mundane adventures in running
Two weeks in France. I’ve come back heavier (wine. croissants), knackered and mildly injured, and have had some amazing runs.
I was staying with my parents in Brittany. This lead to a wonderful collision of miles of footpaths and hours of childcare.
I overtrained and am now suffering from the same groin injury I had earlier in the year. It’s fine. I know what to do about it. I don’t especially mind having a little bit of a rest.
The running, though, was wonderful.
Brittany is not wild. You can see the influence of people everywhere you look. Every field has been farmed, every bit of rock quarried, every forest coppiced, plundered for timber, regrown. Unlikely windswept hills and coastlines are scattered with detritus of history, with standing stones and machine gun emplacements. Woodland is parcelled off into plots for family firewood supplies or for private hunting, and they’re littered with signs of historical activity: disused wells; half arsed quarries; rusting, derelict ploughs; tracks gouged into hillsides. The Marais, the marshland that surrounds my parents’ house is cut through with drainage channels and farm tracks, peppered with livestock and fields of sweetcorn.
Despite all this, it has a feral wildness about it. It’s a land which has been domesticated, but which has cracks where nature comes through. There are too many insects. Buzzards explode from undergrowth. Coypus crawl surprisingly out of ditches The weather is as wild as you could hope for: unpredictable, turning on a dime from pissing down driven rain to tropical steamy sunshine.
The land is heavily farmed. There are roads, lots of quiet, metalled roads. paths weave through fields, along hedges, boundary woods, between farms. They peter out when they hit roads and start again.
My long runs took my crazy zig zagging circuitous routes, up and down the hills which abut onto the marshes. It was convincingly bumpy, up and down, technical descents with stones and mud and roots. The paths give glimpses of stone and slate buildings, wide skies, weird artefacts dumped in woods. There’s animal life: dogs barking; dragonflies playing; clouds of horseflies chasing.
Each run was a journey. Gruelling, when it got too hot, when i hadn’t hydrated, when i was begging for it to rain. Hypnotic: running along the blindingly bright endless flat paths of the Marais, with hallucinatory spectres of sail boats heading upriver. Exhilarating: crazily steep, technical descents where a slip would pitch you headfirst into a muddy, rocky stream.
Exhausting and lovely and now I need to rest.
Maps on Runkeeper, photos below.
Curious French outsider art.
Nature. Too many insects.
Blair witch-y. Three sardines arranged on a tree stump in the woods.
My sandals took a bit of a battering… the dye kind of ran.