Four Perfect Days Running Costa Brava - Page 2
Photo by Chris Hunter
We pile out of the car at a centuries-old stone church in a grassy meadow. Trails disappear into the forest in all directions. We are miles from the nearest town so I can only surmise that the faithful walk these trails to attend mass. The scent of salty sea air spurs me to action. “C’mon, let’s go!” I yell to Chris, who carefully loads his camera gear into a lightweight hydration pack he had bought especially for this trip. Chris, who lives in the adventure-sport hub of Moab, Utah, typically shoots photos of skydivers and BASE jumpers, but luckily, he saw the opportunity to spend a week running and shooting photos in Spain as equally thrilling.
Pablo points us to one of the trailheads and hands me a GPS unit by which we will navigate the day’s 23-kilometer route. He waves goodbye as he starts the car to drive around the hillside to meet us at our next rendezvous point.
Forty-five minutes later, we emerge from a dirt road surrounded by head-high shrubbery onto a sandy knoll shaded by trees bending in the relentless south winds, where Pablo stood waiting. The three of us hop off the knoll and run along the white-sand beach, passing in front of a dozen wooden boat houses, each one’s door painted a vibrant red, green, blue or yellow. As essential to coastal life in Costa Brava as car garages in America, these coveted boat shelters are never bought or sold, but are passed on from one generation to the next.
The trail contours the cliff tops above the pounding sea, changing from soft to crude stone steps that ascend and descend the rocky shoreline. Soon we hit the smooth, gentle Cami de Ronda, which leads to the glistening whitewashed, red-tile-roofed villas of Llafranc, which Pablo describes as a “simple” fishing village. Yet a row of gourmet restaurants and upscale boutiques line its beachfront promenade.
The moment we step onto Llafranc’s cobblestone streets, dark storm clouds overhead release a deluge. We duck into an empty restaurant for beers and pa amb tomata, a Catalonian open-faced sandwich made by rubbing a juicy, red tomato half onto a piece of fresh, crusty bread then draping it with cured meat slices.
“Here, please take my rain shell,” Chris offers.
Pablo, wearing only running shorts and T-shirt, waves away the jacket in Chris’s hand.
“No, the human body is made for self regulation. I’ll see you in an hour,” he says, dashing barefoot through the hammering rain to fetch the car.
The next morning, I awake to the feeling of intense heat on my face and open my eyes to the sun-filled room at El Far, which, before being a hotel, was an 18th-century monastery.
I slip on a fuzzy terrycloth robe, open the narrow French doors and step onto the balcony of our cliff-top accommodations. Leaning on the wrought-iron railing, I listen to the gentle sound of waves crashing onto the rocks far below. To the right is Sant Sebasti de la Guarda lighthouse overlooking the street where we’d dined the night before on richly seasoned seafood-and-rice paella at Llevant restaurant. To the north is an unobstructed view of the rocky shoreline that is the site of today’s 22-kilometer run.
I descend the grand stone staircase that for centuries was traveled only by monks and take a seat in the solarium for breakfast. Doing my best to avoid over-indulging on rich cheeses and cured meats, I opt instead for the fresh fruit, creamy, unsweetened yogurt and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
We start running at 11 a.m., with Pablo leading us along well-worn seaside paths connecting a series of pebble-beached coves. We greet hiking couples and beach-going families with the Catalonian phrase, “Bon dia!” as we pass.
Nearing the marine village of Tamariu, Pablo tells us about his family life with his wife, Cristina, juggling two jobs and living with four active sons under the age of eight when he suddenly stops and turns to face us, a serious expression on his face. “I may not be the boss at home, but here I am the boss,” he says. “Follow me!”