(Summertime – for some reason this post’s title only felt right in Greek!)
We came back to England from our holidays to find summer ripened; the fields have lost their bright green colour and turned yellow and the roads are still empty.
I did very little running while I was away: The Penny Marathon, of course, and a short, cheeky run around Koufonisi on an early morning before it got too hot. I had run the same route last year as well, and I feel a strange kind of love for it; it is by no means a fast route, not even a route conducive to good running: the first half follows the shoreline, and is run on a mixture of paths made up of half-buried rock and loose stone (mocking my minimalist shoes with every step!) and sandy beaches. At some points it overhangs the rocky coastline, so tripping is costly.
And by the time you approach the furthermost point you come across this mysteriously ominous sight:
But then the path meets the road winding up the hills, and the terrain changes to the badly laid tarmac of the minor Greek country roads. It continues its dusty way ever upward, with the odd downhill strewn in only to give you more to climb back up. The more you climb, the faster the rays of the rising sun seem to strengthen, with only whiffs of a light sea breeze to relieve you. But if you can carry on long enough, the hill eventually exhausts itself and expires in an uninhibited sharp downhill all the way through the main settlement and back to the sea!
I wrote this to explain the reasons I don’t like it as a route, intending to then explain what it was I did like about it. But reading back, I of course realise that the fact that it isn’t a “proper” running route, that it’s a mixture of bad road, stony trail and deep sand is exactly what I love about it! It’s short, but beautiful, and hard, but it never lets you take yourself seriously; it laughs if you attempt to do a workout in the warming day, or to keep a steady pace or effort or even form. It requires that you concentrate on it, not you: The rocks and stones in your path initially, but then the sea; the advancing wave that pushes your path higher, into deeper sand, and the limit of the path’s width before you step a bit too far on the overhang; the solitary runner you catch glimpses of ahead, and the one coming the other direction at the point where you have to hop from rock to rock; the couple doing tai chi at the beach’s edge; the animals in their pens, and the farmhand feeding them. And then the sea again, from a distance, shining its familiar silvery blue.
But now we are back in England, and summer is different here. More conducive to running, for one thing. And proper training started again last week (with a respectable 51, mostly slow, km (31 miles)), and continues this week with a warm-up race: the Huncote Harriers’ own Joy Cann 5, an introduction to the slightly faster paces to follow in the late summer / autumn of my training (but always maintaining the 80 : 20 ratio!).
The height of summer is still before us, and many long summer days of running before the Equinox; which will be celebrated in appropriate pagan style with a weekend of around-the-clock running!
For the time being I leave you with this most summery of songs which has been going through my mind non-stop while I was writing: