In Italy I have started running with a few crucial supplies. When I go out for hours on the trails in the Maritime Alps I bring my ultra backpack with a mix of water and Tail Wind Nutrition. I also bring my phone, my new Garmin watch, my Road ID for emergencies, a small knife and band-aids.
Yep. On these trails I want to be prepared for the worst.
This is not something I know in California, New York or Holland: I go out alone and it feels like I’m entereing the wilderness. There’s a sense of risk, even danger. The trails are rocky and uneven. They are ill – or not at all – maintained and marked Overgrown and washed away in places. They are very steep, going up and down like nobody’s business. At times I’m walking, other times I’m on hands and knees. The sharp rocks have basically shredded my pretty new Nike Kigers in four weeks of intense running.
Then there are the animals. Now and then I hear boar snort and groan close to the trail. These are wild, not small animals, and they have their young with them this time of year. Hearing the rustling and snorting in a bush about a meter to your left can make a runner jump.
Last week on a high mountain trail I was trapped between two packs of dogs. I had gently, quietly bypassed the first three dogs by going off the road and making a semi circle through the prickly bushes, keeping a safe distance. Barking dogs don’t bite, the Dutch saying goes – I do not believe it’s true, but it helped me stay calm. Then the second pack, en route to the tiny town of Olivetta, seemed so aggressive that I turned a sharp left. There was no trail there, but I knew there was a small river and a trail next to it, about a mile to the east. If only I could just get over this hill, through this valley, past these bushes and trees. Well, no. This is unforgiving country: rocks, dirt, cacti, and lots of plants protecting themselves with sharp needles. I got lost and stuck. After an adrenaline-fueled struggle our of the natural trap off the trail I returned to the trail with bruised and bloody legs and arms. Thankfully all dogs were now behind me. All I had to do was navigate the sharp rocks on the way home, just two more miles.
I love running here. These are real adventures. I like it in part, I think, because every time it feels lucky to actually come back alive and well. Thankfully I have not yet needed to use my knife or the Road ID.