Suburban Running in Kansas City’s Northland

So, when I moved to Kansas City, I made a point to live downtown. I had it in my head that I had to go “all or nothing” — and I immersed myself. At the same time, I was starting the process of losing 40 pounds. For the first time in my life, I was invested in fitness. I was running 4-6 times a week and it was amidst the bustle and energy of the greater downtown area. (It was a big change from high school soccer conditioning in a town of 2,000 people or jogging along my parents’ gravel road!)

I memorized the narrow side streets of the Rivermarket. I cut across the Crossroads on Southwest Boulevard. I counted steps up and down the circuit of the Liberty Memorial. Running was a pivotal part of KC becoming my home. Those streets became “my streets” and I accomplished great feats on them.

Then, I fell in love, was laid off from my job downtown, and decided it was time for some change. So, I found a new, more affordable apartment in the Northland.

While I still live in KCMO, my new locale is decidedly more suburban, which completely changes the dynamics of my run. Here are just a few ways:

  • City blocks make mapping out runs and adjusting distances easy. Suburban neighborhoods aren’t typically as linear. Apartment complexes, cul de sac neighborhoods and meandering roadways make it a lot harder to plan. On long runs, there are a few ways to adapt:
    • Wandering up and down intricate residential streets just to eek out more distance; OR
    • Heading to the closest main road you can find that offers a long straight shot; OR
    • Researching running paths, trails and tracks.
suburban running

I wanted to put in 5 miles. It required some odd trips through neighborhoods, and some extra loops through Josh’s neighborhood — but I did it!

  • The suburbs take a different kind of savvy to stay safe. Whereas downtown Kansas City is more on the “pedestrian friendly” side, suburban Kansas City is not. There are long stretches of main road that don’t have stoplights, so it’s up to you to be smart about crossing. There are also plenty of stretches of street up here that don’t have sidewalks at all. There’s a hill I’d love to conquer near my apartment, but I wouldn’t dare run on the shoulder.
  • Suburban Kansas City has hidden gems, and if you kind them it’ll take your running to the next level. Recently, I decided to explore the greenway system that runs past both me and Josh’s apartment complexes. It’s a gorgeous blend of carefully paved pathways and dirt trails that fork off, for more adventurous folks. I’ve put in several long runs on these paths, and have even done some light hiking on the connected trails. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed running so much!
how to pace yourself in running

From my first run on the Northland greenway — it’s absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it green up! Also, I’m a Hufflepuff. This is Josh’s hat. He’s a Gryffindor.

  • Winter running is harder. In downtown Kansas City, the sidewalks kind of “have” to be maintained. Since there aren’t a lot of pedestrians up here, the need for clean sidewalks in the harsh winter isn’t as high. Most runners I know here in the Northland stick to the treadmills in the chilly weather.
  • Watch for animals. Whether the idea of seeing a deer, raccoon or fox excites or terrifies you, keep an eye out. Not only will you see more dogs on and off leash in the suburbs, you also run a higher risk of crossing paths with Bambi, Flower, Todd and many other animals you may have only seen in a zoo or a Disney movie.
  • Shower beer after 6 miles tastes just as good in the suburbs as in the city.
    • In the last week, I’ve seen a fox, a deer and more dogs than I can count.

That’s what I have off the top of my head. Do any of my running fans have additional insight into the dynamics of urban, suburban or even rural running? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Suburban Running in Kansas City’s Northland

  1. Another great post, Kelly. Out where I live, in Northern California, year-round outdoor running is very easy. My neighborhood is foresty, with hills and gullies everywhere. One has to be on the look out for bicyclists — not just on the roads but also off the beaten path. Mountain biking is HUGH out here. Early morning, late in the evening, a guy on a bike can come screaming out of the dark — and you and he are trying to share the same small bit of trail. Running has its hazards. But on a warm, moonlit night … it has it rewards.

    Keep on trucking!

    • I miss northern California! I lived in Sacramento for a while in college, for an internship. I wasn’t running back then, but I can definitely see where the beautiful scenery would be a huge reward for the work and the risk!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I really appreciate it. Happy trails!

  2. Good luck w/ your suburban running! On the rare occasions I’ve done it I know the dead ends and cul du sacs drive me nutty. 🙂 I take my long open roads for granted sometimes. I’ll have to remember that next time I lament how open they are with nothing to block the wind!

    • It definitely takes getting used to! It’s been a huge adjustment from the open gravel roads and city grids I’d been used to. I’m glad you have wide open roads to enjoy! And, that wind is good for building character! 😉

      Happy running, and thanks for the comment!

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