It was not cold outside, but there was a scent of a rain and a long rainy road. I cannot explain why I am again at the start line of this race where orientation and speed are intermingled in a very demanding journey through the mountains, streams, mud, forest… Still I was there; a cup of coffee and an energy bar were the only preparing routine that I made that morning. Should I mention that I went to bed one hour after midnight, and woke up around six in the morning?
Still, I was feeling ready for this craziness, for this adventure.
Since the weather was disappointing, many runners-trekkers did not even start the race. I did, even if it means that I will be the last on the list.
Fog was still covering the valleys around a little picturesque city in Istria. However, we noticed a kind of a warm up in the air. Was it because of me happiness to be here, to run, to destroy every piece of energy in us, to search for the limits and to recognize the amount of strength – mind and body strength the forces us to move further… to move to the finish line.
Five, four, three, two, one… go….
It started with the fake sentence: “Everything is dry and downhill”. Rather small arch at the entrance of this medieval town were at sudden blocked with more than five hundred people. It was not raining, but the streets were slippery, not to say dangerous…
I started slow, feeling insecure on this stone street. The result, I was one of the last. All my friends went fast ahead. I somewhat new this was going to happen. Nevertheless, I think that solitude indeed is undervalued, and to be honest… I was hoping that this would happen.
I missed the first shortcut, and to avoid additional miles on my Garmin, decided to go through the muddy street. Well, this was a strange experience. You walk, and every step becomes heavier. Suddenly, you are walking in some big strange muddy heavy shoes. Moreover, at the moment that you get used to this new situation, with faster (almost running) pace, this mud fall off, and you think you can fly.
I thought – this is how I life looks like. Sometimes you just finish in the mud, and things get heavier, harder to do. Then you get used to this situation, and if you try to go further with more intensity… you realize it is easier and you can fly….
First control point was sunny, happy cheerful. I had only one kilometre extra at the top of this hill. Therefore, I was satisfied. Already tired, but satisfied. The map said, stumbling down from the mountain, crossing the stream of cold water and getting up on the next hill. Easy? Well, it included a lot of mud, strange roads that doesn’t exist on a given map, accidental meeting with several groups of people that also searched for some specific roads and voila… second control point. Wow, I can easily read the map. I can do it.
A group of young people somehow gathered around me and we continued together. We were actually good in searching for the next two control points and joked all the time about the positioning at the list of finalist. Of course, it was a joke, because we only competed for the last possible place… ha ha ha.
Few drops of rain started at the fourth control point. I noticed a lack of ‘craziness’ of running in the rain. I knew that the rain is my friend, and not the enemy. Still, they did not share the feeling. The first young woman said that she wants to quit, the second one said the same, then came the boy in short trousers. Only three of us still did not say anything. I asked the other three about their plans… they were not sure. They asked me: and you? Will you quit?
Who me? No, I never quit. I am continuing the race. I always do.
They did not. Therefore, I went alone.
I do not know the terrain, I do not know these villages, this mountains. I am still not perfect in orienteering, and the weather was getting worse. I continued. Moreover, was happy. Indeed.
The fifth control point was easy. Then I made a mistake. Somehow, I went to completely other direction. Maybe it was a mistake to ask the local people for help. They did not think that I could run through mud, through streams, through forest. They were very polite and showed me the other road. The road that made my 26K runs into a marathon… ha ha ha.
Maybe I had to take this other road, to meet two interesting people. One was a lady that I actually met before during the race and the other was a man that participated in some other race, but he also get lost, so he was a bit late after the others.
I was happy when I saw this woman. I made some 10K extra so far, and appreciated sharing this cold and adventure with someone. She was nice, but scared, tired. She wanted to quit. Then she looked at me asking… “You know what you are doing”…. I laughed. Yea, I did this 11K extra because I wanted so. , she continued with me. We talked a bit; we even tried to do some conversation when we meet this man. I asked him: where are you going. Nevertheless, he mentioned some other control point. Ahh, what a pity. I was hoping that several minds would be cleverer in finding the control points. However, I guess, I was still alone. This new friend of my did not participate in orientation. She said that it is simply too much for her. She wanted to quit. She asked me for a mobile phone. Still, my mobile phone was dead. The man left. I told him that it would be nice if we meet each other on the third control point before end, knowing that the last three control points are the same for both categories.
