“Summer on the high plateau can be as delectable as honey; it can also be a roaring scourge.”
So begins Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain –– a love letter to the Scottish Cairngorms completed in 1945. She wasn’t wrong.
It’s our fourth day in Malta and I’ve yet to hit the trails. Excuses kept conveniently presenting themselves.
“What if the weather turns and I get caught in a storm on the coast?”
“Running doesn’t seem particularly popular here. I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb with my red running vest.”
“I just don’t feel like it.”
My excuses are fruitless this Wednesday morning. There’s nothing more than a gentle breeze in the air and the sun is shooting through a clear sky like a tractor beam pulling me outside. I decide to just pick a route off Komoot and get my ass out the door.
Welcome to Hydra, a Greek island a couple of hours off the coast of Athens. This is a place that holds a special place in my heart for two reasons.
While on Hydra, we saw an advertisement for a trail race. We thought “Hey! We loved it so much, let’s come back next year for the race!”
Next year didn’t happen. But in the year of our pandemic, 2022, Hydral’s Trail Event, as it’s very literally called, was a go.
Welcome to Transgrancanaria, which is a race I ran in the Canary Islands of Spain. But to be honest, I didn’t run the trans race, which is an ultra-marathon 128 kilometers across the island. I ran the 26-kilometer “Starter Race.”
I didn’t love that they called it the “Starter” race. Makes me think it’s the race equivalent of paddling in a pool with floaties –– which it very much was not. The downhills were brutal. I thought my ankle would snap any second. I couldn’t walk normally for a few days after the damn thing.
It’s race day on an annoyingly cold April morning for the Berlin Half Marathon. Time for skin-tight leggings, judging people for jogging way ahead of the starting line, and as always, runners desperately searching for a spot to squeeze out that final pee before the starting gun goes off.
(Not that I’d ever advise peeing your pants, but it’s especially imprudent with a cold wind smacking against whizz central, if you will.)
Südtirol. Alto Adige. South Tyrol. It’s a border region of Europe that confuses and makes complete sense. You don’t know if you should say “Danke” or “grazie” to show appreciation for a meal, but it all comes together when you dive into the history.
But I first dove into the region by the rails, grabbing a morning high-speed train from Berlin to Munich where we transferred to an Austrian line that runs through Innsbruck and down to Bologna. I’d ridden it before to Verona, taking note of the Dolomites outside of my window and vowing to return.
And so I did, this time spending most of my time in Brixen / Bressanone before an overnight in Bozen / Bolzano––the capital of South Tyrol.
A trail race conveniently scheduled after the first month of training for the 2021 Berlin Marathon called us down to the Dolomites. I signed up for and ran the Ladinia Trail 29-kilometer race with nearly 2,000 meters of climbing––the most I’d ever done on my own two feet. But before and after the race, there was plenty to see and do in town.
Last Fall, just days before the big shutdown started, I went on one last trip to run the Märkischer Landweg trail from Templin to Angermünde across the state of Brandenburg. I had vacation days to kill and itchy feet that wouldn’t do well sitting at home all day. There was plenty of that to come anyway.
So I hopped on the train in Berlin for an hour ride north to Templin––a gateway of sorts to Brandenburg’s Uckermark region, a vast chunk of land left remarkably untouched considering its proximity to Berlin. This land has seen glaciers from the Ice Age, Slavic tribes, the Holy Roman Empire, and Prussia before turning into a battleground during World War II, leaving many of its towns severely damaged.
On the day I was out there, it was blissfully quiet and I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be than Templin where I set off on a 30-kilometer run to Ringenwalde. You know. For fun.
Disclosure: I traveled in part as a guest of Reiseland Brandenburg. As always, all opinions are my own.
What’s in your backyard?
A silver lining in this pandemic has been the opportunity to explore my new backyard around Berlin. Just east of Berlin sits the town of Buckow surrounded by Nature Park Märkische Schweiz.