Trying to be a runner on the Cami de Cavalls - Jon Harvey
Dartmoor is where is all started for me. It’s an awesome place. It’s also an inhospitable hell hole, but
that’s a good thing. It teaches you so much, sometimes in one single day. It teaches you to suffer and
get on with it; sometimes you even enjoy the process. I’ve experienced some of my wettest, coldest
and hottest hikes on Dartmoor. On a good day, it’s beautiful. On a bad day, it can be awful.
Ten Tors, a two hiking challenge, was something I wanted to do from when I first joined secondary
school in Plymouth. I did them all, even with the foot and mouth malarkey getting in the way in
2001. I learned about kit, endurance, teamwork and camaraderie, to name a few. Why on earth
would you go back three times to suffer in a bunch of soggy hills with five friends? Hmm.
I learned to climb on the cliffs of the The Dewerstone and the tors of the moor. I have rock climbed
all over Dartmoor, and I can safely say, it’s some of the most under graded, sandbagging, gnarly and
underrated climbing I’ve experienced. If you can “thrutch” up an off-width crack on Dartmoor,
chances are you’ll be alright wherever you climb. Like I said, awesome, but inhospitable.
I applied my experience on Dartmoor when I first went mountaineering in the Alps (and every time
thereafter); though the Alps were on a much grander scale, the lessons I learned on Dartmoor were
invaluable. I mean, the experience was effectively the same: fatigue, pain, fear, wet, cold; they can
all be just as emotional wherever you are. In one way or another, I’ve applied these early lessons to
every physical endeavour. Be it alpine climbing in France, long days in the saddle mountain biking,
long hikes, skiing, and a stint as a Rope Access Structural Inspector. If you can suffer on the moors
with a smile on your face, you can get shit done hanging on the side of a bridge like the Royal Albert
Bridge or the QE2 crossing. It just doesn’t seem that hard!
My running was a long time coming. So many false starts because lots of other awesome shit got in
the way, so it’s OK; but I’m glad I’m doing it now, mountain sports aren’t so kind on the old knees!
Park Runs in the UK and New Zealand and some runs up to 10km were all I did for the first few years
of trying to run, but Menorca really has helped push me into running. I’m lucky, though. It’s quiet
here and the weather in the winter is relatively mild, so year round training, running and racing is
not only possible, but also enjoyable. Also, my fiancé, Holly, is a four time marathoner, experienced
running coach, personal trainer and yoga teacher. I’m well looked after. When I listen, that is.
Now I would confidently call myself a runner, but it was only due to a broken mountain bike and
some time on my own for 4 months that I launched into it with more gusto and a little more focus
than my previous attempts. Here on Menorca, for me at the time, there really wasn’t a whole lot
else to do.
Menorca is not like Dartmoor. It’s drier, dustier and hotter. The bulk of the trail running here is
focused on the Cami de Cavalls (The Horses Trail), a 185km, predominately coastal, multi-use trail
that circumnavigates the island. Find yourself in a coastal town or beach anywhere and chances are
you’re either on or not far from “The Cami”. Menorca isn’t mountainous but it isn’t flat either. Trail
runners here pride themselves on the rocky, technical nature of the trail, its diversity and its ability
to chew up and spit out naïve visitors who think a coast path is just a walk in the woods (well it can
be, I guess). With areas with nicknames like “Mordor”, it’s definitely not to be underestimated. It’s
just an awesome challenge.
Running here has been good for me, it’s actually teaching me to be a more patient, forward thinking
person. When a get a slight injury that stops me from running, doing what I want to do, I now try to
put my selfishness and drive aside, take a step back, think of the long term effects, positively asses
my situation, deal with it and move on (most of the time). I’ve found myself actually wanting to train
to be a better athlete as opposed to just winging it, and I have a set of short and long term goals I
want to achieve, so there isn’t a lot of room for ruining your body. Very different from being in the
moment on Dartmoor, or climbing a Grande Course in the alps where it’s all or nothing and you
don’t care how much you ruin yourself because it’s the climb or the hiking challenge that matters,
So, I find myself a long way from Dartmoor and the shire but still applying my hard earned Dartmoor
lessons while digging deep on long run or battling the heat of the coast on “The Cami.” I’ve had a
crack at the bulk of the races here. They’ve all taught me what it is to be a runner, part of the
community, all of us pursuing one of the most basic but most rewarding of sporting endeavours. I’m
certain that I’ll never place, but that’s not the point. For example, the lessons I learned on the 32km
October Trail were well worth the gruelling last 5km; kit, nutrition, the importance of strength
training, pacing and more. I finished that run pretty battered and full of cramps but with the positive
take that next time, I’ll run it better and use all that experience on my next run. Pushing my body
hard, or to its limits, isn’t new to me, but running, is a completely different type of endurance for
me, an exciting new challenge. I would love to run a 100 miler one day, but right now, my training
plan gets me marathon fit by October. So we’ll see how that goes!
Cheers ‘en Dartmoor.