Running Adventure Hits the Delmarva Islands

Not many people in the Bay region have actually visited the more remote islands of Smith and Tangier, so imagine how few have gone running on those islands.

Salisbury, Maryland, resident and race organizer Trent Swanson is passionate about running and travel. Having put on some of the Eastern Shore’s most popular running events, he has cultivated a community of over 500 participants for ultrarunning events such as the Tuckahoe 25k and the Algonquin 50k races, as well as weekly running meetups. As for traveling, Swanson has been to each of the 50 states, and some 65 countries. But when it came to his own backyard on the Delmarva Peninsula, he realized he had a lot of exploring to do.

“We organized a run on Chincoteague, and there were so many people from Salisbury who had never been to Chincoteague,” he says. “There are people who live on the Delmarva peninsula and have never been to Tangier.”

Wanting to bring a sense of adventure into his local running community, Swanson created a running challenge involving 12 of the peninsula’s islands. Using an app popular with runners (Strava), he created runs of various lengths (called segments) on each island and logged the routes in the app. Participants can travel to the islands on their own or in coordinated groups and complete the segments, which measure roughly between 3 and 15 miles.

“It’s about running,” Swanson says, “but it’s not about running.” The Islands Tour is meant to get locals more involved in their environments. To add another element to the runs, Swanson created passport stamps that runners would collect after finishing their segments. The stamps are all located in public places—general stores, visitors’ museums, and more—allowing runners to interact with businesses and communities instead of simply passing through.

Swanson’s Islands Tour started out as a creative idea, but what has unfolded is more than what he originally envisioned.

“People are discovering things they didn’t know about Delmarva,” he says. He coordinated a group to travel together to Tangier, and on the ferry ride over, he realized one participant had never eaten a crabcake. They ran five miles on the island, and then ate crabcakes.   

“A lot of us have been running a long time, so this is adding a whole different twist,” says Carol Walston, an Islands Tour participant who has been running for almost 40 years. “It’s forcing us to go places we hadn’t gone before, keeping the love of running fresh by introducing new places and people, distances, and terrains.”

Walston was particularly surprised by a run centered on Picnic Island, where the Salisbury Zoo is located. “He (Swanson) created a segment that was new, so even though I had run there several times before, I had never seen parts of the island.”

Runner Michelle Nelson created a map displaying the various islands and their segment lengths.

The Islands Tour is not simply for runners, either. In fact, the first two people who have finished so far have completed the routes by walking together. “We attract a lot of runners who might not want to sign up for a big 5k, but they’ll go out and do this,” Swanson says.

“It’s really about getting out and exploring new places,” he says. Even when those new places are right here in our backyards.

Ready to get running (or walking)? Check out Tour de Salisbury on Facebook for the Islands Tour and more great running events.