Friday, May 20, 2011

Barefoot in Barcelona

Barcelona doesn´t seem like a good place for running, especially for shod runners, since all the runner surfaces in the city proper are made if cement, and rock. I cringe at the thought of heel-striking through these streets. Though for the record, I will say the city is pretty set up for bicyclers.

Instead of concrete/cement, the sidewalks are made mostly of what seems like tiles made out of rock, which would be fine except that if the tiles are small enough, they create space between each other, so that my feet kind of drop down into them a little, meaning that I´m constantly catching the edges of the tiles, and though not sharp, are uncomfortable. A little.

I´ve found two good places to run. The first is the park Montjuic, which is a big hill right by the ocean. From where I´m staying, getting there takes about 20 minutes, then the city noise disburses a little, and the sidewalks turn to pavement and/or cement. It´s a good uphill run, either to the Miramar area, or all the way up to the top, where an old castles looks out on everything. I´ve yet to explore all the twists and turns, but basically I´ve spent a good two hours there most times, and it´s a good quiet place.

The best place to run is the park north of town, who´s name I have yet to figure out. It´s the set of hills visible from the city. Just getting there, 45 minutes, is one long uphill climb, but very must worth it, because I get up beyond the city smog. There are dirt roads, and best of all, mountain trails through pine trees. And, scattered throughout are these old springs (called fonts) where I can refill my water bottles, so I don´t have to worry about not having enough. The trails are marked at intersections, so as long as I know some of the main points of interest, like the old monestary, I don´t ever feel like I´m totally lost, though the area is big enough that I can get lost a little, or enough, to make me forget that I´m ultimately surrounded by city on all sides.

For Montjuic I can basically go barefoot, but for this park, the terrain, both the roads and the trails, is pretty rocky, so I need my huaraches. Today I ran over to the park barefoot, then slipped the huaraches on while on the trails. The terrain reminds me of Arizona or New Mexico (though the climate is more like San Diego, with lots o´ sun but not too hot) and I´ve been wondering what BF running would be like out in the southwest. Well, I think I have my answer now, and maybe should be thankful for muddy Michigan. I never thought I´d say I was grateful to Michigan for anything!

The reactions of people to my running barefoot have been interesting. I actually feel more selfconscious here, I guess because as a visitor I don´t want to seem disrespectful (having memories of wearing cut off shorts in Mexico and having old people get angry with me). But, I have to look out for myself, and perhaps the Spanish need a little shake up. I certainly haven´t seen any minimalist runners at all. It´s funny because Spanish people seem to think gawking at someone is impolite, so that, instead of in the US where people seem to snap their heads to look at me, the Spanish seem to snap their heads looking away quickly after seeing me. Though, that said, one funny time a woman saw me running and let out a long mournful,´Ayyyyy´ as if she were in pain.

The funniest reaction I got though was from a group of German tourist in Montjuic. They were actually all men, and they literaly all had their jaws hanging down, just staring at my feet. Maybe they were German podiatrists.

And today, as I was coming back from a 4 hour run, therefore sweaty and tired-looking, and barefoot remember, I swear this couple who was running saw me and I heard the woman say, ´Something must be going on´ I think they were thinking that I´d been an accident or something, and was running away from danger. Ah well....

The other good place to run might be the beach, but it´s so far away from where I´m staying that trying it hasn´t been worth it.

One unexpected advantage to being a tourist is that I´m walking all over, all day, which is good prep for the Burning River 100 Miler. In fact, I think I may have overdone it a little one a couple days, with running two hours, then walking all day. I´m certainly losing a few pounds, in part because I´m not exactly eating well, or healthy. Or, not like I would at home. I´m renting a room from a Uruguayan woman, and though she is way cool, I still don´t feel I can have all the food I´d like. Though, the oranges here are awsome. But, again, perhaps good training, in maybe not getting all the calories I need.

Also unexpected was my flight over, which lasted forever, and I was in the aisle seat and just could not sleep. So, I was up, for over 24 hours or so.

I have seen two other people walking around barefoot, down by the Rambla, where everyone, tourest and Spanish alike, go to walk around, all day and night. One was a British guy, younger, and the other was a young woman. They may have both been coming from the beach area. As for me, I sometimes walk home barefoot, when it´s darker and there´s less people to freak out. As long as I´m running, my feet actually get a little raw, so I don´t feel the need to go barefoot all the time. Though, it does feel nice. The best place to wander barefoot during the day is down by the beach and the harbor. And I have to say the the city of Barcelona keeps it´s streets super clean. I hardly ever see glass, and even walking home at night, there´s plenty of light to see, but the sidewalks are always clear.

I find my hobbit feet are coming in here, which feels good. The only problem is running enough for the Burning River. After walking all day, going for a run doesn´t sound good, though I´d like to be running twice a day, at least some days. But I think what I find my body wanting is more long runs up in that park north of town, perhaps alternating with shorter runs in Montjuic. And, two days ago I just took a day off, exhausted, and just walked a little around town, trying to sit more.