Hey gravel road riders – runners want in on the action too

Forest Park-6

Leif Erikson road in Forest Park.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s no secret that gravel road riding is a huge thing in the bike world right now. The mainstream momentum for riding “road” bikes on logging and other unpaved roads has been building for several years and it’s now a bonafide bike industry market segment.

Now it looks like people who love to run might also be seeking these roads out.

Check out the email we received last night:

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This is a pretty interesting development. It never occurred to me that people would want to run on backroads like the ones I explored a few weekends ago. I’m used to seeing runners in Forest Park (like in the photo above); but I’ve never seen them in more remote locations.

The real question is, like @haraldkliems mentioned on Twitter just now, will the running industry respond like the bike industry has by introducing new lines of “gravel running shoes.”

Are you a runner? I’d love to hear what you all think.

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Chandra
Chandra
7 years ago

I find it interesting that you – or anyone- would find this surprising. I suppose part of it is an urban thing. If you’ve lived in less urban environments where not everything around you is paved, this is the norm, whether on bikes or on foot. I run and ride, among other things, and seeking out more remote routes with less pavement is nothing new. The fact that the bike industry has made it a market segment doesn’t really mean it wasn’t a thing before, nor is it a new thing for runners.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago

I think you’re misinterpreting his email Jonathan. The way I read it is that he just was looking for places to run on these kinds of roads and was using your article as a resource. Most runners (esp. serious ones that are part of a professional group) have spent time running on softer surfaces like trails, dirt and gravel roads.
I don’t think your article gave him the idea to run on these roads, as much as just gave him a location to find some of these roads to run.

I’m with Chandra, this is nothing new for runners, they’ve been doing this for many decades (and I say this as someone who has run on dirt roads in 8+ different states for almost 20 years). This is definitely not a new trend.

Kyle
Kyle
7 years ago
Reply to  Chandra

This story seems to follow the theme of recent stories here – it’s all about headlines and topics that draw people in and incite intense emotional response. In this case the title screams “Runners are invading!” It’s a trend in mainstream media that’s been ramping up for years, but it’s kind of sad to see that happening here.

dave
dave
7 years ago

Yeah, I didn’t get anything us-vs-them from it. Some people are a little on edge these days, methinks.

Middle of the Road guy
Middle of the Road guy
7 years ago
Reply to  dave

How dare you tell me I am on edge. I challenge you to a duel.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago

So you demand satisfaction?

Scott H
Scott H
7 years ago

Yeah, ‘runners want in on the action too’ seems like a friendly gesture.

Kyle
Kyle
7 years ago
Reply to  Scott H

The article title was changed. The original title was a lot more provocative.

Scott H
Scott H
7 years ago
Reply to  Kyle

What was the original title?

Kyle
Kyle
7 years ago
Reply to  Scott H

“Look out gravel road lovers, runners wants in on the action too”

Brendan
Brendan
7 years ago

You’re doing a wonderful job Jonathon. Keep it up :).

I’m a runner and a biker and I enjoy running and biking on trails and gravel. While biking single track is ideal I’d say running on gravel is closer to ideal because you can get into a better rhythm and not worry about rolling your ankle etc. but you don’t have the impact of concrete. Lief Erickson is great for me but I’m sure if you’re willing to drive to some of the other roads they’d be great too.

Spiffy
Spiffy
7 years ago
Reply to  Kyle

“In this case the title screams “Runners are invading!””

when I saw the title I thought it screamed “runners want to advocate for more open paths like cyclists do”…

Chris I
Chris I
7 years ago

I’m still waiting for the gravel-barefoot running segment to take off. Someone should find a way to capitalize on that market.

invisiblebikes
invisiblebikes
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

Well they need gravel running clothing to and special shoes for gravel as well.
I would guess that normal off road shoes won’t do and since they’ll have to focus on balancing on the uneven surface then the clothing will need to be designed with that in mind as well.

call it Grunning or runravel grinding… 🙂

grrlpup
grrlpup
7 years ago

I love running on gravel roads! They have almost the peace and quiet of single-track, but I don’t have to watch my footing as much, and passing people or being passed (usually the latter for me) is effortless.

I especially like trail races that start out with a gravel road segment, so everyone gets themselves sorted by pace and spread out some before the singletrack.

