Monday, January 12, 2009

Running in Spain: Round One

Manzanares El Real, Spain
(10 miles?)

On December 28th, I got up in the dark, walked to a bar in an unfamiliar city, got into a car with three men in spandex I did not know and drove off to the mountains and an undisclosed location with more strange men in spandex.

When I read that paragraph, it sounds like some recipe for ending up on the missing persons list, and yet this day was one of the highlights of my entire trip. As I said before, I had contacted Luis via his blog and asked if he could recommend any trails in/around Madrid while I was there. He went one better and invited me on their annual pilgrimage to Manzanares El Real, a town with a castle and a national park (and tons of trails). I accepted immediately and the plans were laid for the international trail running fest.

I was supposed to arrive in Spain on the 26th, but due to various flight disasters, I ended up arriving at noon on the 27th, having slept (and I did the math here) 11 hours in the previous 77. Yes, it was kind of an ordeal. Needless to say, I was not at my sleep-filled best on Sunday morning, but I was still pretty ready to run.

We drove the 45 minutes or so out to Manzanares and had a coffee while waiting for the rest of the group to show up. One of my favorite moments was the contrast between the group of us in spandex, about to run for a long time, with the group of locals in dark coats having their morning coffee, all smoking.

Luis had suggested it might be cold, and while the cold wasn't so bad, it definitely had its icier moments. This was one of the more technical trails I've run, because if you weren't running on rocks (and possibly ice), you were running through the trees, with a goodly number of roots upon which to trip and fall on one's face (or foot). I was definitely a bit more cautious than I might have been a couple of months ago, but this was good running, and not something I would have been able to organize on my own.

We climbed up to a small hut (ass included, as you can (partially) see here... and there was a donkey too!), took some pictures and then ran back down. Two of the group managed to take an unplanned route that sent three other members of the group off after them, but eventually everyone managed to make it back to the local restaurant for a round of beers, accompanied by some cake and sweets other people brought.

Then it was back to Madrid for more crazy touristing and some much needed sleep.

As I said before, however, this trip has given me a huge appreciation for living in the time period we live in. When I lived in France in 1994, I would have loved to have found other runners (particularly because at that time, there were SO MANY less runners in Paris!), but there was no way of getting in touch with them, short of trying to flag down the few and far between I ever saw on the streets. While I might have done the research for figuring out that there was a national park outside of Madrid, the friend I was traveling with does not run and I probably would not have taken the bus by myself to run on trails I was not familiar with. However, thanks to the internet, I managed to find a madrileƱo who was willing to drive out of his way to pick me up and let me see a side of Spain I would never had had access to by myself.

I said this to Luis, but let me say it to all trail running peeps who happen to be reading this-- if you or anyone else you know happens to be in the Bay Area and wants a trail running experience, I am absolutely willing to play trail guide. While running in the city wasn't bad (more on that next posting), running for a couple of hours on the trails was much, much better, and I would love to pass on the favor for other people visiting my beloved Bay.

So here's to international trail running, and to the internet!


Rick Gaston said...

It was dark, an unfamiliar city, a bar, men in spandex and an undisclosed location. Sounds like an intro to a superhero novel but in this case the prelude to some super fun running in Spain! Sounds like a great time, I like the part about beers with the cake and sweets. Seems like the kind of run Mike and I would love:) Maybe one day these guys can come and visit you and the Bay Area.

Anne Carlson said...

Still looks cold. Great pictures of you and your new friends. Glad you are home safe and sound.

Derek said...

Great report and if I ever make it out that direction I will take you up on guide duty. I have an uncle that lives in Menlo Park, but haven't been out there to see him in a long time. I think I need to make a trip!!

Jo Lynn said...

You have many reasons for loving the internet. Let me just say how happy I am to be one of those reasons. Welcome home Victoria!

Victoria said...

Derek, you should absolutely make a trek out here. There's tons for kids to do around here!

Thanks, Jo Lynn! Can't wait to get out on the trails again!

Anonymous said...

Needless to say it was an absolute pleasure. You all yanks are welcome here if you promise you will not stop soooo many times to take images.

¡¡¡¡¡¡Victoria, TURISTA!!!!!

Love, SPJ

Gambolin' Man said...

MUY CHEVERE, Victoria!Estoy celoso!