I woke up to a foggy morning overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany.
My head should have been pounding. My teeth still stained purple from the obscene amount of wine I drank the night before. Anticipating the worst hangover in the world I reached for the ibuprofen by my bed when the weirdest thing happened- I felt fine…beyond great actually! So I did what I normally do when I feel great and threw on my running shoes and headed for the door.
As I ran down the dirt road from the Lazy Olive, I took a moment to pause and take in the freshness of the morning. If you are one of those people who are like “Once I stop running I absolutely cannot stop under any circumstance” I really urge you to pause every once in awhile and soak in the stillness. Every one of my senses was overwhelmed with the sweet smell of damp flowers or the beauty of fog dissipating over a nearby railroad track; in that moment the world was absolutely perfect. My words cannot accurately paint a picture of how absolutely gorgeous this area was (Even the picture on the top of the page does not come anywhere close to doing it justice). Running when traveling allows you to have these moments. A brief private moment to take in your new surroundings.
As I was absorbing the beauty, I was also on the lookout for wild boars. Two days earlier a couple of people we knew saw a huge boar the size of a large dog during their jog. Part of me was terrified of getting gored while the more adventurous side of me wanted to get chased just so I would have a badass story. There’s nothing like running with just the tiniest hint of fear migrating through your body.
Far in the distance was the town of Asciano- my morning destination. Four miles of dirt roads and steep hills later, I was there. Another reason I love running: It allows you the freedom of exploration. I am responsible for my destination; I can travel anywhere my legs can take me without having to rely on anyone (or anything) else. It’s an exhilaration when you realize you have this capability. It almost feels like some secret super power all people are capable of and yet, for whatever reason (maybe potato chips and TV binge-watching), only a few people have.
I was exhilarated when I arrived in town. It felt so foreign and liberating. In a place far from home and so beyond my comfort zone I felt the sensation of absolute freedom.
In front of me the road forked into three different directions.
Then reality ruined my little moment I was having: How the **** do I get home?
“You could turn around and go back the way you came.” The logical voice inside my head told me.
“Or you could throw caution to the wind and guess randomly because you’re a man and sometimes that’s how men handle things.” The illogical ball scratching, smelly ass Bigfoot voice declared.
As this internal debate was raging in my mind I realized that jogging in another country requires you to be able to do one of three things:
1. Translate the language in order to understand street signs.
2. Speak the language so you can ask directions from the friendly town folk.
3. Be super good at directions (or for someone smarter than I: actually research the route before running it!)
I excel at none of these, so I listened to my Bigfoot voice and went with option #4: Wing it.
Highways in Italy (or the US for that matter) are not super runner friendly.
Be aware that while jogging on the side of the highway, you are allowed one foot of space between you and the road. So you must master the art of alternating sprinting and diving into the weeds on the side of the road to avoid oncoming semis (One memorable dive into the bushes found me looking at an empty Viagra box which was the weirdest thing to me because our stereotype of suave and sophisticated Italian men do not generally have erectile problems).
Eventually I found the correct dirt road, worked my way up the brutally steep hills, once again found myself overlooking the sunny countryside of Tuscany, and rounded the corner into the cottage right in time for breakfast. My wife was just waking up unaware of the mini adventure I had just experienced.
Running is sometimes about stumbling upon an adventure. Winging it as you watch out for imaginary boars, get lost in some little rural town, or play chicken with semi-trucks. Running is special to me because it allows me to step outside the comfort of my living room and experience the craziness of this beautiful world.