A trail at the Norris Reservation in Norwell.

I started jogging earlier this year. Approaching forty, I felt pathetic because I couldn’t run a mile. So I set off around the block, determined to make it all the way, and I was surprised to discover that I was in better shape than I expected. Since then, I’ve slowly been extending my route.

They say it runs in the family (Yes, it’s a pun). My father started jogging when he was in his late twenties, to combat the stress of supporting our family of four. For me, the sneakers went on when I realized my marriage was falling apart. All that time pounding the pavement afforded me some much-needed time to think, especially when the divorce negotiations got tense.

My dad, who progressed from running 10Ks, to marathons, to 50 and 100-mile ultra marathons and endurance events, knows a little bit about jogging. When I told him about my route around the neighborhood (I like the challenge of the hills), he said, “Take it from me. Your knees will last a lot longer if you stay off the road. Why don’t you run down the trail instead?”

We are fortunate to have a large conservation parcel right here in our neighborhood, one with a long flat trail (it used to be a railroad bed) plus a loop off to one side that traverses some challenging hills. Conveniently, Dad even knew the mileage. “It’s 0.9 miles from our driveway to the end of the trail, the same as running around the block.”

So on my next running day, I tried it. And – no surprise here – Dad was right. It WAS easier on my knees, and a lot more peaceful, ambiance-wise, than our busy subdivision. Plus it was fun: skirting puddles and fallen trees gave my run an adventuresome quality.

Jogging on trails is nothing new, and lately it is seeing an increase in popularity here on the South Shore. Like many fitness trends in the United States, trail running has migrated here from the west. It’s been big in California and the mountain states for years, and now East Coasters are catching on. The Western States 100, which my father attempted twice in the 1990s is a trail run through challenging mountain terrain.

Here on the South Shore, our options are a lot less diverse, although a jaunt to the Blue Hills will satisfy the needs of those seeking a rugged experience. Otherwise, there are plenty of conservation areas with trails well-suited for a run, as opposed to a walk. Before you go, just make sure that the property doesn’t prohibit joggers (if it’s a dedicated wildlife sanctuary, running may be discouraged because of its potential to disturb the fauna).

The Norris Reservation in Norwell has been popular with joggers for years, as has Bay Farm on the Kingston-Duxbury line. Both include sections of trail that are wide and mostly flat, as well as narrower, trickier areas. Burrage Pond in Hanson, a huge expanse of former cranberry bogs now managed by the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, offers a number of flat, clear trails well-suited for the sneaker set. On a recent Sunday morning visit I encountered a number of runners there.

If you’d like to try trail running, I recommend starting on a property with wide flat trails (think decommissioned railroad beds, or old fire roads and cart paths). Once your feet get used to moving quickly on uneven terrain, you might progress to a more challenging route.

Earlier this fall, the Duxbury-based Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts initiated a low-impact trail running program. Every week they host an event at one of the lands they manage, where walkers and runners of all ages and abilities can gather to exercise together. The next few are as follows:

Thursday, December 1, 9:30 AM – Willow Brook Preserve, Pembroke

Wednesday, December 7, 9:30 AM – Tucker Preserve, Pembroke

Sunday, December 18, 10 AM – Emery Preserve, Plymouth.

You can find more information on their website,

by Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
November, 2011

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit