Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Runner's Alphabet

A is for Attitude.

B is for Badass

C is for Calories

D is for Depression

E is for Endorphins

F is for Friends

G is for Gym

H is for Happiness

I is for Intervals

J is for Joints

K is for Knees

L is for Love

M is for Marathon

N is for Victory

O is for Oxygen

P is for PR

Q is for Quads

R is for Runners

S is for Smile

T is for Training

U is for Underwear

V is for V02

W is for Woman

X is for Cross-training

Y is for You!

Z is for Zen

next time won't you run with me?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Dreamchasing Trails

In 2003 my winter blues reached a breaking point and we decided to leave the city for the summer, use our savings to buy a piece of land in Italy, and start building. This is what we bought, the second year after that - when we first bought it, you couldn't even see the house because everything was so covered in greenery.
But I knew when I first stepped out of the car and breathed the clear air, and looked down into the valley and saw this:

that I was as home as I would ever be. Time passed and over the summers we made the house beautiful. Then we started working on the barn:

This fine structure is a drystone construction, with high beams and rafters, and an original thatched roof that had been covered with corrugated metal at some point. It housed animals, shepherds, resistance fighters, snakes, squirrels and other assorted creatures. We found in it many wine bottles, the old blown glass kind wrapped in straw, two army helmets (one German, one American..), lots of old shoes and garbage, and some religious postcards.

A few years ago we started work on it. I wanted to do some upper body work that summer, so I figured a good start would be hauling 20 cubic meters of dirt from where it was down to another terrace. After the dirt was hauled away, we started building a retaining wall or two,

And we ended up with these pretty terraces.

This summer we have to redo the roof. It's gotta be done. If we don't do it, it will fall in. Not a good idea. So, we have to take it down, remove the beams, then make a new roof. Don't worry, I'm not the master builder. There is actually someone in the picture who knows what he's doing. But I have built a couple of roofs with him, so I'm pretty handy with a cement mixer and all that.

This place contains some of my dreams. Not all of them, because I'm not that rooted in place. But I have plans to create a space up on the mountain where people can come and retreat. They can come and run, eat, think, create. Or just play nutball, which is played with unripe walnuts and a stick.

What I love to do there is to run on the trails. I have been running in the mountains since I was young. I love the feeling of my breath, my legs, I love taking in the air and the sights, the sound of my feet on the ground...

But you don't have to run. You can slowly walk up the hill, to the abandoned village, then take a left and go to the fixed-up house, or follow the road past the evergreen grove and past the house and then follow the bend which takes you up further, where there are often deer, and the best St John's Wort on the mountain. Then straight, and up and up and up, until you reach the logging patch, and then you go further and further and further, up and up, until you reach the ridge where you can look down - you are at about 1000 m above sea level now .... and running this trail is such a pleasure. You're sweaty and breathing hard. All around you is green, peace, and the sound of the mountain's breath. 

Life on the mountain is good. It's understood that you mind your own business. The road is treacherous and not for the weak-hearted. Occasionally a hiker passes by, or a cyclist, or a Scout. Often lost. It's quiet at night, and sometimes the whole mountain is lost in a cloud and the wind howls up from the valley.

There are buzzards in the sky, cuckoos in the spring; wild boar, deer, badgers, porcupines, snakes, lizards, all sort of bugs, honey bees... scorpions ... wild flowers everywhere, cherries, plums, apples, medicinal herbs of all varieties, mushrooms poisonous and otherwise. Nature is present, and thriving, as it does.

The green heals my soul. Running the trails on my mountain, I find peace from the human world, where cowardice and selfishness are fast becoming desirable attributes. Wordsworth wrote over 100 years ago:

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours"

Yes, we are getting and spending, and wasting ourselves. We imagine that busyness is constructive and useful, but it's not. It is much better to be consciously not busy; to have time to look around at the world, and to look deep inside yourself.

Don't be too busy to go for a run.
Don't be too busy to lend a hand to someone in need, even if it's inconvenient.
Don't be too busy to spend time with your child.
Don't be too busy to spend time with your lover.
Don't be too busy to give a friend some time.
Don't be too busy to cook supper, to eat with others, to feed yourself.
Don't be too busy to make the world a better place.
Don't be too busy to do hard things. It is the stuff of life, and it centers us in this marvellous world.