July 18 – September 1, 2018
Discovering new places by running through them has always been both a necessity and luxury that I am truly grateful for. It gives me the mental space, air, time and physical exertion that combined make me a better person when I walk back in the door for my family (critically important now that we are family time, ALL the time). On this trip so far, I’ve had the privilege of many discovery solo runs but also the joy of running with great friends from home we’ve met up with along the way. Thank you thank you to both Kim (in Paris) and Maegan (in Nice, below)!
I’ll often end up in a beautiful urban park, and feel as if I’m a kid who’s found hidden treasure (below, Bayeaux).
I get really excited, run back to our place, rouse the girls and drag them out. “You HAVE to see this park, it’s SO beautiful!” To which they moan and groan and are never quite as impressed with my treasure discovery skills as I think they should be.
Riverbank trails have been a welcome find in France.
Above, in Tours – this discovery was a treat, as we only had one night here and this ended up being a great run. I could see the Le Cher river and Parc Honore de Balzac on the map but just wasn’t sure what condition the paths would be in. As soon as I crossed the bridge and went down the stairs to the riverside trail, I saw 2 cyclists and 3 other solo runners. Score! (An aside – every city in France seems to claim both Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac – they were born here, slept here, wrote here, loved here or died here).
Above, Montpellier – this run was special in that we’d had a really difficult travel day the day before. While we recovered a bit by walking through the Place de la Comedie and witnessing an amazing thunderstorm,
everyone was still in a bit of funk, and I needed a good head clearing. I ventured out to find the Lez river and ended up on a tree-shaded bike path that reminded me of Paris. A good sweat (not hard to generate these days with the 95% humidity) and refreshed mind gave me the confidence to walk into a corner brasserie dripping in my running clothes and yellow fluorescent visor and ask for a “café emporte, au lait, sil vous plait?” I got some really good looks for that one, but walked out with my small, lidless paper cup, triumphant.
Above, Carcassonne – A tree-lined dirt path along Bord Du Canal, ending with a stroll through the vibrant Sunday morning market.
Above, in Bordeaux – along both sides of the Garonne, crossing two contrasting bridges, old and modern
Bike trails have also been great for car-free space. In Bayeux, the trail winds through fields and tiny villages, below:
And along the French Riviera in Nice – SO grateful to Maegan for our morning runs there. And kudos and thanks to Amelia for rising early with me one day – Maegan and her family had left Nice and Amelia probably knew I was in withdrawal missing my running partner.
A bonus, especially in the sticky humidity that week in Nice, was jumping into the ocean right after, pre-crowded beach.
(Almost as great as Super Bead at Leaders School on Lake George, NY and Friday Night Run/Swim/Pizza/DQ with the Ann Arbor Triathlon Club on the Potawatomi Trail in Pinckney, MI)
Sometimes my wayfinding is pretty bad. In Carcassone, I kept getting stuck trying to find a footpath over the river, below:
I found myself in a vineyard, next to a highway and major roundabout, and ended up doubling back on my route, which involved sprinting along a busy road with no shoulder.
I guess a little adrenaline never hurts, or practice running away from leash-less dogs; something I’ve done more than enough times and have no desire to repeat!
After Bordeaux and its wide and busy river promenade, we went back to southern France and spent three nights in Toulouse (also on the Garonne). I had a great 6+ miler, mostly an out-and-back along one of the lazy canals that parallels the river.
I made two new friends along the way who asked me about a sign I was reading that described a boat repair yard along the canal. My French was limited, they didn’t speak any English, and they thought I was visiting from Italy (which technically is correct in that I am half Italian), but I got that one of the women was almost 90 and she had five daughters, one in Canada. They asked about Montreal and Quebec and the mountains. We laughed a lot about our inability to communicate, while communicating through hand gestures anyway. They let me take a photo (which I’m sure was weird) so I could recall this fun traveling moment between strangers.
After Toulouse we had a very special week house-sitting for a family that runs a small farm near Auch, about an hour from Toulouse. It was quiet and spacious and so different from staying in a city as we had daily responsibilities taking care of many animals.
Running in the country for me is definitely peaceful yet brings additional anxiety in that there is no one else around. I ran less frequently while staying on the farm. I wanted to believe that it was because my mind was quieter in this space and I felt less need for brain clearing. But if I’m truly honest with myself, the activation energy required to run solo in more rural settings is higher. I am more susceptible to the thoughts I allow to simmer in my head. I get intimidated – fear of unleashed farm dogs? no other runner or cyclist sightings? the horrifying story of Iowa runner Mollie Tibbetts fresh in the news that I swore I’d read less of given its likelihood of scaring me into hiding?
I did get out a few times; a hilly six mile loop with cows, slow-moving or fenced friendly dogs (thank goodness) and some funny stares from other farmers was a highlight and helped me overcome some of the fear, which was perfect for being my last run in France, a country that game me many beautiful miles.
Feeling very grateful for the legs that still carry me, the lungs that fill with clear morning air, the memories of running all over the U.S. and the people I’ve had the great fortune to run with over the years. The simple but sometimes almost impossible ability to get out the door each day leads to the comforting familiarity of favorite places but also new and refreshing discoveries.