Run 52: Donnie Warner and Kayla Camp map Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods one run at a time

Couple finds pleasant surprises along 300-mile way

CINCINNATI – In late 2012 Donnie Warner and Kayla Camp wanted to do something big for 2013 involving their two major passions.

“On New Year’s Day we talked about how we could do something different this year to make it memorable, something to combine our love of running with our love of Cincinnati,” Camp said.

Run 52 , a blog dedicated to chronicling the couple’s challenge of running all of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods in 2013, was born. In the introduction to readers, Camp states the two moved to Mount Lookout in October 2012, ran a 5-mile route repeatedly, and felt that routine stood in the way of learning to love more of the Queen City. 

“Where you live is where you run,” Camp wrote as she laid out the plan for readers.

The self-set rules of the challenge were simple: the two had to run together; pre-planned routes had to be at least 3 miles long, and the neighborhoods would be run in alphabetical order, starting with Avondale and ending with Winton Hills.

“It was surprisingly easy,” Camp said. “We thought that it would be a challenge. It seemed daunting in January knowing that we would have to go out every Saturday - 52 Saturdays in a row - and experience a new neighborhood. We thought that researching the route and planning what to see in each neighborhood would be time consuming, and it has been, but it hasn’t felt like work because we enjoyed so much doing it.”

RELATED: See some of the maps of the neighborhood runs

As a matter of fact, the two plan to finish the challenge a couple of weeks early. This is in spite of injuries in early spring, and Warner recovering from the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Nov. 2.

“I think our biggest scare really was around February or March when I was injured with a hamstring and then Kayla ended up with a hip problem,” Warner said. “We were both at a point where we weren’t running at all.”

“When I had my stress fracture, it was disheartening,” Camp added. “But overcoming those challenges has been a part of the fun of it.”

The two doubled up on some weekly runs to catch up. They also refined how they planned routes. For Warner, the 3-mile routes, which actually averaged out to about 5 miles, started as a tour of historic landmarks in each community.

 

“That became less as time went on,” Warner said. “Then I felt like you could go eat dinner or whatever to see some of this, but the only way you are going to experience it by running is by finding those places to go and run.”

So, Warner and Camp started seeking out more green spaces, parks and trails.

“We can run in every neighborhood, and that was unexpected and exciting as we went,” Camp said.

By early November, the two were working their way through the “S” neighborhoods in Cincinnati and found two great neighborhood surprises because of their runs.

The first surprise:

“Sayler Park, hands down, “ Warner said enthusiastically. “Fernbank Park is just wonderful. There were some soft surface trails. If all I had to do were run, it would be a great place to live. “

Camp agreed.

“It was a neighborhood we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. I don’t think a lot of people realize Sayler Park is part of the city because it is so far west. So, now we tell everyone we have to go to Sayler Park.”

The other hit a little closer to home for the couple, literally.

“The other thing we haven’t mentioned on the blog is that we are under contract to buy a house that we stumbled across on one of our runs,” Camp said. “So, we’re not going to say what neighborhood it is until the very last post. We are very excited about that. We found the neighborhood to be very runnable.”

And though the two are not quite finished with all 52 neighborhoods, they are already looking ahead to other blog ideas, like exploring the suburbs or finding the best eateries to fuel a runner in Cincinnati.

The two are still taking in all they learned from their 52-run project.

“It’s been a good chance for us to spend time together and have a date each week, “ Camp said. “It’s been neat to work on a project together as a couple.”

Warner said the project also allowed the couple to fall more in love with where they live.

“My last job I had to drive around to different non-profits, so I thought, ‘I do know the lay of the land.’  But then once we got running, I realized that you can know the map but not know what things are like on the ground.”

Camp and Warner plan to post their final entry wrapping up the Run 52 challenge on Dec. 15. In addition, they plan to make their last run special, by asking friends who joined them throughout the year for one big group run through Winton Hills.
 

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