This post is also from St. Lucia and our time at the ARC, but it's much more personal (and has nothing to do with sailing). But it's my other passion, and it's about exploring a new place, I enjoyed it today.
This morning was my sixth run since we got to St. Lucia ten days ago. (And probably my tenth since the last marathon, which was back in October. Which says a little bit about how much I’ve been running lately).
Mia came with me and we ran the loop behind the hotel that wraps around the Beasejour Cricket Grounds. The road angles ever so slightly up after leaving the hotel parking lot and turning north towards the gas station. Then it’s a quick right-hand turn towards the east and the rising sun, and a long, gradual rise all the way to the water plant (we got out this morning before sunrise – the heat is bearable then). This morning the sun rose behind the rain clouds that had passed overhead as we drank our coffee and got dressed. It stayed there for the duration of our five miles.
We ran past the carwash, a lean-to affair with a big ‘Meguiars’ logo painted on it’s southern side, and hand-stenciled signs for prices and services, over a background of bright red, green and black. Then past a newish wooden building to our left, the window shutters closed for the night and not yet opened. There was a vinyl sign with blue block letters on the front that said ‘St. Lucia School for Austism.’ Further up the road, as the incline steepened slightly, we passed the horse farm and riding school. Just before that a small white foal was grazing off the side of the road, loose, with no halter and behind no fence. He was very friendly, and would have let me pet his nose. He was soaking wet.
At the water plant, the incline increases abruptly as the road bends briefly hard to the left. Mia walked this pitch, as she usually does in the heat, while I sprinted ahead, then jogged back down to meet her. Over the next half-mile or so as the road bends again to the east and heads towards the stadium, there are two of these small hills, and we continue the pattern of walking and sprinting.
I wore a blue ARC t-shirt with the sleeves torn off. The sun was still behind the clouds, but by the time we approached the stadium I was soaked through, and so was Mia. It had poured down rain during the night (and indeed right before we set out – in fact, I was mentally prepared to run in a downpour), and the air was heavy with condensation, the black pavement practically steaming in the heat. I would have run without a shirt, but the locals always seem to be dressed, and I feel slightly uncomfortable not following the custom. So I sweated a lot, and the shirt was useless after only one run.
Behind the stadium the road undulated again and we went back to our sprinting and walking routine. I don’t mind the heat as much as Mia, so like the short sprints and the extra effort they require – growing up in Sweden, I’m sure her blood is thicker than mine. And while she’s definitely turned me into a cold weather being, I can still tolerate the heat when I have to. With exercise in particular – it adds a mentally challenging aspect to it that I genuinely enjoy (and it’s why I’ve been able to do my hill runs in the heat of the day, at high noon).
The back stretch of road, after passing the old cricket ground, winds it’s way through a small village that is very active early in the morning. It was only 6:30am when we rounded this part of the road, but people were out walking, or waiting for the bus, or carrying groceries and other items on their heads, no handed, or tending to their roosters who ran about the road cawing in the morning mist, or opening up their food stalls for the day, or setting up the barber shop. We saw a black cow grazing by the side of the road, and more often than not several horses will be wandering around. Last year we passed a family of pigs nestled in a small clearing in the brush not 10 feet from the road. It’s not a village in the sense that it’s a cluster of houses around a central square, as you might find in Europe, but a village in the sense that every house along the road likely has a purpose beyond it being a dwelling. I don’t think they have strict zoning laws in this part of the island.
The road ends at a T-junction, at which point we make a right turn and head back west and towards the marina. It’s deceiving – you can see the masts from the yachts in the harbor quite clearly at this point, but the road remains longer than you think, with several twists and turns before descending back into town. It’s flat through this part, following a ridge in the side of the hill. And quieter – the houses here face the water, are bigger, and don’t have nearly as much life in them (aside from the guy right at the turnoff who daily plays very loud island Christmas music that the entire neighborhood can hear, even before 7am).
The road drops abruptly at the next turnoff and descends back to sea level in the course of 100 yards. Mia jogged this part, while I sprinted ahead, slightly wary of the wet road and the potential for it to be slippery (it wasn’t). When it flattened out for good we made our last turn back onto the main road. We finished the run opposite the marina entrance at the food stall where daily a local woman sells fruits and vegetables to the passing cars. And young coconuts to us. This morning they were sweeter and fuller than they’ve been in the past two weeks since our arrival, and the young meat inside – the locals call it ‘jelly’ – was just the right consistency. Not too solid, not too slimy.
I write all this because until this morning, I’d been taking it for granted. The Beausejour loop was the third in the last week (the other three being my hill runs on the rocky trail over to Cotton Bay), and it’s been getting repetitive. The same hills. The same turns. The same heat and humidity. The same people each morning (more or less).
But it’s not the same. It never is the same, never will be the same.
I know this. Logically anyway. But you forget. I forget. It came back to me a few days ago to be honest, on my hill run over to Cotton Bay. I was struggling in the noon heat up the second big hill. I never stop to walk, and try hard to control my breathing. Long breath in, longer breath out, keep the pattern and don’t let yourself hyperventilate. It takes focus.
In the midst of this I saw some pink flowers in one of the big trees by the side of the path. And I thought to myself, ‘hmm, those are new.’ But they weren’t. They’re probably always there (they certainly were for the short week in which I’d run the path). But they were new to me because I was looking for the first time.
This is the world. You’ve just got to keep your eyes peeled. Every instant the universe is created anew again.