Pat Lowell
Pat Lowell
7 years ago

It’s called trail running, and it’s not a new phenomenon. No need for fearmongering.

meh
meh
7 years ago

Mountain biking started on dirt roads, the distinction between logging roads and single track is getting nit-picky, it’s all off road.

http://mmbhof.org/mtn-bike-hall-of-fame/history/repack-history/

dave
dave
7 years ago
Reply to  meh

There’s an enormous difference between unpaved roads, doubletrack, and singletrack from a mountain bikers point of view, far from nit-picky. I imagine runners would have similar preferences.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  dave

Not as much as you think. Most just go out and run, and plenty of people were running on all kind of surfaces and trails before “trail running” became a thing.
There is definitely not as much of a division between on road vs. off road for runners as there is for cyclists. Likely because you don’t need different equipment for running.

TJ
TJ
7 years ago
Reply to  meh

An BLM/FS/logging road is a road. Single track is a trail. A tiny 800mm wide logging truck likely would not be able to navigate tight switch backs, rock drops, logs, etc.–see the rock crawler style jeeps for such need. Even smooth fast flowy single track is a rough go on a cx/gravel bike.

Paul
Paul
7 years ago

No, it really is a form of trail running. Ask any trail runner…

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

I work in the running industry. We would generally consider running on gravel part of the trail running category. Like gravel road cycling, trail running is growing rapidly across the country. The company I work for is planning on greatly expanding our offerings in that area as well. There are a series of trail races offered by Rainshadow Running with all of the races set in Washington and Oregon. They have become so popular that most of the races now go through a lottery process because they were selling out so quickly.

Bella Bici
7 years ago

I think that most all of this phenomenon would more descriptively be called get away from cars running/biking.

I know that for me, whether it be walking, running, hiking, or riding, (whatever the surface conditions) the best times and experiences are when one get’s away from the noise and danger that cars pose to vulnerable road/trail users.

dave
dave
7 years ago
Reply to  Bella Bici

Meh. For me at least I don’t avoid road rides because I’m afraid of drivers, I avoid them because I’m bored to death on pavement and want something with more challenge. Consider Brown’s Camp – you’re often spending most of a ride there listening to two stroke motors and gunfire, and crossing and recrossing well used and surprisingly high-speed roads. No, you don’t have the constant sense that maybe somebody’s going to run you down from behind like you might on, say, Marine Drive. But it’s not exactly peaceful either. And yet it’s a measure of our desperation for close-ish singletrack that it’s still on my regular ride list.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Bella Bici

The irony there is that most (many) have to drive to run/bike on these roads.

Bella Bici
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

That’s not the irony. That’s the problem!

At least in Portland, where we could sorely use more access, for mountain biking especially. That is the struggle that is now gaining more momentum.

Most all my life I have ridden my mountain bike to trailheads. Be they one-half mile or twenty. But, the trailheads have to exist to ride to.

Oh, and I forgot to add, get away from the noxious pollutants that cars exhaust!!

Peter R
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

Here in PDX metro area maybe, but lots of parts of the country there is plenty of access to dirt, gravel, singletrack, etc from people’s doors. The majority of my life prior to living in Oregon was in NH and no matter where I lived I had access to trails from my doorstep.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Peter R

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve lived in those places as well. Though they are pretty rare in or near large cities.

SEPDXRider
SEPDXRider
7 years ago

Oh for sure. Less impact. Only run on pavement when forced too and the track is boring after awhile. As I get older I seek out softer surfaces more and more. ONLY because I have too do I even consider running on the concrete around the Esplanade.

Off-pavement running – it’s about the escape, variety of landscape and the softer surface. I’m not too keen on tricky or technical footing. I want to hit a stride.

Impossible to run on a sidewalk without fear of busting an ankle, so thank you urban commuters for letting me share space in the roadway.

These runners… Sheesh. They think they own the road!!!

🙂

soren
soren
7 years ago
Reply to  SEPDXRider

They also blow stop signs and don’t wear lights.

jeff
jeff
7 years ago
Reply to  soren

are they legally obligated to stop at stop signs?

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  SEPDXRider

“Impossible to run on a sidewalk without fear of busting an ankle,”

Seriously?

invisiblebikes
invisiblebikes
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

It’s like breaking a spoke on a bike wheel… total hassle to fix. Lol

lynn
lynn
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

Yes, seriously.
Check out neighborhood sidewalks: uprooted sections from tree roots, cracks, lips,homeowners who don’t fix broken sections of pavement in front of their house, etc. I never run on sidewalks.

