives.
Ideally, my map would look something like Grayson Perry‘s beautiful Map of Truth and Beliefs but I cannot promise what I cannot deliver.
To be continued in September.