This Parenzana road is really long. I guess that in spring and fall it is very nice. It must also be nice if you drive some mount bike. Now, she was just too long and this control point was simple too far away. I don’t know how long did it last until we finally came to this river and little orange sign that we searched for.
You were right – it is here – said my new friend. Now it will be easier? – she asked. How long, which road, what is the distance? – she continued.
I said: relax. I didn’ t have time to explore this area with google earth, but if we can trust the map without a great number of roads and no information about the scale of the map… it is not far…. ha ha ha.
And we continued… the rain was getting heavier, and the night was approaching. I guess I did too many kilometres in vain (or not?) so that I cannot finish the race before the sunset.
In the wood, a bit disoriented, wanted to find these last three control points, I continued. She became scared of the night, the forest, and the rage of her companions the quitted the race and now were only impatiently waiting for her.
I wanted to take a narrow road, but she started panicking. I am afraid, I am afraid… – she could not stop. It was the well-known feeling of panic of unknown that you noticed usually in a group of a people that heard the earthquake, or fire is happening.
Strange, I looked at her and said: Ok. If you think that the other road is better, I agree to go with you. I am not hundred percent sure about this road – but this is the direction.
She said that she preferred the other road. I said ok.
After five minutes she admitted – I wanted this road because it is wider.
I laughed. Therefore, you prefer safer road even though it goes to wrong direction.
Are you sure, about the direction – she asked.
Well, not hundred percent sure, but yes, I would take the road in the other direction.
She was panicking again – So what will we do now?
We should go back, unless you are sure that this is the right road. – I said.
I do not know. I do not know anything. I will never do it again… – she continued in a panic.
Hey, look, someone is coming. She was happier in a moment and forgot the panic. She started screaming – hey you….
Then we realised it is the man that we met before.
How – the man was shocked. Again the two of you? How?
Well, I said that we should meet three control points before the end, didn’t I? – I smiled.
They both laughed… She was happy. I don’t know about him.
Nevertheless, in a dark, wet, cold forest… I guess all of us felt a bit better by being together.
We took that narrow road that I wanted to choose earlier.
You wanted to go this road – she said.
Yes. I hope you are not afraid anymore, are you?
No, there are three of us now. I feel better.
Then we started to run. Again a lot of mud, trees crossing the road, unknown road and sometimes no road at all. This adventure finished with the finding of the distant control point, the last one that was hard to find.
The night has fallen. We were all cold while we looked at the map.
I found some candies and offered them. She took some, the man ate his peanuts.
The man and I put the lamp on our heads, while my friend didn’t. She said that her lamp didn’t work.
We were running downhill while the rain was getting stronger. I asked them to run. I was really tired of this long trip, and I was getting colder.
They agreed. These last five kilometres were rather easy when compared to the rest of the day. The last two control points were also easy, because we met a man that explained it to us. The last one was the tunnel. The tunnel that had lights. Something that we didn’t expect at all.
Strange… nobody said that the abandoned tunnel has lights. It was a surprise. The good one. The race ended with fast ascent. I felt like a machine. I have put all of my effort not to feel cold, so I did not feel any other pain. Interesting deception?
I almost finished the last in the category. Almost. Somehow, this new friend was slow, so she invested another several minutes in her running. How I don’t know, but she did.
As the last finisher, she received the last-finisher-prize. Nice. It was a head-lamp. Something that she didn’t have in this race. Strange. Coincidence or not?
Why I feel happy now?
I did it. I find all the control points (majority with the help of my own mind). I was able to run a mountain – marathon without the pain and without suffering I was facing last month.