Work, holidays, consequent jet lag and other blogs have intervened to make it a long time between posts. Apologies, friends – but the running at least has been consistent.
I had the huge delight of visiting my brother and his family in North California a couple of weeks ago, and ran up *extremely* steep hills, around beautiful parks, and along the bluffs of the Pacific. Ever since getting back, I’ve been looking forward to remembering those runs in this post. You haven’t really been away if you didn’t run while you were there, right?
Running somewhere other than my usual stomping ground always presents a challenge. It was in rural France that I went off-route (due to not speaking French and having zero sense of direction), and in my extended and elaborate run home, triggered a fairly major knee injury. In the New Forest I spent much of my time idly panicking about getting eaten by bears or (more likely) simply getting entirely lost and having to bivouak overnight in a tree. Even when scoping out a new long run somewhere in my own county, I find doing the same mileage in unfamiliar territory is harder – concentrating on my route as much as my form is tiring.
But I was totally psyched for some Californian running, and I was right to be. The first time out was tough – I was hilariously jet lagged and just generally fatigued by travel and late nights leading up to getting away for a week, and then: the hills. Oh boy, the hills. Supposedly runners travel into the neighbourhood (north east Santa Rosa) to practise on them. I was defeated almost instantly, managing barely two extremely slow miles, for most of which I felt like I was running in place.
As I huffed and puffed in an increasingly meandering route, trying to avoid going down so I wouldn’t then have to go back up, I crossed paths several times with a couple of tanned, sweating and also slow-going runners. They smiled broadly each time and encouraged me (and my eight year old daughter, who very briefly accompanied me, before wisely remembering something more important she had to do), and at last, as I clearly looked like a woman who needed either an inhaler or major pep talk, I received a loud and gnarly “Good job!!!” If I’d have had the strength, I would have high fived my cheerleader. Instead I stumbled down the final hill to a bowl of granola and reviving bath.
Howarth Park, near our holiday rental, was beautiful. I love my own local park for many reasons – site of many personal victories, moments of reflection and fun running with the kids – but this place? Lakes, paths, trails, views… it was the sort of park which would get you out of bed every morning. So many new routes to try, fitness stations along the trail if you want a mid-run challenge, enough foot traffic that you feel safe, but not super crowded: running heaven.
And then there was running along the Pacific. We drove out to Sea Ranch, a carefully conserved stretch of coast in Sonoma County, and our house was right on the trail by the bluffs. I ran past deer so close I could almost have stroked them (they must be used to runners, as it was only at the very last minute they would dodge out of my way), and up and down the swell of the path along the cliff top.
The booming ocean always in my ear, I could have run those trails forever.