Monday, April 26, 2010


(Inaugural Philosopher's Way Trail Runs Footage, May, 2008)

Over a decade ago a couple of friends and I met at Wilson Park to try something new: a run along Bolin Creek. I knew about the area, having lived in the Bolin Forest subdivision from 1983-1986. My wife and I enjoyed many outings along the creek with our golden retriever. Looking to "get away" from town a bit, we moved out Jones Ferry road to enjoy quieter and wilder spaces around our home.

But runs in town, in the Forest, became a weekly tradition with a group of us. I learned it was very quiet and wonderfully wild right in the heart of town! We would run the OWASA easement to the gate by the high school, go up the power line hill and then connect back to the creek trail and head back up the hill to Wilson Park. Then, of course, we'd hop down to the Open Eye Cafe for coffee and conversation before taking off to work. One day we decided to do something that's odd for most habitual runners - we altered our course, ducking a tree limb next to a rusted out Corvair and following skinny little pathways into an area of the Forest we had yet to explore. We continued to do this week after week - taking the little trails, which we learned to refer to as "single-track" - and the Forest opened up to us. The trail along the creek was always a reliable way-finding location, but the single-track led us to places in the heart of the Forest with varied terrain and countless opportunities to observe nature.

Our running habits changed. Each run became more about discovery than distance, and as time went by we tapped into the broader community of active citizens who watch, protect and envision a healthy future for the Bolin Creek corridor and what is now known as Carolina North Forest. The little group of "trail runners" - as we began calling ourselves - loosely organized into an informal club self-dubbed The TrailHeads, and, as we grew to understand the connected nature of and in the Forest, we expanded our courses to the Chapel Hill side of the Horace Williams tract and learned new spaces and trails there. On one run, probably seven or eight years ago an idea was hatched to host a race in the Forest if ever the opportunity presented itself. The Pumpkin Run was already an established venue, but our hope was to bring runners into the heart of the Forest, to course along the single-track instead of the wide gravel roads. This is a different experience for runners - it's less about individual and steady cadence than it is about moving together in a line of fellow runners to the rhythm of the terrain.

It was not until roughly three years ago that an opportunity did in fact present itself to bring other runners to the Forest. After discussions with Greg Kopsch, CNF manager, we were encouraged to formally submit a proposal to UNC for a set of trail races on the Chapel Hill side of the Forest. To honor Horace Williams, who referred to this tract of land as his "temple of trees," we named the races the Philosopher's Way Trail Runs. “Philosopher’s Way” evokes a couple of meanings – one of a pathway or trail and the other a methodology. The race then would signify a trail through the forest but also serve as a metaphor for a manner to incorporate thoughts on the trail into everyday life. The race's slogan is, simply: Enter, Learn, Return.

As race organizers, the TrailHeads had only one substantial hoop to jump through - we needed to incorporate as a 501 (c)(3) organization in order to, of all things, secure insurance for the event. Why would a disorganized bunch of trail runners want to do such a thing? Well, that led the group - no longer three, but consisting of an active core of members numbering nearly fifty - to consider a mission statement that would serve as the purpose for the organization. We found that this statement serves the club as well as the underlying rationale for the races in the Forest:

The purposes of this organization are to: promote the joy of trail running; support the efforts of members to maintain an active and healthy life style; listen, learn and internalize the lessons taught by our natural environment and wilder spaces; and organize and encourage efforts to enhance, extend, and maintain Nature's reach into the lives of each member of our greater community.

And that pretty much sums it up. I don't know that any of us thought ten years ago that the trail from Wilson Park to the Bolin Creek pathway would lead us off into a network of wooded trails that would rewire our network of activity and provide an outreach for our energy that is less about running miles than it is about participating in a community that treasures the forested island in the heart of Carrboro and Chapel Hill. I feel incredibly fortunate to have discovered this pathway, Bolin Creek, the Forest, and the many friends encountered along the way.

oh...the 3rd Annual Philosopher's Way 15K and 7K Trail Runs start at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 8th. More info at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Squonk. For your devotion to the Carolina forest and for cultivating in others a love of running through the temple of trees.