H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

Terry Hershey Park: My place of solace

Author's own.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx


When I need a serious reset, I jump in the car and and go to that parking lot under Beltway 8 and Memorial. I get my headphones, and my phone and just start walking. I'm talking about Terry Hershey Park. This out and back trail of about 12.5 miles has been my place of solace. This is the place where I began my journey into fitness. This is the place that brought me out of depression. I have used the rolling hills of Terry Hershey Park to train for my races, and I still come here to chill the f*** out. This is why:

Breathe in the beauty.

Author's own

There is beauty all around.

Terry Hershey Park is situated along Buffalo Bayou. There are all these trees that are overgrown with vines. It looks like a rainforest. It's like the trees befriended a vine and the vine showed them up. I don't know who is winning in this relationship. I think we are because it is beautiful. See how I just had this weird conversation in my head. Guess what I wasn't thinking about. The bad breakup I went through 5 years ago. Terry Hershey is also great during bluebonnet season. Many people visit to strike a nature pose. You can also use one of the many dedicated benches to reflect on your beautiful surroundings.

Shh! Keep quiet or you will scare them.

Author's own

The wildlife is abundant.

I really get a kick out of counting the different wildlife that I encounter. While preparing for the article, I tried to find all the insects, birds, and mammals that you will see in Terry Hershey. Too many to name so I will tell you my favorite stories.

This week, I saw 5 rabbits, some squirrels, a cardinal, lots of butterflies, a turtle, egrets and herons. There have been many times that I have seen 30 turtles just sunbathing. They are really scared of people so you have to be quiet or they duck back into the water. One time, I was running and almost ran into a huge spider hanging from its silk. I stopped to take pictures, but it wasn't having it. I waved bye-bye as it crawled up it's silk. I have also encountered poisonous snakes, but luckily, I saw them before they saw me. I can't help it, I'm a wildlife voyeur.

Walking or running, you get a great workout.

Author's own.

You can train for challenging races.

Terry Hershey Park is a great place to train. As I stated before, you have 12.5 miles of trails to work with. Whether you are a walker, runner, biker, or canoeing is your thing, this is your place to train. There are some of the best hills in Houston here making it a challenge. There are different trails with different difficulty levels. If you are training for a trail race, you can take the more difficult unpaved trails which are great to work those supporting tendons. You can also get off the beaten path that is across the bayou that will really test you. Honestly, I still don't know how to get on it.

Worth the 4 mile run.

Author's own.

Personal Experience

You have probably gotten that this park is dear to me. Let me tell you about some of the fun times that I have had on it. I call it "fun with myself." Not like that. Brace yourself, This is silly. When you have moments like these, you just have to give yourself over to them. I was listening to classical music while running. All of a sudden a song from the Last of the Mohicans comes on. It was so dramatic, I felt like I was running across a meadow or the frontier. Every turn felt new. I really felt alive and guess what? I was actually running across a meadow because that is what Terry Hershey looks like. I never forgot it. But, you know what I did forget? The fact that my car needs yet a new tire and oil change.

If you are new to Houston, want some hill training, or just need to relax, do not hesitate to get on the Beltway. Exit Briar Forest and park in the parking lot just underneath. It will lead you to mental health heaven.

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

If you are anything like me, you love the beginning of the year. You check all the running calendars and pick out all your races for the year. You go to the local running store and buy your new shoes. You even get a pair of new socks to go with them. You download some music....to get ready for your first run of the season. You get to the park and put your feet on the cinder path. You about a quarter of a mile in......and you run out of steam. You are just not as motivated as you thought. I know I'm not the only one. Because I made it my job to motivate you I have created a short list of things that can motivate you quickly.

Nothing like good tunes on the open road.

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Music

This sounds like the obvious answer. Of course music is motivating. When was the last time that your heard a song and really felt it? Like, you really got it. When I trained for the Houston marathon in 2008, I was really feeling Refugee by Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers. I had come off of a rough patch and I was ready to move forward. Tom, singing his heart out with, "You don't have to live like a refugee." just resonated with me because I knew that I was not going back to that. I got to acknowledge the hardship, recognize that it was significant and that it was over and agree to move on. This leads me to my training for the 2009 Honolulu Marathon. No Drama by Mary J. Blige was the song. I decided to actively "allow no more drama in my life." Those songs got me through training and the finish line.

Who is your favorite superhero?

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Your favorite Superhero.

My favorite thing to do when I run is to pretend that I have superhuman strength and abilities. I imagine myself in different scenarios overcoming odds and doing super cool things just for the hell of it. Because running did not come naturally for me, it felt like I needed superhuman powers to get through a run. It really seemed to fit. Here are a couple of superheroes who have always done it for me:

The Juggarnaut: Because once he gets started and gains momentum, he cannot be stopped. Not by rain or a heavy wind blowing against him or a slow and steady incline that never seems to end.

The Wolverine: He heals fast. It you have a cramp, a sprain, a pull, or your legs, toes, or feet are hurting, you can be the Wolverine and it will heal in about 10 secs.

The Phoenix: The bad thing about the Phoenix is that there is nothing that she can't do so, for this exercise, you have to be specific. This helps me take my mind off of pain and think about something I like to call "micro impossibilities." If the concrete of the road is bothering your joints, you could imagine that you are the Phoenix and that you can change your drops of sweat into a path that you can run on instead of the concrete. And everyone knows that running on sweat is great for your joints!

Live oaks look like lightening.

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Nature

Nature has a lot of things to glean inspiration from. I am obsessed with fractal patterns. Fractal patterns are reoccurring patterns in nature. They signify how things start from a small seed, grows and replicates. They are the natural order of things and a great example of why science is so cool and how and why you can count on it every single time.

They make me think about all the possibilities that are out there and how everything is connected. Live oaks are native to Houston. Have you ever noticed that the trunk and branches of a live oak tree look exactly like lightning. I see a row of live oaks and I think of a thunder storm because it looks just like that. I makes me think of having a brainstorm. I always ask myself: What else do I have up there? See how this works. Flowers and leaves are great for this too.

If you are on your next run and you are starting to run out of gas or feel pain, remember to look up, look down, and definitely don't forget to look inside yourself. You will find yourself at the finish line.

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