I’m back! What a trip! I had very little time, so no blogging for me. I managed to fit in two really great runs. The first run was three days into the trip. I had been itching to run the whole day. The bus ride felt like it would never end. We arrived in Plymouth with a couple of hours of free time before dinner and drinks with our fellow travelers. The instant the bus stopped, I jumped out, grabbed my luggage and made a beeline for our room. I threw on my jogging clothes and headed out the door. We were staying right on the water front. It couldn’t have been a better location. I started at an easy pace, running along the cobblestone walkway along the harbor.
People greeted me with friendly smiles and waves. A couple of young men waved from their perch on a boat moored nearby. I felt exhilarated and a little nervous to be running in England. What if there were unspoken rules that I didn’t know? What if people didn’t run along the harbor like I was? After about half a mile, I just let all the worries go. I was in England, Plymouth of all places and I was going to have a great run.
Once I reached a dead end at one end of the harbor, I turned around and headed back. I continued past my hotel heading down to the other end of the water front. I ran past pubs with loud drunken singing and souvenir shops. I reached the Mayflower steps, where the pilgrims started their journey to the new world, my home. I felt like I was running through a movie, a place from the past.
Finally, I reached the Royal Citadel, an old fort dating back to the 1660s and instead of turning back, I braved the steep incline and attacked it with vengeances. I was feeling good. It went up and up and up till I reached an expanse of green grass and some steps. I jogged up the steps, sucking air like crazy. I reached the top, finding the base of the ferris wheel that I had seen from a distance when we drove in and to my surprise, found several beautiful memorials to British naval history. At that time, I stopped my watch and took a breather, reading each plaque and enjoying the awesome view. The ferris wheel rotated slowly behind me as I took in the beauty of the moment.
When my breath was finally back under control I ran back down the hill, running into several other members of our tour group and encouraging them to venture up the path that I had just come down. It was a wonderful run.
The second run I did was half way through the trip. We drove into Aviemore Scotland after a long day on the bus. I’d been feeling the running itch for a couple days at that point, but hadn’t had the opportunity to bust out the running shoes. That night, LingGeek and I had decided to skip the sheep dog show and go ahead and make our way to the hotel. We explored Aviemore’s high street, which didn’t contain much before breaking off to head our separate ways. I’d already heard from our tour guide that there were some great running trails in the area, so I set out to find them.
I didn’t have much luck. I jogged around, trying to find the infamous trails and was just about to throw my hands up in defeat and do some street running when I jogged by a local fisherman. He waved me over, so I slowed down to chat. He told me right off that I looked lost, and I confirmed it. He had a wonderful Scottish accent and he must have noticed my own odd twang because he promptly asked me where I was from. When I told him California, he got excited, stating he knew where that was, “It’s in America” he stated proudly, I smiled in response.
When I travel, I love talking to locals, but I’m usually too shy to initiate it. The fisherman was easy to talk to and we discussed local running and the upcoming half marathon Aviemore was hosting in just two days. He pointed me in the right direction to the running path and I set off bidding him good bye and hoping he would still be there with his fishing pole when I jogged back by later.
The jogging paths where all they had promised to be and more. The path wound around a small loch, surrounded by trees. Smaller trails shot off, heading up the mountain and here and there were benches tucked in among the greenery. The area was quiet and peaceful. I jogged along the lower path, finding my rhythm and working out all the kinks and stiffness I’d developed from sitting on the bus for so many hours. I then ventured up the mountain paths, having to walk when it got too steep and exploring the new trails that split off. I discovered a second loch and took a breather, my breath puffing from my lungs as I looked over the still water. Scotland is a truly beautiful country.
I started running again, coming across a hiker and later a young man sitting along the trail, his back leaning against a tree, a beer in his hand and the expanse of the town far below. I slowed down to enjoy the view, but moved on, trying not to interrupt his moment of solitude. It started to sprinkle, the small drops feeling refreshing. I headed back down to the low path, wound my way around the loch a few more times. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me, I was in Scotland, Scotland! And I was running around a loch. Just how often in my life would I experience anything like this?!? Motivated by the thought, I did a few more laps before heading in.