Squeezing two runs into a three-day ‘holiday’ when you’ve already cycled close to 125 miles isn’t an ideal situation. Needs must, though – a need that is a looming Bob Graham round. It was dark when I set off along the promenade from Chez Cockroach towards Alcudia. I ran for 15 minutes, the lights of Alcudia growing ever nearer, before turning back to Port de Pollenca. I had business on the beach.
Now I’ve been heavily into Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run over the last few weeks. There’s a character in this called Barefoot Ted, who, as his nickname implies, suggests we should all dispense with our running shoes and go au naturale. This will make us less prone to injury, Barefoot Ted (and some science) argues. Be aware here that I have massively paraphrased what is an enormous, controversial argument.
Sitting on the beach wall, I pulled off my shoes and hid them behind a dune. Running down the beach, I instantly felt liberated: the sand between my toes, then the cooling water of the Mediterranean de-stressing my feet. I had reconnected with the ground, as they should be, according to Barefoot Ted.
I ran for about 15 minutes along the entire stretch of the beach, then back to retrieve my trainers. This very brief stint of barefoot running in no way qualifies me as an expert on the practice, but I’ll say this: my right calf was smarting as I ran barefoot; once back on pavement with trainers gone, the pain vanished.
I was up early the next day. I forewent breakfast, assuming a big meal the previous night would suffice in the energy stakes. The plan was to run from sea level to Talala d’Albercutx – topped by a watch tower some 380-or-so metres above sea level – and back. I trudged up the road to Col de la Creueta, the same road Tom and I had powered up on cycles less than 24 hours earlier.
Every step was an effort, despite the modest incline. I felt better having passed Col de la Creueta – and with the 200-metre contour breached – but only marginally. I was making hard work of what should have been a simple task. Nevertheless, by the time I’d reached the highest point, I’d banked about 400 metres of vertical climb in my legs.
I was hungry and thirsty as I touched the tower, turning for home. Then, even on a perfectly smooth downhill, I was struggling to exceed 40-minute 10k pace. By the time I was back on the seafront, I was fading badly. Dizzy and empty-legged, I shuffled towards destination cursing the now illogical decision not to have breakfast before a 90-minute hilly run. Shedding my shoes at this point wouldn’t have mattered a jot. I was reminded – for the umpteenth time in my running ‘journey’ – that there’s no substitute for simply nourishing yourself properly. I’ll learn one day.