A lucky man, is what I am. Over the past six weeks I got to run on some amazing trails in four countries. The Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles. The Maritime Alps in Italy. The mountains around Bergen, Norway. And the N70 trail route in the Netherlands.
Let me compare and contrast here in some key categories.
1) Holland wins. Soft and bouncy, these paths are a perfect surface with the right, gripping shoes.
2) California also has many sandy and forgiving trails.
3) Norway’s paths were hard and rocky.
4) In Italy I shredded my new too soft Nike Kigers to pieces on the sharp rocks and the tricky, uneven surface
1) Norway has impeccable paths, with clear markers. They are clean and tidy, like the country itself.
2) The Americans also keep the trails in the best condition imaginable. Hundred of miles of mountainous trails are clean and open, free of obstacles and well marked.
3) The Dutch trails are not bad, but the deep mud on a rainy day can make for tough running. With intense use like that, a little more maintenance would be good.
4) Does anyone walk or use the trails? Does anyone care? They are mostly an overgrown mess or rocks, branches and missing signs, despite the good efforts of some local outdoors enthusiasts.
1) This is where Italy shines. The mountains close to the Mediterranean are high and handsome, and the trails take you up there. The views are stunning and inspiring, even after 10 miles of gruesome trail work. Forza Italia!
2) This part of Norway was new to me, and I was in awe of the sights above Bergen.
3) The southern California mountains I know and love offer striking vistas of the wilderness so close to the big city.
4) Holland is flat, but the hilly area around Nijmegen has some nice views of the Ooij polder and the river below.
1) Here Italy wins. Steep hill sides testing your strength. Technical trails demanding full focus. Severe descends requiring light feet and a willingness to work with gravity. Felt exhausted and exhilarated after every trail.
2) The sheer length and gradient of the inclines up the trails from Bergen made this run challenging and wonderful.
3) North of LA you can simply keep going and going, up and down, as steep or flat as you like. Great working out.
4) The Dutch trails are good but not as steep, and not as long. Of course, I was still happily exhausted after 9 muddy miles.
BEST FELLOW RUNNERS FOR PEER INSPIRATION
1) Norway. So many hikers and runners, all friendly and good-looking.
2) Lots of active types in the Santa Monica mountains. Friendly, usually.
3) Holland. There were few.
4) Italy. There were none.