(Warning: Long read!)
I started running around the time mammoths made Earth a cosier place with their thick woolly fur. I ran for days and nights, over fields and mountains, in rain and in sunshine. It wasn't supposed to be quite so long, this particular long run. The flu had been circling me like a vulture for a week. The last thing I wanted was to overdo it and die, providing it with an easy meal.
I had studied several maps to make sure I didn't get lost. I even took a picture of the map on my computer screen with my phone. They tell me you can use the GPS on your phone together with online maps these days, so that you don't get lost? WHAT KIND OF SORCERY IS THIS?
I was on familiar grounds for the first couple of kilometres. An easy upwards slope through the woods, with the sun warming my face despite my breath fogging up the cold air in front of me. And there it was! My motivation! I knew a long run would fix that. I was having a blast already.
Then suddenly I was on the moon. A grey landscape opened up in front of me. Big heaps of gravel surrounded me. Signs pointed to the ”food heap” and ”asphalt heap” and monstrous lorries carried dirt and emptied it, forming even more heaps. It was surreal. I ran around trying to find the exit like a mouse in a maze but all I saw was trees. Until I employed my typically underused brains to figure out that the lorries had to be coming from somewhere. Bingo: a road that led away from this infernal trap.
|One small step for man...|
I followed this road down to a motorway. I knew where I was, and strangely enough it was exactly where I was supposed to be. I crossed the motorway to a dirt road on the other side and found myself once again surrounded by trees. A few houses reminded me I wasn't so far from civilisation. According to the map, the dirt road would soon end and I would be able to continue on a trail.
|So far so good!|
|Hang on. That can't be it...|
|Kind of looks like a trail...if trails were only one metre long.|
Dead end. No trail. I ran back a few hundred meters, thinking that I must have run past it, nothing. The map had lied! I doubled back to the motorway, because I thought I'd seen a path along it.
|This looked like a path. But it wasn't. Yet another dead end.|
With a couple of unplanned kilometres extra in my Garmin, I hit the motorway. I had seen a sign pointing to a golf course earlier, which -according to my RELIABLE map, yes I'm being ironic- could provide an alternative route to where I was hoping to end up. I probably don't have to tell you that running on the hard shoulder of a 90 km/h motorway is a hairy experience, despite the fact that Swedish drivers will kindly leave a good 3-4 meter margin when they overtake you. Thankfully I only had 400-500 metres before I reached the country road that would take me to the golf course. It was a fast 400-500 metres.
But just because I knew where I was didn't mean I knew where I was going. Several dirt roads lay before me, some cutting right through the golf course, others going around it. I was unsure: which road would lead me to E4, which had become my reference point for this whole adventure? I picked the road that seemed to have seen the most action, but which worryingly enough took me far away from the golf course. It was a lovely road, in the shadow of fir trees. On my left there was a path and a sign pointing to "Djuptjärn". I would later find out that this is where I would have ended up if I had found the trail I had been looking for, cutting my run by as much as 4 km.
I was now by the E4, had found my bearings and was faced with a dilemma. I could run to the left and back to the city or follow through with my original plan and run in the opposite direction. I had already covered almost 12 km, so the wise thing to do would have been to run back. So I ran on instead. Because if I didn't do stupid things, I wouldn't be the adorable little idiot that I am.
I had found a good rhythm and was enjoying this immensely. It probably sounds boring to most people, but an open, straight road ahead with hay fields on each side has a hypnotising effect that lulls me into a meditative state. It's a shame that I, once again, didn't know where I was and had to keep stopping to look at the map. A lot of good that did me. The streets here had no names, so there was no way of finding out exactly which street I was running past now.
I was running further and further away. But hey. If people never got lost, Columbus would never have discovered America, and then we wouldn't have had Justin Bieber. My safety net, J, was at work and I didn't want to have to call him and ask him to come and pick me up in the middle of nowhere. So I kept running, excited yet apprehensive at the same time. Just how far would I have to run before I started turning back? Distances on the map of my tiny phone screen seemed a lot shorter than in reality. Strange.
A long, straight dirt road lay to my left. Finally, something I recognised from the map. This road would take me to a cycle path, which would in turn take me all the way back to town. It was about time. I had run 18 km when I got to the cycle path. And now I was back on familiar grounds. I had run here before, just a couple of hundred meters from the river.
|I wished I'd brought my camera, and not for the first time.|
A headwind did its best to tire me out. Psychologically I felt deflated after the joy of discovery and was looking forward to a warm cup of tea back home. My body started sending the first signals that it, too, was looking forward to getting home and maybe standing in the hot shower for an hour or a day. My chest was aching in a way I've learned to recognise and which I usually associate with bad posture or inhaling too much cold air, and, since the air wasn't that cold, I suspected that I was too tired to run with good technique.
The city started coming into view, and I had never before been so happy to see the river and the bridges. My feet were on fire. Remember the sores I got by some seam in my VFF about a month ago? I have been wearing socks since then, something that is a great solution for sores but not so much for blisters. I kept telling myself I'd walk the last couple of kilometres. But walking is so, how should I put it? BORING. Onwards I ran, and it felt like I had been running forever. But as much as I love spending my days running, I was hungry, thirsty and tired.
27 km had taken me on a round trip around the south part of Skellefteå, on gravel, dirt and tarmac, through forests, along fields and past little red cabins. The rice porridge I ate later had never tasted better, the orange juice had never quenched my thirst more.