August 7, 2011


You probably know Europe by the quaint little streets that wriggle through her sleepy towns; spidery veins crawling up a lonely widow´s bony arm.  Hundreds upon hundreds of twisting and winding cobbled streets just waiting to turn a tourist´s ankle before swallowing the poor fellow whole in its labyrinth.  This is my new version of suburbia since landing in Córdoba some two weeks ago.  And this post, an homage to suburban bikepath runs of the past...

Our fouth day in Córdoba was fast approaching and my running shoes were still nestled snug in the suitcase.  I´m usually a 7 day runner, not wanting to miss even a day so the fact that the third day had come and gone without me even logging online to map a run had me in a funk.  I was completely off schedule, so much so that I could barely manage a complete sentence, let alone a complete thought.  You see, here in Spain the rules of time are far different than back in the States.  And down here in the inferno that is an Andalusian summer, well everything and I mean EVERYTHING revolves around the apple green numbers of the farmacia´s digitial clock that brags 35 degrees (that´s Celsius, folks) before the churchbells toll noon.  If I was going to do this first run right, I had two choices:  dusk or dawn. 

So on day 4 I laced up at 4:30AM.  To most Americans, this is an ungodly hour to even think about working out and to a Spaniard well, it´s nothing short of sacrilege.  As I headed out on my first Cordoban run I was passing by throngs of twenty, thirty and yes, even a few forty somethings who were heading home from the bars. Here there are just two entities awake at this hour:  the pub crowd and the panadero.   The beginning and ending of every good day:  beer and bread.  Or something to that effect.  Anyway, back to the story.  I hadn´t even tried to map the run and instead focussed on running for time.  I committed to running an 8 minute square which I would repeat til I hit the hour mark. Above the white washed walls and orange roof tiles of the barrio San Andrés I spied three different church belltowers.  These would be my reference points in case of the inevitable.  And so I set off for my first ever run in Cordoba, Spain.

It was cool for the Spanish morning, maybe 60 degrees or so.  The run felt great.  My whole body was applauding every step.   If you´re not a runner I can´t explain this feeling to you.  I just felt like I was getting cleansed from the inside out, as if crystal clear cool water were pouring through all of my veins and washing away the garbage.  And whenever I run, no matter how far I go, there´s some point during the run, maybe a minute or maybe a mile, that I think about what it feels like to run when you have CF.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Keep going...

Alas, just as I had feared, some twenty minutes into my square I was getting bored.  I had passed the same homeless guy asleep on his bottle three times and woken him twice.  It was time to branch out.  I headed up the hill towards the plaza area that we had taken the kids to the previous day.  The sidewalks up there were bigger and I could add some distance on the straightaway before heading back to finish up on the square.  Up and up and up I ran, careful to make mental note of the fountains, signs and street names as I passed.
San Rafael
Santa Ana
San Pedro
Santo Domingo

After the fifth saint, I scrapped the street name idea and just focussed on monuments.

Big shooting fountain with naked man.
Little shooting fountain with naked man.
Naked man on a horse.
Naked man beside his horse.

You´ve seen one naked man statue and you´ve seen them all.  It was time to turn back. 

As I swooped back down into the mouth of the labryinth, I took a deep breath and hoped that I would get back home on the first shot.  The first few streets flew by and I relaxed a little bit but coming up was a split in the road.  Funny, but I hadn´t noticed this at all on the climb up.  Left or Right?  Right or left?  Shit, I had no idea.  Everything was white washed.  Everybody had the same wooden front door and black wrought iron bars on their windows.  Where in the hell had those belltowers gone?  I didn´t stop running though.  No way.  What would that have solved?  Not only would I be lost but I´d be pissed off that I had ruined a perfectly good run.  No way, Jose.  So like an idiot, I just kept running.  I began zig zagging up and down, in and out of every single callejón.  Once I tell you my philosophy on this you´ll realize why I´m no brain surgeon.  I just figured that eventually one of the narrow streets would spit me out where I needed to be - the question was, could I outlast no better, could I outrun the labryinth that is the historic district?

So I ran.
And ran.
And ran.
And ran.
And ran.

And then I saw him.  He may as well have been Moses himself, parting the Red Sea.  The wave of diarreah that had taunted me since the split turned to a wave of relief.   My compas rose: the panadero.

It was the same little white delivery van with its carefully scrolled magenta lettering that was loading up the fresh loaves from Pan Francisco´s shop at the begining of my run.  Forget you, San Rafael.  You too Santo Domingo. San Pan Francisco is my man.  I fell into step behind his van and followed him all the way back to the bakery; the bakery which happens to be about 50 meters from our flat.  And this first run, this first misadventure taught me my first two important lessons:

1.  There is no one more important to the mistress of the house than a good, reliable panadero.

2.  In the end a  maze is just that,  maize.  When lost in the Iowa cornfield, just keep walking the line in the same general direction and you´ll find your way out.  When you´re lost in the labyrinth of streets of the historic district do the same; head in the general direction, stay the course and you´ll find your way home. 



  1. Love it. Great post. And we all do find our ways, eventually;-) Keep running, keep posting...LOVE reading.

  2. You made it to SPAIN!!!! YEAH!!!!!

    So sweet, sounds like a good run too.

  3. Makes me wish I was a runner. Sounds so great. And I already miss Spanish heat. It's cool in the mornings. Here's it 85 by 7am. Keep updating. love it!