I arrived in Lesvos on Friday evening, and immediately began scouting for places to run. I had a 9-miler to do on Sunday as part of my half-marathon training, and as I’ve never been to Lesvos before, I was worried about where I would be able to do my running. The streets in many Greek towns are quite old, and are therefore very narrow: if there’s a sidewalk, it’s sometimes so small it’s barely suitable for walking, let alone running.
It turns out I was justified in my anxiety. I’ll update on the rest of the trip soon (with all the Lesbian puns I can fit in, naturally), but my run was so epically awful I can’t help but tell the story now!
After much scouting around for potential running grounds, I decided to go for a newer road which follows the seashore right on the edge of town. There was no sidewalk, as usual, but it was wider than the roads that run through the town. So, at about noon, I set off for my first nine-miler ever.
Ten minutes into my run, it started pouring rain. But, knowing that it could very well rain on race day, I persevered. It was raining so hard there were drops of water trickling into my eyes and running off the ends of my braids, but it was only water, and I’d run in the rain before.
However, it soon occurred to me that this already questionably safe running situation was made a zillion times worse in the rain. I had chosen a brightly-colored running top just in case, but still, the visibility was bad and the roads were wet and slippery, not to mention the tight curves up ahead.
This sense of danger was heightened by the fact that drivers were certainly letting me know how unwanted pedestrians were on this road. They cut scarily close to me, blaring their horns as they whizzed past. Some even yelled at me. A few cat-called, which always feels just super when you’re wearing spandex.
So, there I was, cautiously running along a dangerous road in the rain, feeling ogled AND despised by drivers and therefore intensely on edge in general, when, of course, I came up on a hairpin turn to find a pack of stray dogs waiting on the side of the road. Those of you who have traveled in Europe know that stray animals are ubiquitous over here; of the European countries I’ve been in as of yet, I think Italy and Greece have the most thus far. There are stray cats waiting atop every municipal dumpster, and dogs lying in the most random places absolutely everywhere.
These six or seven dogs were, of course, seriously mangy and mean-looking. But I had to run right past them: I had no choice. It was either that or cross the road, hoping beyond hope that no cars were about to come careening around the blind curve from the opposite direction. So I decided to slow way down and pass the dogs, hoping they didn’t react.
All was well until I had just passed them. I had jogged by with bated breath, at a snail’s pace. But right when I thought I was in the clear, one of them snarled. It barked angrily and ran at me, and its compatriots followed suit. The dogs were all growling, barking and snapping at my legs when I realized I was yelling.
Yes, that’s the one silver lining to this totally crap-tastic running cloud: I found out that when worse comes to worst, I can hold my own in Greek. “ΟΧΙ!!” (“No!”) I heard myself scream, “Φυγεις!!” (“Get out of here!”). I yelled and yelled, and I was so terrified and on such an adrenaline rush that I’m not entirely sure of what I said: I know there was a “Don’t come near me!”, a “Leave me alone!” and at least one obscenity. And this wasn’t your ordinary yell. This was a sort of primal scream, that came from some deep, dark part of my currently petrified soul (which apparently speaks Greek better than I ever imagined). But whatever I said, it worked: the dogs immediately slunk away, and I continued on my way with a temporary victory smile on my face.
However, the rain worsened, and the road got even narrower. After a last close call with a semi-truck, I finally had to just turn around, even though I was only three miles in. This meant I had to run past the dogs a second time, too, but again, I had no other choice. I was running around the same sketchy curves in the other direction when I spotted some paths on the hill leading up to the old castle/fortress. So, I decided to try my luck up there.
It was pretty steep, and the trail wasn’t very well maintained, with large rocks and litter everywhere. But there was one final insult awaiting me.
At about 4.5 miles, I stepped on a dead thing.
I’m not entirely sure what it was. I think it may have been a bird. But whatever it was, it was most certainly dead, and I most certainly stepped in it. In the pouring rain. After being honked at, ogled, and nearly attacked by wild dogs.
Have you ever tried running and crying at the same time? I don’t recommend it. It’s pretty counter-intuitive, especially when you’re trying to avoid any further dead or dying things which may or may not be ahead.
I ran back to the main road and back to the port, ending my run at 5.85 miles. And you know what? I’m actually proud of myself, for two reasons. The first is because I kept running as long as I could, even despite all those ridiculously bad circumstances. And the second (and most important for me) is that I knew I had to quit. Long-distance runners can be pretty rigid about their training schedules, and I am certainly no exception. I’m stubbornly independent, and to have finally faced the facts and realized this run wasn’t going to be safe no matter what I did was big for me.
On top of that, this run-tastrophe was actually somewhat of a blessing when it comes to my overall training. I had been in a bit of a running slump up until now, as I’m so painfully sick of running around the Farm School campus (every time I pass the cows, they’re like, “You AGAIN? What’s wrong with you??”). I have done at least fifty laps around the campus by this point, and I’m beyond familiar with every hill, tree and building. But now? As long as I don’t get attacked by wild dogs, dragged through roadkill, run over, sexually harassed or drowned in rain, I think I’ll be okay. It’s like that point in a movie where everything has to go wrong before it can go right at the end. I think that this run will be a total boost to those I do in the immediate future, as I come up on the home stretch before race day on April 2nd!
One more day of adventuring in Lesvos before I head back home to Thessaloniki. Wish me luck, and may you remain dry, safe, carcass-free and on good terms with every wild animal you meet!