It’s been a strange summer. Never before have I had such a long self-imposed sabbatical from running. Four weeks. Sorely needed, though. Not only for reasons of rekindling my motivation, but also in order to give my aching heel a chance to recuperate.
As our vacation finally started, so did my running. And boy, was it tough to get those legs moving again. I had decided I would try out the latest addition to my collection of running paraphernalia. Last summer’s Salomon Trail competitions in Oslo had left me with a crush for the minimal Salomon S-Lab shoes they were lending out for each race. Nimble and good-looking, they were all the things my regular INOV8’s were not. I’ve always been convinced that the head designer for INOV8 is an old lady with severe cataracts that randomly combines colours and patterns in a way that would make the old communist-era concrete apartment buildings of Bratislava look positively colourful. The idea of a sleek shoe such as the S-Lab tempted me sorely and, I am ashamed to admit, led to an act of adultery a few months ago when I ordered a pair of them via wiggle. Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet wear them, so I didn’t really need any convincing. I’m a sucker for famous people.
Miss H, Panda and I spent a few days at grandfather Per’s hytte up in Øyerfjellet, not far from Lillehammer. The first run – where I accidently tried to follow the ski-route signs of winter and ended up in the middle of a soggy quagmire – was a semi-partial success, even though it left me completely drained after 29 days without a single step in running shoes. Encouraged, I went out for a 10 k-run along a flat trail the next day. Unfortunately I did what I usually do, i.e. I ran without socks and in half-dried shoes from the previous day, once again proving that my IQ is getting dangerously close to single digits. Barefoot in brand-new shoes. I mean really. I came home with a humongous popped blister encircling one of my toes, as well as prettily pink but painfully bloody chafings on both heels. What a splendid start to my autumn running season. When we got home again the S-Labs were promptly put on the highest and dustiest shelf of the basement and I went out and purchased a brand-new pair of INOV8 Roclites as well as a pair of orange Asics Skyspeed. Fine, the Roclites aren’t as sleek and cool as the S-Labs and aren’t sponsored by famous trail runners. But they are the best and most comfortable trail shoes I have ever run in and when it comes to trail running I will never be unfaithful to them again. Promise. But then again, I probably should give the S-Labs a second chance in a few months. I mean, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet wear them. Right?
After a lovely hytte-start to our vacation, we next travelled to Slovakia for our annual cousin-get-together – Kerestur 2014 – at grandma’s. My dad has six sisters, and they in turn, have raised us 14 cousins ranging in ages from 17 to 46. We 14 cousins have with our spouses’ assistance multiplied into 17 great-grandchildren to our beloved grandma. Isn’t that incredible? We met up with Martin and miss S at Vienna airport and wasted no time in driving to the Klcovansky clan’s birthplace: Krizovany nad Dudváhom, ancient place of legends and myths. We arrived late on a Friday, but not too late, alas, for dinner that my aunt Dana had meticulously prepared for us. The dishes she cooks are delightful and she always makes food for a regiment of people, even if you are the sole guest. I seem to remember that we emptied five bottles of Slovak bubbles that evening. I slept like – well, most definitely not like a baby since babies, contrary to belief, are lousy sleepers – a log and woke up with only the teensiest bit of a headache. The big feast was scheduled for later that day, on Saturday afternoon. Now imagine if you will, the cacophony of sounds from all the merchants, street vendors, hawkers, tourists, locals, monkeys, donkeys, parakeets and mopeds that would assail your ears at, for instance the storied square of Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech. Now multiply the racket you hear by ten, add every single bottle of Champagne that you can lay your hands on at the local Kaufmarkt, get hold of an entire grilled pig complete with an apple down its snout and voilá: a Klcovansky gathering. Of course, my dad wasn’t there, so the noise was considerably lower than if he’d had been, but it was an impressive pandemonium nonetheless.
Aunts and uncles conversing (my wife calls it shouting, for some reason) over the tables, cousins and their wives and husbands toasting long-not-seen relatives (my brother, in exile for seven years) in wine, champagne and slivovica, and children and youngsters in biblical multitudes racing between the legs of adults and tables alike, kicking footballs across lawns, drying peach juice off sticky faces of younger siblings and getting their faces painted in fantastical floral and animal patterns by cousin Eva. Exhausting and exhilirating at the same time. And in the midst of all this lovely chaos sat grandma, a beatific smile playing on her sweet, wrinkled face. Only a few hours earlier, she’d lost a tug-of-war over her rosary with my one-year-old daughter. Luckily, I had managed to fix the broken chain and return it to it’s rightful owner, notwithstanding the sobbing and hot tears running down the round cheeks of little Panda. It’s a wonder I got any running done at all in Slovakia, but luckily for me there were several athletes in the congregation. Miss S cheerily pulled me out of my warm and comfortable bed early on Sunday morning, ignoring my painful hungover grunts and speedily led the way along the road towards the neighbouring village. Breakfast, morning mass and lunch sped by in a blur and in the afternoon we waddled over to grandma’s for dinner. Next morning, miss S and I were joined on our morning run by Nico Bolt and Andrej Tatra Tea (62%), the latter being a local taking us on a very fine tour across the fields and around another one of the neighbouring villages. And with that, Krizovany Road Runners was born. Four members so far. Not too shabby.
The final week of our vacation was spent together with Jakob, miss M and her inquisitive four-year-old MnM on the beautiful island of Korcula in Croatia. After a full month of rains in the area, we enjoyed a week of fabulous sunshine and a landscape coloured in every hue of green you could think of. Dinner was a constant succession of all things grilled, with one of the highlights being calamari caught early in the morning and truly delicious after a few minutes above the coals. Jakob and I had a few early morning runs along the meandering coastline and for the first time in a long while I felt almost serene while running. Running together with a friend is such a joy, especially when you’re passing through stunning landscapes, but also because it’s one of the few places where one can talk about every topic under the sun, including, but not limited to, boatbuilding, the second world war, motorcycles, water polo, the Balkan rivalries and many, many other things, without being interrupted by the kids and the girlfriends.
So all in all, not a bad vacation at all. I refound a lost love in my INOV8’s, conversed and discussed (shouted, as my wife would put it) with my dear, dear family, accidently founded a running club (we need a logo, you guys – get on it!) and finally got to swim in the Mediterranean again. Lovely.