No Top of the Hill

GOT IN A LITTLE HILL WORK DOWN SOUTH THIS WEEK. Costa Rica, to be more precise. As it was a business trip, with the inconvenient expectation of my employer that I actually work during the day, I didn’t get to any of the destination spots. But I snuck in a couple of runs in the area around my hotel in Escazu. If it’s not raining, the weather is terrific for running, day or night. Pull on a shirt and shorts, lace up, and get going. And you’ll have lots of company; from what I saw, it’s a popular activity there.

That said, even a routine run in Costa Rica is an adventure. Perhaps the biggest difference from back home (excepting the temperature) is elevation changes. There are only two directions in Costa Rica; up and down. If you get lost and you were headed uphill, go downhill, likewise for the reverse case. Trying to get from Point A to Point B? Settle for getting back to where you started. There are almost no street signs, directions are based on landmarks (“second tree past the pizza place that closed last year”) and GPS units will direct you to pull over and ask the guy at the fruit stand. So when you’re out running and want to change directions, you’d better fix on a landmark or two each time. And keep an eye on the traffic; there’s a lot of it, and attitudes toward using turn signals and obeying traffic lights are, shall we say, flexible.

Y tu problemo es. . .?

Oh, and while you’re keeping your head up looking for landmarks and dodging traffic, you’ll also need to watch where your feet are landing. Costa Rica has a very liberal definition of “sidewalk” – it can be anything from smooth pavement to dirt or sluice for rainwater, and it can get narrow or disappear entirely at any time. And don’t forget that 75% of the time you are either going uphill or downhill on this stuff.

So I had a miserable time? Al contrario, amigo! Both my Tuesday night and Thursday runs were terrific. On Tuesday it felt so good to get moving after a long day sitting in the office that I voluntarily did half-mile hill repeats; it took five to tire me out. As I headed back, two runners joined me from another direction and for a while we weaved silently in line down the softly lit road, three as one in matching dark shorts and white shirts, arms swinging and legs lifting and falling in identical rhythm. My fatigue vanished and for that brief time before they picked up the pace and took off, I felt like I could run forever.

"Excuse me, senor, where is the top of the hill?" "Straight ahead, hombre."

Getting out the door Thursday at 6:30 a.m. was a bit tough, but the sun was already up, the roads were full of people and cars, and after a few minutes I was right back in the groove, even though the first mile was all uphill. Not that I’d intended to do that; I just picked a road and kept going. And I could have kept going uphill for quite a while longer, which I’m sure would have been good for me. But like with everything except dark chocolate, it is possible to overdo good things, so I headed back down.

Wednesday night I had dinner at Le Monasterie, a restaurant at the site of an actual former monastery that actually was at the top of a hill. Let’s just say I’m not ready to run up that road just yet, as you might be able to figure given the view you see in the photo.

This image doesn't even begin to do justice to the view from this place. You'll just have to go there. Better yet, take me there.

Now it’s back to winter for a while. But that’s okay. What fun would it be running in perfect weather all the time? (Don’t answer that.)

One thought on “No Top of the Hill

  1. Pingback: An Unapologetic Trip, and Recipe | FITNESS AT 50

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