Runners run everywhere: trails, tracks, roads, single track, gravel roads, slick rock, remote areas, urban areas. It’s not news.

Thanks Jonathan for not calling them joggers!

invisiblebikes
invisiblebikes
7 years ago
Reply to  lynn

Replace “sidewalks” with “Roads” and welcome to Portland

9watts
9watts
7 years ago
Reply to  lynn

“Runners run everywhere: trails, tracks, roads, single track, gravel roads, slick rock, remote areas, urban areas. It’s not news.”

But –

” I never run on sidewalks.”

?

SEPDXRider
SEPDXRider
7 years ago
Reply to  9watts

You can bust an ankle just walking down the sidewalk in cheap shoes. Yes we are being serious. Sidewalks are too risky and have too many variations and obstacles. Runners should never be forced onto the sidewalk IMHO. We can’t change an ankle and keep rolling. It’s 3-4 weeks sitting out for even a minor sprain at my age.

Also – you don’t want old guys like me who can still cruize at close to 8-9mph running down your sidewalk with our eyes fixed on the ground and not at you.

Thanks for letting me share the bike lane too. Just alert me if you are coming up from behind and I’ll hop on the sidewalk briefly – yes we can handle a hop and short bursts – it’s an athletic move but I think we can handle it. It’s just simply not ideal to spend significant time running on a sidewalk.

Oh and I’m a cyclist too. But when I leave the bike behind I have priority on the Springwater.

Please call out or use your bell and expect me to NOT break stride or hitch up to pass pedestrians. (Hahaha! People who WALK or JOG.)

I’m sweating, probably working and breathing harder than you – my minds in another place – please watch out! I don’t mean to make sudden moves.

And if you are anywhere close to putting in the effort I need to run while you are on your bicycle you are definitely going too fast with people around.

Thanks.

Fourknees
Fourknees
7 years ago

Cross-country has been around for a long time.

ac
ac
7 years ago

east side of the deschutes river from the mouth south is a nice gravel road/trail…i don’t recommend it in the height of summer

ac
ac
7 years ago
Reply to  ac

not really for road bikes, tho
runners, no problem

Glenn
Glenn
7 years ago

come over the the NE/SE pdx area..lots of unpaved roads and alleyways…

Spliff
Spliff
7 years ago

Trail running is the best of running
Followed by beach running
Then gravel backroad running
But it’s all about getting out the door
Long distance runner what u standin there for
Amen

dennis
dennis
7 years ago

Having parsed the definition of trail vs gravel vs …anyone with gravel road suggestions for the interested gravel runner?

share
share
7 years ago

Use of peaceful gravel roads for everyone is great but, we need to play by the same rules. My hope is that runners would consider themselves part of traffic and run “with traffic” as opposed to against it (like some do in the streets for safety reasons.) The picture on the front of the article of the runners three abreast reminds me of the time I rounded a corner on Leif on my bike and literally ran smack dab into three runners going “against traffic” on an inside blind curve. ouch.

lynn
lynn
7 years ago
Reply to  share

Runners are supposed to run against traffic. Bikes are supposed to ride with traffic. Them’s the rules.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  lynn

Blind curves are different though. As a runner you need to make yourself seen in a blind curve, which often means running with traffic.

lynn
lynn
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

As a biker you need to be aware of vulnerable other users which would be humans on foot.

Dan
Dan
7 years ago
Reply to  share

So you were going too fast.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan

And the runners were in a stupid location.
(See above comment re. running on a blind corner).

lynn
lynn
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

When a person driving a car says that about a person on a bike, there is hue and cry from bikers.

Dimitrios
Dimitrios
7 years ago
Reply to  lynn

Are cyclists typically sympathetic of other cyclists riding against traffic on the inside of blind corners? I wouldn’t think so. Going in the same direction, sure.

Is it “law” that one run against traffic? Real question, I don’t know. Is it accepted practice to run towards traffic? I don’t socially run like I do bike so I’m ignorant of any consensus out there among runners. I see either directions frequently.

I run with traffic and I walk against traffic. It seems safer when moving at faster than a walking pace to go with traffic for the same reasons you bike with traffic. Less closing speed differential and drivers turning from adjacent streets are looking in your direction. As a cyclist I do occasionally run (ride?) into the scenario of an oncoming runner approaching me and a car passing on the my left. If they run with traffic, it’s no big deal to slow down 6 mph, but it’s impossible for me to go in reverse. That and all of the motorists only looking left when they turn right onto streets are the two scenarios I aim to avoid while running.

