One run

There is a village in the north west of Lanzarote called Famara. It is a surfing town, blessed with a long sandy beach that wraps itself around the junction in the land where the cliffs rise up sheer to create the high mountain range of basalt rock that rises up from the sea. The waves roll in off the point break created by the land formation, clean hollow breaks like a mini Hawaii pipeline. The main town is a combination of surfers hangout and cyclists pit stop, with a few pretty beach side traditional houses and cafes. On the far side of the beach is a small housing development, stone built whitewashed squat villas rented out or used as holiday homes by wealthy locals. It is a lovely place, made more lovely by the brooding presence of the highest peak on the island watching over, and the wall of basalt leading off towards the north. 

Three trails lead off from the corner of the housing development. One leads up, snaking to the top of Penas del Chache, getting more rocky and technical as you climb. One leads west half way up the cliffs until a landslide cuts it off and makes it impassable. The third leads inland, and eventually winds up the back of the mountain. 

I took the west trail first, running over the rocky path in the shadow of the mountains on my right. On the left the sea, surfers like tiny toys bobbing through the lines of waves. Where the trail had been swept away by a rockslide I had to turn back, running past the village and out along the inland path. Soon this turned uphill towards the back of the mountain. A dry river bed cut starkly through the green carpet of the volcanic fertile soil. The path snaked upwards, over the hump of the mountain range, then climbed again sharply upwards requiring hands on knees to push upwards. Eventually, the climb flattens out  and the radar equipment on the top of the mountain comes into view. From the far edge, you can see south and east, counting the hundreds of small volcanoes that dot the landscape. West lies the Atlantic Ocean, white lines of waves that look orderly and neat from this perspective. 

The descent: six kilometres of technical switchback trail requiring concentration. I try to skip down efficiently, one lapse finds me on my hands.  Smell of wild fennel, and heat rising where the wind is blocked. The remains of a car that had fallen for the high road above, macabre but shining in the sun. Boulders, lizards disturbed by my feet. Dust and clay and volcanic scree making my feet unsteady. I run as hard as I can down, pushing the last runnable kilometre as hard as I can. 

Finishing the run, feet and legs in the cool ocean, watching the surfers further out. A run that will sustain me through the cold darkness of winter. 20kilometers and 1,000m up. My pack warm on my back.  Trail shoes dusty and legs strong. I am so lucky to be able to do this.  

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Farewell La Santa

I came to Lanzarote having had two months off with injury. I had been running moderately for two weeks before I arrived. I decided while here to make the most of it. 

Stats: 140km run, 3,000m climbed, 12 hours of running in total over seven days, six of those days were doubles. Yes I got tired but I pushed through. The recovery here is amazing as you don’t have to do anything between sessions: just recover. Oh, for the life of a professional athlete! 

Sadly for me it is back to the cold winter weather. But with a serious training week behind me and some optimism for the months of marathon build up that lie ahead. 

Fit bodies, and our way of looking

I’m in Club la Santa in Lanzarote for a week’s training in the mountains. It is a sports resort used by a lot of athletes for warm weather training. A place where you are surrounded by people who are fit. And it is interesting. In normal life people generally aren’t. Even at the gym it is unusual to see genuinely fit bodies. Our eyes are used to the extremes of overweight and flabby, or skinny and flabby. It is so interesting here to see what most people look like. Not thin or skinny but strong and toned, and it makes me realise how our eyes aren’t used to female bodies (in particular) that are functional. 

In magazines and on websites we see thin: celebrity thin, super lean and elegant. But fit, unless in a celebrity athlete, is not often portrayed. In fact, I’ve heard very fit women described as “a bit heavy” due to their muscle tone and I think it’s because our eyes have become used to the dichotomy of fat or skinny. 

You don’t see much makeup here either, or styled hair. Clothes are functional fitness or swimwear. It is really quite refreshing for me. But it does make it clear how strange it is that the generality of the population seems to have lost sight of the beauty in strength. It condemns those who are not thin to either struggle or give up, and it makes the way a body look become divorced from what it does. I love seeing the tan lines from people who have spent hours training in Tri suits, sunglasses causing panda eyes. I love that my black toenails don’t raise an eyebrow. And I love seeing people of all ages who are strong and joyous in their skin. It is sad that this is so inimical to the rest of society.