I have to thank a sushi joint that I never found for leading me to one of the best running paths I’ve ever had the good fortune to run. We were on vacation in Baleal, Portugal, and for the first few days, I had somehow avoided going for a run at all, despite the ocean air and the endless stretches of beach. I guess without my regular routine to prop up the habit, I was finding all sorts of excuses not to lace up the running shoes. Things like sleep. Lying on the warm sand. Really big breakfasts, followed almost immediately by even bigger lunches.
But that sushi joint — I had read about it in Lonely Planet, and it was up the road somewhere. The only way to know for sure was to go and check it out. It wasn’t anywhere near the beach, and getting there by walking was going to eat up too much time. So, there it was, an incentive to put on the running gear and hit the road.
I know — Portugal certainly isn’t known for great sushi. But I learned my lesson long ago when I had some of the best sushi I ever had at a bar slash restaurant in Puerto Rico. You never know what you might find. Could be the meal of your life. And that is always worth seeking out.
So I ran, and ran, and ran, and damn, either I passed it or it’s gone, or I totally had the wrong address, which I neglected to write down, of course. But instead of just turning back around, I decided to kick out to a side street, mainly because I didn’t want to just double-back and see all the buildings and shops that I had already run past. Striding along on the side street didn’t last long at all. Before I knew it, I was on a dirt road, watching the sun glisten on tall grass and corn stalks.
I also spied some discarded mattresses, which put me a little on edge. Do I know where I am going? Am I getting turned around? Is it safe here?
But I kept going. This was so much better than running on the street. I knew I was headed back towards the water, and I still could see the backs of the buildings along the main road, for a time anyway. I could always just turn back around and get myself truly oriented.
Soon, the dirt road became a dirt path, not big enough for cars. More like a hiking trail. Yes. This is good. This is really good.
So I kept going, right up to the point where I couldn’t go anymore. Well, actually, I probably could have gone a step or two further, but that would have put me far too close to the edge of a very steep cliff.
My first thought: This is fucking amazing.
For a brief moment, I did let my mind reroute itself into thinking about how if I had gotten off my lazy ass and gone running two days earlier, I would have had more time to enjoy this running trail, the breathtaking cliffside views, and the more tucked away, less populated beaches below.
But no time for regrets. Ever, really, but especially when you are on the vacation clock. It’s never long enough. Once you are back, you can hardly believe how fast it all went.
I went back to staring out at the expanse of the ocean, gingerly inched a bit closer to the edge of the cliff and felt the chill of the distance to the bottom grip and rattle its way around the darker places of my mind. Mostly, though, I just took it all in, how beautiful it all was. And then I got back to the run.
There was no way I was NOT going to go running every single day that we would be in Baleal, now that I knew I had an amazing trail to run along with stunning views of cliffs and crashing waves, and the endless blue of both the ocean and the sunlit sky.
On top of all that: discovering that there were quieter, less populated beaches to lay out on, not to mention the better surfing waves, with less people trying to catch them, too.
But mainly, it was about the view, from on high, where in the distance the eerily still sky and the ever-rumbling sea became one, and the things I thought about, or didn’t think about at all, when I stared into the vortex of that natural beauty.
Now, I am back, to the grind, to the usual day-to-day. Yes, it went by too fast. I miss running on those trails along the cliffs, seeing those early morning surfers out there catching the first waves of the day. The endless expanse of the blue. It’s what I see when I say, Man, I really wish I was back in Baleal right now.