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Walking & Running Oxford, Part 1

By Sheryl Chatfield, HT.com blogger, Photo By Nathan Latil, UM Brand Photography

The findings of a research project I completed suggest that at least some people who have been physically active throughout their lives do most of their activity outside, even in uncomfortable (hot or cold) weather. With this in mind, I have completed my own ‘audit’ of the Ole Miss campus, Oxford and some of the areas outside of the city limits, to assess the walk- and run-ability of various outside options. (Bike-ability is another issue, for another series of blog posts.) Since my run/walk audit produced a fairly long list, I am presenting it in three parts, starting with a list of places on campus.

Depot Trail – From the Depot (Gertrude Ford Center parking lot) to Molly Barr Road.

Pluses – Mostly flat with lights for night use. Rarely crowded. Not far from the center of campus. Bathrooms and water fountains are available just beyond the batting cages between Washington and Price streets.

Minuses – Crosses two roads and Price Street can be busy.
Plus or minus, depending on your view – Only one mile long. Paved.

Bottom line: Nice to have and quickly accessible from lots of campus. I personally wish it was a little longer.

Whirlpool Trails – Where Coliseum Drive/Front Street dead ends south of Hwy 6.

Pluses – The fire road and continuation (straight part) is well maintained, fairly flat, and gets regular use, especially in the evenings when the weather is nice. The length of this segment is roughly three miles from beginning to end. Surface is gravel, dirt or sand (or mud, or puddles of water after rain). There are many other dirt trails branching off the main portion.

Minuses – Far from center of campus and hard to get to from campus on foot – no sidewalks once you reach the 4-way stop at Coliseum and Hill drive.

Plus or minus, depending on your view – Unpaved; parts are downright rugged. Often quiet and may feel remote.

Bottom line: Due to the distance from the center of campus, most people are going to need to have a decent sized block of time to use this resource.

Blackburn-McMurrary Outdoor Sports Complex/Ole Miss intramural fields – approximately 1.5 miles from the Turner Center, follow Hill Road to the 4-way stop, cross the road and take Insight Drive at the roundabout; the fields are on the right, just before the road takes a sharp right toward West Jackson.

Pluses – Big, grassy fields, not used much early in the day. You can run/walk from campus using sidewalk, or bike lane once you cross Coliseum Drive. Ample parking at the fields. Bathrooms and water. Soft surface to run/walk on, but…

Minuses – Often wet with lots of holes around the edges. Not a large area so it’s hard to accumulate distance. Far from the center of campus. These are used for intramural sports and other activities. so are not always available.

Bottom line: Hardly worth going so far for a big patch of wet grass.

Ole Miss walking paths – Red and Blue Routes –
These are new as of this year. You can find the maps here.

Pluses – Located in the center of campus. Incremental distances are marked and seem to be accurate (I checked with a GPS). Surprisingly few road crossings.

Minuses – Not designated for fitness or activity, so you are sharing the space with students, faculty, staff, visitors, maintenance personal, equipment, etc. The markers are embedded in the sidewalk and are hard to see – see my picture.

Plus or minus, depending on your view – Concrete sidewalk surface.

Bottom line: OK for the casual workday walk, not great for serious fitness walking or jogging. Take a map with you the first time.

Photo By Sheryl Chatfield
The blue thing on the right side of the sidewalk in the photograph is the marker for the Ole Miss “Blue Route” – and is not necessarily highly visible / Photo By Sheryl Hatfield

West Jackson sidewalk accessible from various roads; about .6 of a mile from the Turner Center on Fraternity Row.

Pluses – Moderately close to campus. Several miles available – if you go from where the sidewalk begins around Gertrude Ford Blvd, to where it ends somewhere near Walmart. Hilly but more rolling than steep. Regularly used but rarely crowded, so the fact that this is not a designated fitness path is usually not a problem. Crosswalks at intersections; buttons for pedestrian crossings that work.

Minuses – None I can think of.

Plus or minus, depending on your view – Concrete sidewalk surface.

Bottom line: Close to campus and you are unlikely to get lost – you will either run into the highway or run out of sidewalk.

Campus in general – combination of sidewalk and no sidewalk areas, some bike lanes, no other multi-use or dedicated fitness trails; people using the road in some places.

Pluses – If you are on campus, running or walking on campus is convenient.

Minuses – Lots of students walking to class; lots of vehicle traffic and some drivers have little respect for pedestrians. Some areas are not well lit in the evening.

Bottom line: More active-user-friendly if you are out really early or fairly late (or during semester breaks) and can avoid class change times when traffic is at its worst. Be prepared to stop for vehicles because they may not stop for you.

Did I miss someplace on campus for running or walking? Let me know: slchatfi@olemiss.edu. Coming soon: Walking/Running in Oxford.

Sheryl Chatfield is currently a graduate student in Health and Kinesiology in the Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management  Department at Ole Miss. She plans to complete her dissertation work during the 2013-14 academic year. Sheryl grew up in central Ohio and took a 20-year break from academics after completing her bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University. Through the years, she has worked as a piano teacher, an insurance broker, a landscaper, a disability recreation assistant and a lifeguard. Her other less profitable past experiences have included playing in rock bands, small-scale sheep farming and winemaking. She has traveled to Europe several times and lived in Pocatello, Idaho; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Lake Worth, Florida; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, before temporarily settling down in Oxford to complete her Ph.D. degree in health and kinesiology with emphasis on health behavior and promotion. In addition to being a graduate student and instructor, Sheryl enjoys running, cycling, swimming, working on bicycles, sewing, and reading.

Email Sheryl at: slchatfi@go.olemiss.edu

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