Jason H
Jason H
7 years ago

Hood to Coast uses Pittsburg Rd to get to Vernonia. To my knowledge no one calls it a “gravel grinder” run. Besides, it won’t really be a “new” thing until Nike and Adidas sell a “gravel specific” shoe that you need in addition to minimal road and “enduro” trail shoes.

They were ahead of the curve for a while, and we had to borrow from them. Before I got my original M-100 shoes and 737’s I MTB’ed on Nike Lava Dome trail shoes.

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

I am a mountain biker, road rider, ex-cyclocross racer, trail runner, bike commuter, backpacker, hiker, and just love any excuse to get outside and explore. Running gravel roads has never really interested me, but running trails in the mountains is very close to my love of mountain biking.

Running gravel roads to me would be quite boring (a little too close to road running which I really don’t like). Honestly, I view riding gravel roads to be more interesting than road riding, but not much more. I really don’t get the allure when there are so many amazing places to mountain bike or trail run, but that is me. Being dusted out by cars is no more pleasant than inhaling exhaust while road riding, but to each their own.

I am always happy that people find other things to do other than what I enjoy, as that means there are fewer people out doing what I am doing. One of the things I truly cherish is getting away from people. If gravel road running and riding means there will be fewer people riding & running on the trails, SWEET!

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris

The allure for running on gravel roads, is the ability to get good consistent training session in, but not beat your legs up as much as running on pavement. For many runners it’s mostly about doing just a little less damage to your body. Most do it for long runs because of this.

jeff
jeff
7 years ago

shouldn’t be surprising at all. Portland has a huge and growing ultra distance running culture. My wife is one of them. 30+ mile races all over the PNW sell out in minutes. Those folks get tired of crowded trails too and always looking for new challenges that involve running 30-60 miles unsupported.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago

Wait!!!

Isn’t that a picture of Leif Erikson, the mountain bike trail……
What are runners and road bikers doing on there?????????

Adam
Adam
7 years ago

I’ve never understood why the running “lobby” isn’t more involved in safer streets, too. I would guess twice as many folks in Pdx are runners then bikers. A lot of them run around their neighborhoods on the streets. I don’t think there really IS a running lobby, but if there was, they would be an incredible ally to the bike community.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam

As a runner, I will say “Because incidents are not all that common”. And as a runner, you get to use a lot of different facilities (road, trail, sidewalk, etc.).
As a runner too, you can get out of a lot of jams pretty quickly (moreso than a pedestrian (you’re faster) or cyclist (quicker acceleration and later movement).

Plus I don’t think there is as much of an identifier with runners (despite the rise of “13.1”-type bumper stickers). People just view themselves as people who run.

You do bring up a good question though. I had never thought of a running “lobby” before.

Adam
Adam
7 years ago

The idea of a running “lobby” came to me a few years’ back. I was biking on SE Salmon (a bike boulevard or neighborhood Greenway, or whatever you want to call it). Ahead of me was a group of maybe twelve runners, running in the road. Instead of being all “get onto the sidewalk!!!”, I instead thought about how many runners run on roads, and how their runs could benefit too from diverters, speed bumps, and other traffic calming measures.

A lit if runners choose to run on roads instead of sidewalks for very practical reasons. Sidewalks are often eneven, with big slabs at odd angles causing a major tripping hazard. They often don’t gave curb cuts, meaning you have to jump up and down curbs every 200 feet ,- another tripping hazard. And they are often blocked by overgrown vegetation, huge recycling bins, people parking on them etc.

I would guess out of my social circle, maybe twelve of them bike, and 40 of them run.

Adam
Adam
7 years ago

I also agree most runners don’t identify as a “type” of broad user. Not the way pedestrians and bicyclists do. The latter two have organizations on their behalf – namely the BTA, and Willamette Pedestrian Coalition.

lynn
lynn
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam

How about Road Runners of America?

gerald
gerald
7 years ago

Trail running shoes navigate spree, gravel & hard pack, etc. Bands include: La Sportiva, Salomon, TNF, Altra and more models and price points then you can shake a stick at. Example; La Sportiva’s Wildcat Trail Running Shoe.