The Follower


Running long distances without friends – boring. Sure, it is a little bit pity that not all folks are fit to run all those harsh kilometers on uneven terrain during the night, but one of them is more than willing to do so all the time. At least, it is the case with me, but I am pretty sure that those, who run a lot, meets him now and then. He is tougher than me, but very arrogant. So, usually he laughs at my pace, posture and running technique and almost everything I do. He becomes really furious during my weak moments, because he can’t stand weakness. His slogan “life begins where the comfort zone ends” makes him and me who we are.

In fact, Transgrancanaria 125km was his idea. I remember how first time he came up with it during Zugspitz Ultratrail 100km and stated that total +5420 ascent is for pussies and the real men must do much more. I tried to oppose this idea, because we were in the middle way to Scharnitzjoch – 2048m peak and the legs were screaming something completely different, but this bastard was very convincing. Moreover, can you imagine his joy when we signed for the race and ascent was increased from +7500m up to +8500m. Unbelievable!

So, after almost half a year I was on this incredible island in the crowd of amigos, hypnotized by magnificent atmosphere of the harbor city Agaete. But the only thing I wished to do was straightly jump into this unexplored territory and disappear in the darkness. Must to admit, holding yourself in front of start line is the most difficult part of the races. I do hate being in one place for a long time and this is just about that, seriously, it is not my thing to do. The more time I have before the start – the more anxious I become. This time I was more relaxed, simply didn’t have any big goals, because the field of athletes were scaring itself. Almost twenty world-class runners were ready to beat each other to death. Frankly, each time when race organizers were announcing my name and I was compared to them, I felt uncomfortable. It is some kind of pressure, which others are putting on you with their expectations. Believe me, this trust sometimes is dangerous stuff to play with.

Race started like a gust of fresh air before the storm, everything seemed so vital and vibrant, so unreal. The ground under my feet was breathing, letting balls of the dust from its lungs.

–  Don’t be so sensitive, – I heard my friend – I sick of you and your sentiments, be the man, it’s long way ahead.

–  Come on, it is so beautiful. All those headlamp lights are like a huge snake sliding up to Tamadaba peak. Look, there will be the stream, which I couldn’t pass last week during my reconnaissance run.

–  Shut your fucking mouth, stupid, watch where and what you are stepping on, concentrate!

It was too late I have stepped on one of the volcanic rocks, lost my balance and almost fall. My buddy was smiling. I hated this self-assured bastard, but he was right, I had to be more vigilant.

Having pretty much the same conversations all way long we reached first aid station, luckily, loud music separated us and for a while I could enjoy arts of the nature, soft whisper of the wind and most important loneliness. I was entering the area in which I did training with Nuria Picas and Yeray Duran few days ago, but the night had changed it unrecognizable. I felt that my orientating ability was vanishing, so I was following runners in front of me, but doing so is a bit irresponsible, because trail running is one of the most dangerous sports and if you want to survive you can’t loose your attention so easy.

–  Finally you got it, Mr. Obvious, – shouted my pal, happy as hell, seeing my tiredness.

–  You never shut up, do you?

This journey wasn’t an adventure anymore, because I wasn’t in charge. My mate didn’t let me to rest, he pushed me very hard and it seemed that he knew my limits and stuff like that. Some friends are better some worse, but usually you can choose whom are you willing to spent time with. This badass absolutely different story, he was all the time with me and I couldn’t get rid of him. Really? I started to sprint towards Valleseco hoping that it will give me some space between him and me.

–  It is not going to happen, – he yelled from the back.

I ignored him, said nothing more, just speeded up and for my surprise in vicinity of Teror caught Christophe Le Saux. The very first time I started to believe that I can do a good race here, but the french didn’t want to give up so quickly. Actually, he was up to something. All the time, while we were running together the man had mysterious conversations. My french is not so advanced, but from what I understood runner was swearing a lot and was about kicking his own or his friend ass. It seems, that everybody has the “best“ Friend.

Finally I have lost him and was entering Garanon. I love aid stations! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about “fish and chips”, but more about emotional sustainability and family. They are enjoying each your move, encouraging and chatting with you. This is what I am expecting each time the most.  It was the only place where my friend didn’t bother me.

But in Tunte my fellow appeared again and started to coach me:

–  It’s hot, take ice and leave oranges for amateurs. Don’t forget to drink. It’s not the best time to listen Tim Noakes. Believe me, right now, he will be more than happy to be waterlogged himself.

I didn’t dispute with him, it made no sense anymore – he was totally right. I put few cubes of ice into my cap and firmly run away. My confidence was rising, I felt that I could finish strong, but never be too excited before the job is done.

Lets face the cruel fact that I am not very good on technical trails. So, can you imagine my face when I found out that the last part of the trail wasn’t so fast as I thought it is. To tell the truth, all my strategy was based on pushing hard at this late phase, but the cobbled paths just killed me. I couldn’t use my speed till the last 15km of the race.

–  Don’t whine like a little girl – damn, again that annoying voice – be man and admit that you are just another road looser.

Well, maybe yes or maybe no. I rarely remember those conversations afterwards and it looks like a dream or a distance smell of the wild flower. So, I don’t really know how much of this story is real, how much is just my imagination or hallucination, but one thing is for sure – I love trails, I love racing and I would be more than glad to run Transgrancanaria again!


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